Danville Walker -- the Latest Casualty of the US Citizenship Issue
Losing Daryl Vaz from Parliament until a by-election is conducted is one thing. Losing Danville Walker from the post of Director of Election is quite another.
Now, we all have lost out, as Danville Walker, a giant of integrity in modern Jamaican history, resigned his position because of one of the archaic laws that remains in our constitution.
In the past week, we are learning that Marcus Garvey, our first National Hero, had applied for US Citizenship, only to be turned down. Apparently, if he ad been accepted, it would have made him unfit to hold political office in Jamaica.
Also, Alexander Bustamante, our first Prime Minster, pledged allegiance to Spain at one point, and it appears that he should also have been disqualified. The same applies to several parliamentarians and government ministers throughout the years, because they gained dual citizenship in countries that our constitution deems to be unsuitable.
However, those who pledged allegiance to Fiji, India, New Zealand or Guyana could have done so at any point
and still be eligible, simply because they are Commonwealth countries.
That it is an old law is hard to dispute. It penalizes the majority of Jamaicans who have migrated to countries that we care about, while giving a "bligh" to those we don't care about.
This isn't to say that Danville didn't do the right thing. He certainly did, and he did so in a way that honours our outdated document.
We in the Caribbean don't have much history of politicians resigning, even after major scandals, as they too trust that that wheels of justice grind slowly, with a huge backlog to boot. Trinidad had a similar situation to ours in which they had a tied parliament, and one party resorted to pulling the "citizenship card" to try to get elected seats overturned. Our politicians are merely following their lead. Their carnival-like elections however, don't cause blood to be shed in the streets.
This all does not augur well for those Jamaicans working overseas, who are now realizing that the government's ongoing encouragement to gain US citizenship came with a serious catch. After building a life in the U.S., they are forced to give up access to that life in order to run for political office.
We Jamaicans living at home who depend on remittances from overseas Jamaicans to keep our economy afloat now suffer from a strange situation in which a US citizen who gains Jamaican citizenship, may run for office in both countries (except the office of President.) However, a Jamaican citizen who subsequently gains US citizenship loses the right to run for office in Jamaica.
The constitution simply must be brought into line with modern day realities. Daryl Vaz never lived in the US for more than a year to attend school. It's too much to ask the Danville Walkers of the world to give up their citizenship in order to serve, as if they somehow cannot be trusted unless they do so.