I usually read the online editions of both The Daily Gleaner and The Jamaica Observer and on May 28, 2009, a story that appeared in both caught my eye. It was the one about Abe Dabdoub and his legal representatives asking that they be compensated to the tune of almost J$50 million by Daryl Vaz. This amount, they claim, is what it cost to litigate Dabdoub v. Vaz, which, as we all know, had to do with whether Vaz was legally entitled to be seated in Parliament because he was a dual-national who had pledged allegiance to the another country.
As it turned out, this case resulted in opening up the proverbial can of worms about other JLP MPs in Parliament as well as one (that we know of, so far) PNP member who also are dual-nationals and are currently seated in Parliament. According to the Jamaican Constitution, the only folks eligible to seek elected office (and thus sit in Parliament) are native/naturalized Jamaicans and Jamaicans who might be citizens of a British Commonwealth country. Also, if one is a citizen of a British Commonwealth nation who has resided in Jamaica for at least 12 months prior to elections, they are eligible to present themselves to the electorate for consideration as an elected representative.
The case and the issue(s) it raised have generated a number of opinions but it’s fair to say that a consensus, whatever the degree of (in)formality, has, more or less, been arrived at: this issue must be addressed and changes to the Constitution to address it must happen.
With regard to Dabdoub and his seemingly pricey financial demands, there seems to something rather obscene about it. I know if you reside in the US, you look at this and say that asking the US equivalent of approximately $550,000 (assuming US$1 = J$90) is not much but this is not the US we’re talking about here.
My point is not that Dabdoub and his legal team might not be due compensation but rather it’s the underlying message that’s being conveyed. Dabdoub lost in the 2007 general elections to Vaz and he and his legal team is now more than happy to try and levy a fee that they hope will preoccupy and embarrass Vaz.
As if that were not enough, there’s the report that he, Dabdoub, has asked that another JLP MP, Michael Stern, be declared bankrupt because Stern has failed to pay legal fees to Dabdoub for a case against Stern by a Dabdoub client, Richard Azan, a member of the PNP.
I am sure Dabdoub would tell anyone that this is a matter of principle and the law and nothing more. While that might be true, one does get the sense that there is more to this than meets the eye. How about bitterness and vindictiveness? In asking that Michael Stern be declared bankrupt, Dabdoub knows that this declaration would mean Stern would have to give up his seat in Parliament because someone declared/filing bankrupt(cy) would be ineligible to be in Parliament. In asking Vaz to pay an almost $50 million legal bill, Dabdoub figures that Vaz would be so preoccupied in trying to foot this bill that he could not effectively perform his governmental duties and it would likely lessen his effectiveness as an elected representative.
What I see here is Dabdoub trying to make Vaz’s (and, by extension, the JLP’s) victory at the polls a Pyrrhic one. They won but it will be so costly that it could be that they only serve one term because they’re bogged down with mundane and pedestrian issues rather than on the more pressing and important ones. If it does work it would be despite Dabdoub’s actions and not because of it.
Still, I see Dabdoub as a loser. He’s a loser for the following reasons:
He lost in the general election to Vaz.
He lost because the PNP hierarchy decided to have someone else contest the resulting by-election.
He lost the PR battle. He comes across looking greedy, bitter and vindictive – qualities that Jamaicans are increasingly detesting in those desiring to represent them and their interests in Parliament.
Is there anything wrong with being a man of principles? Absolutely not. However, if you are going to be the equivalent of a gadfly to JLP candidates why not be one to some of your fellow PNP candidates? Whether or not certain JLP MPs are financially bankrupt is open to question but from a leadership and moral standpoint, there’s no question that quite a few, JLP and PNP, are indeed bankrupt and need to go. Of course I don’t expect Dabdoub to be such a gadfly since this is just business and nothing personal, right? Yeah, uuhhh right.