The argument being made by many Jamaicans that "we don't want no foreigner making laws for us" is an interesting one.
While the law is outdated and flawed in the light of 2008 realities, I have been surprised that the underlying sentiment remains quite strong.
In the abstract, it has a certain logic to it -- after all, who wants the heads of their government to have divided loyalties? However, in the specific, it is unrealistic.
At the outset, it's important to realize that this is a situation where there must be some kind of compromise. There is no simple solution that will fit our needs perfectly. Instead, at some point we must appeal to a dose of common-sense and practicality.
while it's fine to want politicians without divided loyalties, I cannot imagine that we actually have any in reality. Does anyone actually believe that we have a single MP who does not love Jamaica more than any other country? Does anyone actually believe that they would put another country's interest above our own?
Common-sense tells us that the few who aspire to political office while at the same time having a foreign citizenship are giving up something valuable (an easier life abroad) in order to make a contribution in a much more difficult environment. Should they be penalized?
There is nothing wrong with wanting politicians who will put Jamaica first. I argue that our political process, and economic reality already ensures that those who become viable candidates for office are already putting Jamaica first by choosing to run in the first place. In other words, it's a joke to think that we are somehow in danger of "spies" from another country who intend to promote some other country's interests.
Political office is not something that one simply falls into, by the way... we Jamaicans make damn sure of that by putting them through a baptism of fire in the nomination and election processes.
Given that we are in no danger, where is the fuel for the argument coming from?
We Jamaicans are a proud people, and like to think that we can handle our own business. Furthermore, we like our sovereignty, and anything that seems to threaten it is something we believe we must defend against.
However, this is a case in which we our pride may take us to a place that makes no sense for us to be. Do we really want to get to the point where we:
-- continue to take rights away from Jamaicans who live overseas, even as we encourage their remittances?
(The hypocrisy of this would seem to be unbearable.)
-- encourage them to return, while telling them they have lost some of their rights?
-- promote the idea of them becoming US citizens, the better to serve Jamaica, while at the same time penalizing their choice?
We simply cannot have our cake and eat it too. While the high-minded goal of having leaders with undivided loyalty is fine, our attempts to ensure that desire through the laws of citizenship are outdated, and reflect very old thinking.
The truth is, who we really want in office are world citizens who have travelled widely, attended schools all over the world, and worked in a variety of countries. And yes, we want them to have citizenships from all over the globe because in the end, we benefit as a people.
When George Bush was elected, he was one of the least travelled Presidents in the world. His ignorance has helped to produce a stalemate in Iraq, and has served to deplete any good-will that America was granted after 9/11.
A bunch of Jamaicans leading our country who have never left Jamaica for more than a shopping trip or vacation is not a prescription for success. It would rob us of the cosmopolitan thinking that we now need more than ever to survive in an increasingly flattened world.
As for the argument that says that politicians must be made to suffer for their decisions by being forced to live in Jamaica... well, this just strikes me as a case of "bad-mind." There is nothing stopping a politician from migrating to another country the day after they leave office, and to try to restrain them in order to somehow punish them seems harsh.
We would go further if we trusted what we know... no-one comes back to Jamaica to run for office who intends to sell us out to a foreign country. We are not in danger of that happening.
However, we can quite easily discourage Jamaicans abroad from participating in Jamaican life, and in fact have already done so, as far as they are concerned. We need to trust our common sense, and change the laws to reflect what's most important to us.