Time to debate dual citizenship issue, says Jamaican PM

Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Prime Minister Bruce Golding has reiterated calls for serious debate and possible amendment to Section 39 of the Constitution, which bars Jamaicans who are citizens of countries outside the Commonwealth from sitting in Parliament.

Labeling the practice as an “absurdity”, Golding said it was high time that the matter be brought up for discussion, as there was a level of irrationality in the current law.

He was speaking at the swearing in of Shahine Robinson, who was reinstated as Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) on Tuesday.

Robinson, who was recently triumphant in a by-election for the North East St Ann constituency, was also sworn in as Member of Parliament later on Tuesday.

“There is an absurdity that has to be corrected. That someone who is Jamaican, born and bred, who has lived virtually all his life or her life in Jamaica, but who becomes a citizen of the United States, is not eligible to serve. But, someone who was not born in Jamaica, has resided in Jamaica for only 12 months, is a citizen of any Commonwealth country is not only eligible to be elected a Member of Parliament, but can become the Prime Minister of Jamaica,” Golding argued.

“It’s an issue that we need to place on the table for debate, because with all of the debate that has surrounded this issue of the eligibility of persons with dual citizenship to sit in Parliament, that discussion has been so adversarial, so polarised, that we have not really focused on the issue as to whether or not what Jamaica wants going into the future is a situation where, for you to be a Member of Parliament, you must be a citizen of Jamaica and a citizen of Jamaica only,” he said.

“Or whether we want to recognise what is now a reality, that there are citizens of Jamaica who are citizens of other countries who manage their loyalties between the two and who consider themselves not to be 50 per cent Jamaican and 50 per cent American, but certainly 100 per cent Jamaican,” Golding added.

He said while the courts have an obligation to interpret the law, Parliamentarians and, ultimately, the electors, have a duty to address the absurdity.

He said Jamaica has shared a particular relationship with countries like the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. There has been strong migration to these countries and many Jamaicans reside in those metropolises, “perhaps as many Jamaicans as those living in Jamaica”, who had dual citizenship acquired by birth or through the process of naturalisation.

“I make bold to say that the vast majority of Jamaicans who obtain citizenship of these countries, consider themselves no less Jamaican than when they left home. They take an abiding interest in their country; many of them invest significantly in their country. When we triumph, they share our joy; when we feel pain, they share that pain with us,” Golding stated.

He said there have been attempts to address the law in previous years through the Constitutional Reform Commission and Joint Select Committees of Parliament.

“Fifteen years ago, in the process of reviewing the Constitution, we agreed, at that time, to recommend that the constitution be amended to make it clear that only a Jamaican citizen can be elected a Member of Parliament,” he stated, noting, however, that it did not address the problem of a Jamaican citizen who may be a citizen of another country.

“We have to make a determination as to whether we are saying to those Jamaicans who live in New York, those Jamaicans who come home every year; you cannot be elected to Parliament unless you renounce your citizenship,” Golding said.

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34 Comments

  1. Zenfan Morchoroh
    January 14, 2011

    Our constitution is so outdated you wouldn’t beleive. Parts of this constitution are meant on keeping our country in the dark. Take for instance if a nurse wants to serve on her village/ district council she is required by law to resign her job in order to do so. Why do you think some of our councils are the way they are? Do you think the 1978 constitution needs serious revision? Dual citizenship, district councils, only natural born Dominicans can beelected to parliament………..etc Tell mewhat you think.

  2. Simple Mind
    January 14, 2011

    Prime minister Golding recently recieved bodyblows from the Jamaica high court and felt the pain ,but if he was standing on the other side now it could be a different story to tell.

  3. Deoborah
    January 14, 2011

    This is an an0molous situation , an individual wants to hold public office, where you pledge loyalty and support to your country and what it stands for and yet you want to also hold allegiance to another state, where you would owe the other state the same loyalty, Why!

    • mike
      January 14, 2011

      anomolous- could not find that word, what does it mean.

      • Deoborah
        January 14, 2011

        “anomalous” means irregular ; abnormal. I am not an English teacher, so my spelling is faulty, but the context should allow you to understand the meaning, I hope you get the message now.

        • mike
          January 16, 2011

          Thanks

  4. RF
    January 14, 2011

    There is no denying the fact that Mr. Ron Green denounced his citizenship some time last year. A few questions come to mind though. When did he do that? Please state the dates. Is the renunciation date (the date on which the forms were filled and procedures started etc) the same as the date on which he ceased to be a citizenof teh US? If not the following question is still begging fro an answer. How long did it take for the procedures to be completed? Did that period between “renunciation” and actualization go beyond nomination day? Inother words. On nomination day 2009 – November 19 2009, was Mr. Green in possession of a ” Citicizen Renunciation Certificate” of the US government or was he still a US citizen.

    Failure to provide answers that will conclusively confirm that Mr. Ron Green was not a citizen of the United States on nomination 2009 will simply render Mr. Green a pathetic agent of deception devoid of any moral standing to challenge this particular matter. it cannot be that you are leading the charge against another person for a serious violation of the constitution when you are equally guilty of the same.

    One understands the reason why Dominica’s Veteran Journalist would want Ron’s information to stay secret, but as we all have come to understand, Ron is not before the court. Prime Minister Skerrit is. So investigating the matter and providing the people of Dominica with the information on Ron’s citizenship status on nomination day is all that is being requested. is that too much Lennox? is Skerrit the only personality in public life that should be investigated?

  5. who voted?
    January 14, 2011

    Change it to legalize the wholesale theft of our resources?

    QuaRries, non tendered contracts, colas, geothermal, fisheries, investment by invitation, …There is open evidence that Dominica (Haiti,nigeria,…and Jamaica ) and its economy is losing millions of $ and non renewable resources because of foreign allegiances.
    This has and continues to be the method of keeping us poor and dependent on foreign powers.

  6. Truth, Justice, Love, Peace and Unity
    January 13, 2011

    I am elated to read what Prime Minister Golding stated. Frankly, I never expected him to make such a statement or rather never gave it a thought that he would have done so. I state, hats off to him. This is an example for specifically Dominican politicians.
    When one considers this situation that a born-Dominican who resided overseas, became a citizen of that country, was not asked to renounce his Dominican citizenship and has no intentions of doing so, should he/she return be disqualified to be Prime Minister of his country of origin.
    According to PM Golding, “it is an absurdity” to deny them this right.
    I do hope that all concerned could gather together at a meeting to discuss this matter.
    I have written about it and I stand by my statements that such a Dominican should not be denied the position of an elected prime minister and that he/she should not be required to renounce his/her citizenship. It really is the heights of stupidity. This has caused a lot of rift in Dominica.
    It is also demeaning, treating them as outcasts and making them feel that they have no right to be a PM and discriminating against your very own.
    If Dominicans who hold citizenship of another country is disqualified to be PM in their country of birth then absolutely no one who was not born in Dominica is entitled to hold any office or even be employed in any capacity in Dominica. Give this a good thought.
    Therefore, gentlemen and ladies who are in the government get with it and decide this matter once and for all, a law – constitution which in reality is outdated, is behind time (an old Dominican saying if anyone of you remember it) :) as the saying goes and should be dead and buried.
    Mr. Golding, Jamaica PM, I commend you. May God bless you for this intelligent observation and statement.
    May that silly law – constitution be eventually and soon enough be repealed and a new law – constitution be implemented. It is more than time if Dominica and Dominicans wish to progress and hopefully live in peace and unity. For the good of Dominica and Dominicans, I do hope that something good comes out of this.

  7. legit
    January 13, 2011

    that law made no sense and is still nonsense…i ,v e lived in dominica all my life …so because i have an American passport i dnt qualify !! bullshit ! i live here.

    • alright
      January 14, 2011

      sombody will pay

  8. Analyst
    January 13, 2011

    Why are some of you so obsessed with Skerit? This obsession seems to be clouding your judgement or your ability to think rationally. The fact that Skerit has renounced his French citzenship, his participation in a bi-election is guaranted if the situation merits one and do you actually think that anyone can beat him in his constituency? What happens next? I will let you make that call.

    • jump
      January 14, 2011

      that is not the point analyst…the point is that electoral office failed the country by letting those dual citizen ppl ….be nominated…they believed dat if they didnt check skerrit own….they will not check any body else own… cause we are at fault….so why skerrit renounced it right agfter election why not before…that is rational thinking

  9. Bushmaninda
    January 13, 2011

    To be in the parliament of a sovereign state one’s civic loyalties should not be in question, One is legally tied to the state of one’s citizenship.

  10. SHORTY
    January 13, 2011

    I SUPPORT CHANGING THIS LAW IN DOMINICA AS WELL. BUT!!! ALL THOSE WHO HAVE VIOLATED THE CURRENT LAWS HAVE TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

  11. proud dominican
    January 13, 2011

    every country has its law and the obey it .its only in dominica we do not follow laws .we follow party leader and they do not folllow law .

  12. Qualified Dominicans
    January 13, 2011

    Are all qualified Dominicans only interested in elected offices or positions in order to contribute to the development of DA. Engineers, etc. do not need to be elected…

  13. Anonymous
    January 13, 2011

    Next story, is the wife of the former prime minister of Barbados running for his vacant sit. She is St. Lucian and i would think because of her marriage a Bajan. So lets see what is going to happen all around.

    • RAINBOW
      January 13, 2011

      WHAT DOES THE BAJAN CONSTITUTION SAY ON THAT?

  14. Way Way
    January 13, 2011

    Law is Law, we have to abide to laws no matter who. That calamity will soon come to past.

  15. Agreeable and reasonable
    January 13, 2011

    I am agree that those laws should be revisited. That does not mean that those who knowingly broke the law deserve a free pass.

    • Analyst
      January 13, 2011

      I hope that you are refering to everyone including those who had dual citizenship for many years and still worked in parliament. It is not because they renounced their other citizenship that everything should be alright. Were you guys aware of what was going on or it just did not matter at that time?

      • jump
        January 14, 2011

        analyst everybody that break the law…….shuld come under the light….why dat lady from castle bruce resign…..ask yoself dat she is an honourable woman respect to her !!!!!

  16. G's up
    January 13, 2011

    it is simple really, ‘ you cannot be elected to Parliament unless you renounce your citizenship’ So if you want to be elected in Dominica renounce all your other citizenships but Dominica’s. It aint that hard is it?

    and one of the major issues with Skerrit is not only he broke existing laws but he lied about it in order to get nominated. Decieving the electoral office is an offense punishable by jail i believe, right?

    • jump
      January 14, 2011

      that law only applies to non skeritt-ites …..remember ” no law no constitution cant stop roosvelt skerritt” ……

  17. Gulf Stream
    January 13, 2011

    At the December 2009 election, Dominicans gave the Labour Party an overwhelming mandate to govern the affairs of the country…. that includes a mandate to change the Constitution. We are no longer a colony of Great Britian & this present Constitution has kept us enslaved, underdeveloped, non-progressive & confused…

    Skerrit, you got the mandate to initiate that change for progress and liberation, so do it now.

    • linky
      January 13, 2011

      u want skerrt to mandte it becaues it suits him now . what about electoral reform.

  18. mouth of the south
    January 13, 2011

    hhhhmmmm interesting,,,,yah dat law have to review including ours but skerrit have to go first,,,,we can’t fix it b4 he is dealt with,,,, after we deal with skerro then we’ll move our attention to that law which needs a facelift,,,,,now the reason i’m saying we have to deal with skerro first is cause he deliberately and knowingly broke the constitution,,,,under no circumstance should we let that slide under the rug

    • Dominican in UK
      January 13, 2011

      LOL- 4 real, Skerro has 2 pay. In de UK government ministers who made false claims for benefits (monetary) are facing de court and as such facing prison sentence. Those ministers wickedly made false claims and are paying de consequences so why can’t Skerro face consequences!!! A leader should lead by example n nt by using words 2 a nation such as “go 2 hell, none of yr damn business”. This man is bloody disrespectful n our people think it’s a joke. Gordon Brown turned round n apoligise 2 a uk national 4 using words he should nt use n yes he apologise immediately but big man Skerro should walk free from all his doing.

      • Analyst
        January 13, 2011

        There are others who knowingly made false claims about their citizenship for many years but evidently it did not matter then. These same people were elected officials but did not see it as convenient for them to disclose their dual citizenship. Now that they are at a disadvantage, it is now convenient for them to cry foul and on top of that there are people who are saying that their situation happened in the past. What a bunch of hypocrites.

      • AMOSQUITO
        January 16, 2011

        DOMINICAN IN UK

        This article is about the need to consider an amendment of this absurd law of dual nationality and not what Skerrit has said during election campaigning. If this amendment was in place, there would be no need for the utterances. I hope u understand that some UK ministers were advised as to the method of monetary/expence claims.

        Although presently this clauses affect those who wish to follow a political desire/career, if not amended satisfactorily it may affect you in other ways. For instance land holdings and others. Think of it

  19. Reon
    January 13, 2011

    True Word Mr Golding!!!

    As I have stated before, there are a large number of qualified Dominicans who would like to contribute to the growth of their country, but is prevented from doing so because of this irrational law. This law needs to be revisited….
    Many of us love our country but because of lack of opportunities we were forced to take up residence in the US, UK or other countries to pursue our dream. In doing so many Dominicans have been exposed to the highest level or professionalism, experience and personal growth and would like to help impact these values to our country. Many of us would want to come back home, explore businesses and political ventures with the main purpose of helping further develop our lovely Island. This law is definitely a hindrance to these aspirations and that is why the majority of Dominicans don’t care if Skerro was French – even if he may have technically contravene this “so cal” law!!!

    • Qualified Dominicans
      January 13, 2011

      Are all qualified Dominicans only interested in elected offices or positions in order to contribute to the development of DA. Engineers, etc. do not need to be elected…

      [Reply]

      • maindesk
        January 13, 2011

        True say. These political guys just want to have another passport just in case. But they want to rule the land of their birth at the same time. If you love your country make the sacrifice and lose the passport for the sake of Dominica if you want to return home. If you love Dominica make the sacrifice. They want to eat their cake and have it. I do not agree that a man should spend most of his life in the US and then at retirement time wants to come home and run the country while holding foreign citizenship

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