Thu | Jul 18, 2024

Dual citizenship is not the issue

Published:Thursday | May 23, 2024 | 12:06 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

In 2008, Jamaica’s Court of Appeal of Judicature handed down judgment in the Abraham Dabdoub v Daryl Vaz case. The case has been referred to loosely as the dual- citizenship case.

Referring to this matter as a dual-citizenship issue is a misnomer at best, leading to great confusion and obfuscation.

The constitutional provision which was at the centre of the matter is Section 40(2)(a), which reads,

“No person shall be qualified to be appointed as a Senator, or elected as a member of the House of Representatives who –

(a) Is, by virtue of his own act under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.”

This is a fundamental distinction. The challenge to Vaz’s qualification to sit in Parliament was not about his dual citizenship, but whether he had pledged allegiance to a foreign power or state by his own action.

The above must be further understood in the context of the Constitution of Jamaica, which allows non-Jamaicans to run for Parliament, and even become prime ministers if they meet the 12-month residency requirement.

The Jamaican Constitution clearly permits dual citizenship; therefore, asking Mr Golding to declare whether he is a British citizen or not is a red herring. If Mr Golding has British citizenship, that is of absolutely no moment, because he would not violate the Jamaican Constitution.

The chief justice in the court below, underscoring the point that it is not the fact of dual citizenship which is the basis of disqualification, but the voluntary steps of acknowledging that citizenship, said,

“It is not the owing of allegiance to the United States of America by virtue of being a citizen of that country that is a ground for disqualification from sitting in the House of Representatives, but rather, the voluntary taking of steps to acknowledge that citizenship that causes the disqualification.”

The learned chief justice continued, “There is no prohibition of dual citizenship who obtained the status involuntarily from sitting in Parliament, but if such a citizen by his own act is under any acknowledgement of obedience or adherence to a foreign power, he is disqualified from so doing.”

It is a notorious fact that over the years, many Jamaicans have acquired foreign citizenship and many others are constantly in the process of seeking such status. If they choose a distant, autocratic, unfriendly Commonwealth country for citizenship status, they can still serve in the House of Representatives. If, however, they choose to acquire such status in the United States or any other non-Commonwealth country, friendly and accommodating though they may be, they are disqualified.

Asking about the leader of the Opposition’s citizenship in the United Kingdom, considering the current Constitution, is intellectually dishonest. The prime minister himself has said that even if Jamaica becomes a republic, it will remain a member of the Commonwealth. So, what is their point? The leader of the Opposition is duly qualified to sit in the Parliament of Jamaica! Next!

ARNALDO BROWN,

CHAIRMAN

The Founders Group

People’s National Party