Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why A General - the dual citizenship debate (Part 5)

There has been a lot of public debate on the pros and cons of the Prime Minister calling a general election to solve the dual citizenship calamity in which the Government is now embroiled.

The circumstances are:

  • ØMembers on both sides of the aisle in the House of Parliament are said to be in possession of dual citizenship – particular valid US passports and have travelled on such since Nomination Day.
  • ØA number of election petitions regarding the qualification/disqualification of successful candidates are pending in the courts
  • ØSome Members of the House have taken steps in the revocation process; some have remained silent, hoping that their dual citizenship status cannot be proved via evidence admissible in a court of law.

The Prime Minister faces a political dilemma.

Ø Does he wait until the court actions have been exhausted?

Ø Does he enquire into the citizenship status of all JLP Members of Parliament?

Ø Does he play for time by calling a number of by-elections as the court determines?

Below are some of the considerations in favour of calling a general election as opposed to by-elections at court determined intervals.

  • ØThe constant mantra of Bruce Golding is in part an unswerving commitment to the Constitution of Jamaica and the rule of Law. It is therefore untenable for him to avoid ensuring that the Members of his team are properly and duly qualified to take their seats in the Parliament. This is not a matter of evidence, legal technicalities (such as proper service, time limitation et al.) or discovery by political adversaries.
  • ØIt makes little or no political sense opting for a by-election in which the JLP candidate was successful recently. It is only the JLP which will stand to lose what it already had. The PNP can only gain.
  • ØIf, as it is widely believed that the JLP’s election machinery is in a far better state than the PNP’s, then by opting for the general the JLP will stand a better chance of improving its slim majority.
  • ØTime is on the side of the PNP. Indeed if they are sincere in their protestations regarding a general election not being in the “best interest of the country,” then they should seriously consider announcing a boycott of any and all by-elections. That way there would be no contested election.
  • ØThe calling of general elections will obviate the public exposure of offending Members of Parliament. Some will renounce, others will elect not to run giving a myriad of public excuses. It matters not the reasons, so long as any future Parliament is properly constituted.
  • ØA set of rolling by-elections is time consuming, costly and facilitates political turmoil. This option is the bane of all investors – foreign and local. Of course some constituents would not mind a periodic injection of cash, especially in these hard economic times – a “buy” election if you will.
  • ØA general election would provide Bruce Golding with an opportunity to replace or retire some of those whose appointments were primarily rewards for long service, political loyalty or critical electoral assistance. In a sense it would be a “bye” election.

Election by Conspiracy

The view had been expressed[ by a no lesser person than a learned Queens Counsel] that there ought to be some agreement among the two major political parties that they would not contest any by-elections in order to oppose a Member of Parliament who has “dual citizenship” – read US citizenship.

Apparently, this agreement/understanding would be arrived at without public participation, probably at Vale Royal and foisted on the people.

That is fundamentally undemocratic and against the spirit and practice of modern day Constitutional rule. Furthermore, there is nothing to prevent other members of the wider public from contesting the by-election. Moreover that arrangement is based on the underlying assumption that the same two individuals would be the candidates in the up-coming by-election.

This ignores the fluidity of the partisan political reality – some will retire, others may opt out due to disenchantment or financial embarrassment and some may elect to hold on to that precious insurance – US citizenship.


Anonymous said...

A learning process for me . Thanks

Amalia said...

Great work.