Mr Golding's advice is sound

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding makes a valid point in this renewed debate on dual citizenship and the eligibility of individuals of other nationalities serving in the Jamaican Parliament.

Mr Golding's advice, which we find to be very sound, is that the country engages in careful and enlightened discussion on this matter and then have it settled once and for all.

Failure to do so, we believe, will see us not only quibbling about this controversial issue during future election campaigns, but could deny the country the input and skill of some of our brightest minds who, for whatever reason, chose to acquire citizenship in another country but are deeply devoted to Jamaica.

Given the pace at which legislation is debated and passed in Parliament we are not surprised that 10 years after this dual citizenship issue first came to light and cost taxpayers more than $100 million to run five by-elections, the relevant amendments have not been made to the Representation of the People Act.

So, here we go again, arguing over an issue that should have been given serious attention if it had been as important as the two major political parties made it out to be in 2007.

As it now stands, anyone — outside of a convict or the bankrupt — can be duly nominated to contest an election as long as they have signatures from 10 electors registered in the constituency they are seeking to represent, pay a $3,000 fee, and submit their nomination forms to returning officers between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm on Nomination Day.

And, as Mr Golding pointed out in his column published in this week's Sunday Observer, Section 39 of the Jamaican Constitution, which sets out the qualifications for membership in Parliament, does not require the candidate to be a Jamaican citizen. It simply states that he or she must be a Commonwealth citizen at least 21 years of age who has been resident in Jamaica for the 12 months immediately preceding the election.

But Mr Golding also pointed out that Section 40 disqualifies any person who “is, by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or State”.

His question, therefore, as to whether that reference to “foreign power or State” includes Commonwealth countries is most apt and is a vital point that needs to be clarified, most likely by the courts.

Mr Golding raises a number of other relevant questions in his detailed discussion on this burning issue and offers some solutions that we hope legislators will give serious thought.

We share his view that allowing someone from any Commonwealth country to be eligible to sit in our Parliament after living here for a mere 12 months is not acceptable. For such an individual, apart from having no lasting ties to Jamaica, as Mr Golding correctly states, simply cannot relate in any real way to the social and cultural experiences of Jamaicans.

We accept that the legislative agenda in the House is crowded, but this is a problem that needs to resolved. The sooner the better.

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