Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lessons for Parliamentarians

There are numerous inescapable inferences from the ruling of McCalla C.J. in the Abraham Dabdoub/Daryl Vaz matter.

Lesson 1
: Those Members of Parliament who are holders of valid US passports are in contravention of Section 40 (2)(a) and Section 41(1)(d) of the Constitution of Jamaica. If they had obtained the passport prior to Nomination Day, then they were not qualified to be elected. If they had obtained the passport after taking their seats, then those seats shall become vacant.

Lesson 2: If the action is properly brought before the Court and cogent admissible evidence is produced to substantiate the claims (at least the validity and use of the US passport), then the Court is likely to order a by-election.

Lesson 3: The underlying issue is not that of the possession of a US passport and its usage. Rather, the crux is the “declaration or acknowledge of allegiance or adherence to a foreign Power or State”. The possession and use of a passport issued by a foreign Power or State is only one of the many circumstances indicative of such allegiance or adherence.

Lesson 4: The learned Chief Justice confined her ruling to the specifics of the matter. There was no need to expound on the interpretation to be given to the phrase “foreign Power or State” since all parties agreed that the USA is a foreign Power or State. The Members of Parliament who are holders of dual Commonwealth citizenship should be equally concerned. It can be argued that “a foreign Power or State” as utilized by the Constitution of Jamaica means “any Power or State except Jamaica”.

Lesson 5: The ruling has similar consequences for the Senators. If they are in possession of valid US passports, then they are not qualified to be appointed as Senators. Being deemed Members of the Upper House, those in contravention should tender their resignation immediately. Furthermore, those holding passports issued by countries other than Jamaica should not wait on the courts to disqualify them.

Lesson 6: The Nomination Papers need to be amended to include a clause requiring the prospective candidate to affirm that he is “a citizen of Jamaica only” – or words to that effect. This will put every candidate on notice.

If the lessons from McCalla CJ. are learnt by the political directorate of both political parties, then the only issue which remains is “How to correct the situation?”


The offending Members of the House of Representatives fear public embarrassment and the revelation of their citizenship status resulting in the separation from their positions. The Prime Minister has the power to finesse the exercise by calling a General Election. Such would facilitate those wishing to renounce foreign citizenship status in the hope of regaining their position; also those wishing to hold on to their foreign accolades thereby forgoing election or appointment.

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