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Professor urges constitutional fix amid dual citizenship ‘cass cass’; Holness draws flak for joining hubbub

Published:Tuesday | May 28, 2024 | 12:12 AMKimone Francis/Senior Staff Reporter
Dr Christopher Charles.
Dr Christopher Charles.

Describing the furore over Opposition Leader Mark Golding’s British citizenship as “cass cass”, University of the West Indies professor Dr Christopher Charles says he is alarmed Prime Minister Andrew Holness has joined the talk even though there is no constitutional breach.

Charles, who spoke to The Gleaner on Sunday, said the issue of dual citizenship has been debated for many years, especially since 2008, but has yet to be settled by Jamaica’s leaders.

He questioned why the Constitution has not been amended to deal with the matter after more than a decade and why Jamaicans have not pressured legislators to do so.

“We need to decide as a country what we want, but I am not going to criticise any politician, whether in the PNP (People’s National Party) or JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) who have Jamaican citizenship and citizenship in another Commonwealth country because they are constitutionally protected,” the professor of political and social psychology said.

“If we change that and change it to say you should only have Jamaican citizenship to be eligible to run for political office, then we expect all of them to comply and they have to comply. Until then, I am not into the cass cass and unnecessary talk, and I am alarmed that the prime minister could be making statements about the leader of the opposition when he is operating within his constitutional rights to have British and Jamaican citizenship,” said Charles.

A week ago, Holness labelled as “untenable and incurable” the idea that the country’s leader should hold citizenship of any other country.

The governing JLP has sustained its criticism of Golding, who has argued that he is not in breach of the Constitution and has lobbied for dual citizenship across the board to be included in the body of law amid the current reform process.

But Charles is adamant that if there are concerns over dual citizenship, “change it”.

He said if there are to be valid criticisms, the rules of the Constitution must change.

“How is it that you have people who say they are informed and are calling on people to either resign or renounce citizenship when those citizenship rights are constitutionally protected? Does that make sense?” Charles questioned.

Still, in a relentless salvo, Clarendon South Eastern Member of Parliament Pearnel Charles Jr is insisting that Golding explain a series of “misleading” statements about his citizenship.

Charles Jr said Golding, who is the president of the PNP, should also indicate why it took him so long to publicly confirm his British citizenship, arguing that his status does not reflect a full commitment to Jamaica.

“For an aspiring head of the Government in Jamaica to now be embroiled in this fiasco that has led to questions about his commitment to Jamaica is a major problem,” Charles Jr said.