Thursday, August 06, 2009

Is Donald Duff writing as a Jamaican?

The Letter Of The Day titled 'Dual citizenship farce continues', authored by Donald Duff and appearing on page A8 of The Gleaner, Tuesday, August 4, has been premised on misunderstanding/ misinformation.

The issue is not ostensibly that a Jamaican with dual-citizenship is ineligible to sit in Parliament or the Senate, as the Duff argument had suggested. Constitutionally, only Commonwealth citizens are eligible for nomination and election to Parliament or appointment in the case of the Senate (Section 39). Consequently, where a Commonwealth citizen had sworn allegiance or is under acknowledgement to a Commonwealth power or state, he is not disqualified under Section 40 2-a. For example, if Rowe had won the West Portland by-election, a successful action could not be brought against him under Section 40 2-a for reason that he held Canadian citizenship at the time of nomination.

The Vaz, Stern and Mair cases are of different complexions. The former two had sworn or were under acknowledgement to the United States and the latter to Venezuela. Both powers are non-Commonwealth countries. Hence, the disqualifications under Section 40 2-a.

Duff had quoted Ken Jones' letter of August 31,2007, (a response to Abka Fitz-Henley's July 31). Jones had characterised as 'enlightened governance', the Guyanese, Baroness Amos, and Jamaican-born Lord Morris serving in the British House of Lords. John Turner was also highlighted as having retained his United Kingdom citizenship while he served as prime minister of Canada.

Nor does the reference to "Stephane Dion, the present head of the Liberal Party of Canada and leader of the Opposition has retained French citizenship without being put under pressure" make good for clarity.


The arguments and references are oblivious of the fact that Britain is and has been the mother of the Commonwealth of which Guyana, Jamaica and Canada are members. Membership accords benefits, privileges and reciprocation. Consequently, it should not be surprising to find citizens of the Commonwealth serving in the British House of Lords or Parliament, or in the Canadian Parliament, without having to denounce their nationalities of birth.

The inclusion of Dion adds more confusion than it minimises. It creates the impression that he was a French-born citizen who had migrated to Canada. The facts are that Dion was born on September 28, 1955, in the province of Quebec, Canada. True, he is of French ethnicity. But it does not make him any less a Canadian citizen than if he were an Anglophone.

If the Jones/Duff criticisms were meant to distinguish Britain and Canada from Jamaica as 'enlightened governance', they have only served to heighten confusion and tension on the dual-citizenship subject. Neither have they provided sufficient response to Fitz-Henley's provoking question as to whether "the spirit of the law [ Constitution ] intended to punish individuals for deciding to serve ... rather than serving overseas?". What is clear, is that the spirit of the Constitution had opted for patriotism rather than making eligibility to sit in Parliament or the Senate a matter of laissez faire. This seems to be a value worth preserving.

I am, etc.,

Lionel Russell

Ensom City

St Catherine


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