Monday, May 19, 2008

"Declaration" Not "Determination"

Both the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House of Representatives have conveniently confused calls for declaration of citizenship status by Members of either House with the determination of questions as to membership of either House. The Chief Justice of Jamaica has determined that individuals who have renewed their US passports and travelled thereon are disqualified from being validly elected or appointed as a Member of either House.

Proponents of the impotence of the Speaker, in the matter of requiring a declaration by individual members, have sought to rely on Section 44 (1) of the Constitution which states:
Any question whether -

a. any person has been validly elected or appointed as a member of either House;


b. any member of either House has vacated his seat therein or is required, under the provisions of subsection (3) or subsection (4) of section 41 of this Constitution, to cease to exercise any of his functions as a member, shall be determined by the Supreme Court or, on appeal, by the Court of Appeal whose decision shall be final, in accordance with the provisions of any law for the time being in force in Jamaica and, subject to any such law, in accordance with any directions given in that behalf by the Chief Justice.

This section speaks specifically to which courts are to be involved in the determination of questions as to membership. In the Dabdoub/Vaz et al case the Supreme Court presided over by the Chief Justice made a specific ruling.

Both the Prime Minister and the Speaker cannot ignore that ruling and are obliged to apply such ruling to the Members of both Houses. This they have failed to do. So far as we are aware, it is only the Member for Western Portland who has sought to abide (in part) by the determinations made by the Honourable Chief Justice.

So far as we are aware, the calls for the declaration of the citizenship status of Members of either House have not sought to oust the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal on the challenges being made to the validity of elected or appointed Members.

In light of the heightened interest in divided allegiance of the legislature, full disclosure of citizenship status is appropriate and ought to be deemed to be in the “national interest”. Secrecy is diametrically opposed to transparency and facilitates doubt as to integrity.

The legitimacy of parliament must never be open to serious question and nothing should be done by those sworn to uphold the constitution which could be interpreted as a conspiracy in furtherance of the breach of the provisions of the said constitution.

To quote the much-maligned Daryl Vaz, “law makers must not be law breakers.”

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Roll Call or Death Knell

It must be noteworthy that the editors of two Jamaican newspapers have echoed the call for Members of Parliament to declare their citizenship status. From as early as September 13, 2007 the Sunday Herald wrote:
“The Jamaican Constitution is very clear regarding who can be elected to the House of Representatives or be appointed to the Senate. No person shall be qualified to be appointed as a senator or elected as a member of the House of Representatives who by virtue of his own act acquires citizenship of a foreign power.
The legal issues aside, on what grounds are persons who are citizens of another country allowed to sit in our parliament and make laws, which we are obliged to obey? Such persons can catch the next plane and go home if anything goes wrong without being accountable.
Additionally, is it right for tax dollars to be used to pay members of Parliament who are foreigners? And is it not dishonest for persons whether representing the
People’s National Party or the Jamaica Labour Party to present themselves as candidates for election without declaring their nationality?
The Parliament, with fewer than 100 persons especially entrusted to make laws, and run the affairs of the country are accountable to the Jamaican people. Therefore, their loyalty and allegiance should not be diluted, divided or diverted.
Against this background, we are calling for all members elected and nominated for parliament to declare their Jamaican citizenship before the next parliament is sworn in.”

Some eight months later on Sunday May 18, 2008 the Sunday Gleaner editorial opined under the caption "MPs must declare citizenship status".

“While we would want to believe that decency and morality would propel the members to do the right thing, we are clear that this is a matter that ought not be left only to the individual parliamentarians. Indeed, the Speaker should ask for a declaration from each member of his or her citizenship status, and from there, seek a judicial review of those whom he may deem to be in breach. The party leaders need, at the same time, to fashion a response to the potential fallout.”
In Over to You Mr. Speaker we posited the view that the Speaker, having the overarching responsibility to ensure that the parliament was properly constituted, could not ignore the ruling of Chief Justice McCalla in the Dabdoub/Vaz case. Consequently, an enquiry should be made into the citizen status of each Member of Parliament and those running afoul should be removed from Parliament. This would also apply to the Speaker.

This course of action has very serious political consequences as there are reasons to believe that there are more offending members on the Government side that on the Opposition benches. Accordingly, given the slim majority now enjoyed by the Government, there is the very real possibility that the Government could lose its majority at the end of the day. This is the political conundrum in the regime now finds itself as the logical and inevitable outcome to its political procrastination.

In Why a General, we advanced what we thought were cogent reasons for the holding of a general election. Increasingly it appears that the JLP regime has backed itself into a corner. Even the Observer in its editorial cartoon of Sunday May 18, 2008 has been forced to come to this position reluctantly.

From the information currently available,any such roll call will sound the death knell of this JLP Government. A general election has now proven to be the last straw for a drowning regime under a morass of what was incorrectly described as a "constitutional technicality".

Source: The Jamaica Observer

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

100% Jamaican Allegiance:Non- Discriminatory

“It is abundantly clear that the constitution does not confer on every Jamaican citizen the right to be elected as a Member of the House of Representatives.” McCalla CJ.

There have been calls to abolish the constitutional provisions which stipulate the requisite citizenship status of the Members of Parliament and Senators.

It is being mused that given the age of globalization and the significant financial importance of the Jamaican Diaspora, the current provisions are obsolete, inimical to good governance and provide an unnecessary obstacle to the development of the country.

It is being proposed that there should be a full public debate and the requisite procedures invoked to amend the now controversial provisions.


The need for constitutional reform cannot be disputed in light of the changing world environment and the local socio-political realities which a fundamentally different from those informing its conception.

It is also evident that those who are offending the present constitutional provisions are ineligible to participate in any parliamentary debate, ineligible to participate on any decisions on the topic, and ineligible to legislate any recommended amendments. The House of Representatives must be cleansed of all offending members prior to any such national debate.

Prior declaration of personal citizenship status by contributors--inside or outside the House-- to such a debate will alleviate speculation of vested self-interest masquerading as “principled” positions.

Contending Perspectives

There are number of perspectives being advanced with substantial supporting arguments. These can be arranged into three broad categories:

  • The Abolitionists argue that there should be no restrictions on anyone holding Jamaican citizenship from participating in the governance of Jamaica at any level.
  • The Nationalists argue that only Jamaican citizens should be allowed in Parliament. Consequently, the laws and regulations governing the process should be amended to read “citizen of the Jamaican state only” – or words to that effect.
  • The Fence Sitters argue that there is no need for any amendment to the constitutional provisions in question. However the nomination papers should require that the proposed candidate states that he is not a citizen of any non-commonwealth state.

Full 100%

It can be argued that there are certain positions within the administration of any independent nation-state which should be held by persons having undivided allegiance to the nation-state involved. These positions are of critical importance to the conduct of the nation’s interaction with the international community and of symbolic /emotional aspect of being an independent state – i.e. national identity.

Special care should be exercised in compiling such a listing; with due consideration being given to the technical capabilities required and the availability of the requisite expertise willing to fulfill the citizenship requirement. At the very minimum, there are certain critical positions which would necessitate undivided allegiance to a politically independent sovereign nation-state. As the nation-state matures, it is to be expected that the number of core positions filled by exclusively Jamaican citizens will increase--even without the legislative injunction.

The members of the Jamaican Diaspora have made, and continue to make, formidable contributions to the socio-economic development of Jamaica. There is no constitutional bar to their involvement at any level of the Jamaican society, except in critical governmental functions. If they wish to participate at that level, then they should simply renounce their acquired citizenship status and return to the 100% Jamaican status.

The Regulations need to be amended to ensure that each nominated individual affirms that he has no other citizenship than Jamaica. It is being contended that the amendment should not differentiate Jamaicans with dual citizenship by selecting the other type of citizenship that is allowed. It is either that we allow dual citizenship or disallow dual citizenship.

Politically, what is good for Jamaicans in the USA must be the same for those in the UK, Canada, Singapore, Kenya and also for those in Barbados, Cayman or Cuba.

The above may prove controversial; suffice it to say, the existing constitutional provisions may support that position – depending on the interpretation accorded by the courts.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Allegiance and Citizenship

It can be argued that there are certain positions within the administration of any independent nation-state which should be held by people having undivided allegiance to the nation-state involved. These positions are of critical importance to the conduct of the nation's interaction with the international community, and symbolize the emotional aspect of being an independent state - that is, national identity.

The list includes, but is not limited to:
. Legislators - MPs and Senators (especially Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition)
. Governor General
. Chief of the Defence Force
. Attorney General
. Solicitor-General
. President, Court of Appeal
. Chief Justice
. Members of the foreign service serving overseas.

People holding those positions should have allegiance to the host country only. They should possess exclusive citizenship during their tenure.

It matters not if they enjoyed multiple citizenships prior to consideration for the positions listed. However, they should renounce all other citizenships before they are elected or appointed to those special positions. Furthermore, your citizenship status at birth or as an adult should not matter, provided that you are exclusively undivided, undiluted in your allegiance to the country that you wish to serve.

In addition to renouncing any other citizenship before acceding to any of the positions listed, the Oath of Office should explicitly include (i) unequivocal voluntary renunciation of all other citizenships and (ii) acknowledgement of the exclusivity of the citizenship of the host country.

Jamaica today cannot afford to differentiate between Jamaicans with dual or even multiple citizenships. What is of paramount importance is the 100 per cent allegiance to Jamaica, a requirement when individuals occupy those critical positions. The constitution needs to be amended to reflect the current socio-economic political realities in clear, unambiguous terms.

Published in the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday, April 23, 2008.