Dual Citizenship: Why The Hide and Seek Game MPs?

As the saga unfolds as to which members of parliament are in possession of dual status or not and the continual game of hide and seek reign there seems to be only one loser, the people of Jamaica.

There is a held view by many and including myself, that irrespective of whether one is a PNP or JLP, if the Constitution states clearly that a person who has dual citizenship status and is not a Commonwealth national such person should not sit in the House of Parliament. Therefore if a politician is sitting as a MP and they fall in such category then on the basis of the Constitution such MP is sitting illegally and should step down immediately. I see no reason why this should be such a long drawn out process. Is it not elementary?

As to whether there should be a by election or the MP who lost who was duly enumerated should take such seat is another issue.

The view of many in Jamaica and out of Jamaica is that all dual citizenship MPs should be declared to the nation without unnecessary filing of constitutional motions burdening tax payers when the issue could be resolved by our politicians being honest and decent and allowing integrity to be the order of the day. Both parties should declare their hands to the people of Jamaica stop the hide and seek game.

The Prime Minister mentioned something very interesting to the effect that if he had taken suggestions that MPs on his side with dual citizenship resign and leave him with a minority Government he would be relinquishing the mandate of the people.  One could look at this point from another perspective for the Prime Minister to consider the fact that maybe there is no mandate as the supposed mandate could have been made on a false premise.

Here is a suggestion: why not simply call a general election since it appears that these sporadic by elections will be continual and may generate the same cost as a general election? If there is the fear of the Government losing its mandate then there was no mandate in the first instance and they are operating on a false ticket. Once this election is called with a clean slate of  duly elected Members of Parliament the nation should set in motion the process of amendment to the Constitution which is now proving to be a shackle.

One of my colleagues in an international forum I am involved with has summed it up simply by saying “This could be the catalyst required to force both parties to address the issue of constitutional reform.”

Politicians the people of Jamaica are tired of this hide and seek game and what is funny is that you are hiding in the same spot.

Sylbourne Sydial, Executive Chair
Facilitators For a Better Jamaica (FFBJ)
United Kingdom
ssydial@ffbj.org

     

Mark Lee

About Mark Lee

Editor, author and writer with career spanning print, radio, television and new media.

6 comments on “Dual Citizenship: Why The Hide and Seek Game MPs?
  1. Yes Sylbourne you have said it! I big you up. The people in Gordon House approach to governance is elementary and pedstrian. We will not move into a higher level of thinking and we are still going on foot in our efforts to reform. Reform is not a word in the minds of the Jamaican politician – winning or keeping the power is all we are about. We come with the same weak platitudes about governance. Yes call an election, but the P.N.P. will boycott as in 1983 and then have all the time to talk to the fool, fool people and solidfy for the date of election. Brer Anancy is their icon. This is catch 22 situation. Jamaicans look out of either a green or orange blinders. The Prime Minister cannot call an election and must not call one unless the Opposition contests it. So you out there tell both sides their responsibilities. It was irresponsible for Mr. Seaga to call a snap election and it was irresponsible for Mr. Manley not to contest. You see we the people are not important. Remember – It has to be Jamaica First, Second, Third…..always and always for Jamaica matters it is my homeland ever. Thank you for what you have said. I invite more of you to come forward. ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’.

  2. Sylbourne, you make some cogent arguments but let’s be honest here, if the PNP had won re-election this would not have been too much of an issue. That said, what we’re witnessing here is hypocrisy being played out for all to see. Both parties have issues when it comes to dual nationals in Parliament and whether you habe by-elections or a general election, fixing the constitution to address this issue and other pressing issues must happen. I have always believed (and continue to believe) that folks in Ja. know what’s wrong but the will to effect the necessary and corrective changes is what is missing/lacking. As I’ve said in the past, I think it’s going to take a generational change for meaningful change to happen and that is the sad part of all of this.

  3. Hi Sylbourne,

    “If the Constitution states CLEARLY that a person who has dual citizenship status and is not a Commonwealth national such person should not sit in the House of Parliament.”

    That one word I converted to all caps when I copied your quote pretty much sums up what’s missing in this whole argument. The constitution is not clear on this matter. It took weeks of arguments, dozens of witnesses, volumes of documentary evidence and months of deliberation by no less than our Chief Justice to arrive at a position that it dose in fact state that.

    As if that wasn’t enough, the 1962 constitutional commission included people who were at the time sitting in Parliament in breach of this provision. That they did not seek to have it changed at that point or to leave Parliament suggests to me that this is only part of our Constitution because our “founding fathers” just didn’t notice it.

    With that in mind, amending the Constitution to be consistent with the national morality is far more important than trying to force out MPs that people may actually want to keep (That’s what we saw in West Portland.)

    As for this National Morality: Some estimates put the numbers entitled to both Jamaican and American citizenship in the millions. In purely practical terms this means that the majority of Jamaicans inside Jamaica have some immediate family member who is also a citizen of another country.

    The 2nd problem with this area of our constitution is that it assumes there is something about Zimbabwe and Kiribati which makes citizens of those nations entitled to sit in Jamaica’s Parliament which the USA and Cuba lack.

    • Kevin, having titillated us, please name those who breached the original Independence Constitution in 1962 with their deliberate dual nationality status.

      Re Zimbabwe vs Cuba etc, my guess is that the framers did not envisage that the Commonwealth would ever have members whose heads of state were not the sovereign of England. Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Dominica and South Africa are within the Commonwealth but do not share Jamaica’s head of state.

      It could be that the Constitution, like the law – and rain – falls equally on the just and the unjust. Law abiding citizens aren’t exempt or any more protected than people who have intentionally or otherwise broken the law.

      Anyway, name those who disrespected the Constitution they framed.

  4. The constitution was just poorly written by a group of people whose minds were focused on the glee of replacing the colonials rather than on getting the new nation’s most important document right.

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