Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

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 He certainly did, and he did so in a way that honours our outdated document.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.



At 5/10/2008 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pssst, your hero's name is MaRcus, not Macus.


At 5/13/2008 8:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, let's be honest. While the constitution on this matter is archaic, I think it is worthwhile to have but modified in some manner for it be more in tune with the rest of the world.

Now taking consideration Jamaica's current socio-political climate being unpredictable, unstable and declining it provides alternative if and when things don't work in Jamrock. With this will open can of worms.
1. A Jamaican born citizen(born or naturalized) will and can be tempted and rape the court of it's resources through investment while fatting the pockets of their desire(original or naturalized country).
2. Taking the inefficiency in our our legal and justice system, a public servant could find someway to evade the constraints of the laws and leave for their adopted or original country.

Now these are what are think are the best pointers why I think one should leave the clause of full allegiance to this country Jamaica.

When your take the US oath, it's a binding contract. It stipulates a lot of rights and requirements. I think many public servants have dual citizenships particularly US.
One is you can bear arms against a country that it's attacking. Now I would imagine what these dual US citizenship holders would do. Side with Jamaica or US?

The answer still remains on each individual.

At 5/13/2008 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find the whole discussion about the citizenship thing rather specious and empty of substance and complexity. So, its fine to amend the constitution to give some categories of folks more power, access, and protection, but its not fine to amend the constitution to stop disenfranchising other categories of folks? Lovely.

There is a real issue here about the meaning of dual citizenship in Jamaica. However, this has largely been dealt with by ignoring the rules when it did not favour what someone in power wanted. It's time to clarify this at all levels of the society. For example, why is it ok for US credentials to be used as forms of identification in some places in Ja. and not others? If there is a policy, then it ought to be publicly stated as such, and universally applied. Not doing so allows all kinds of discrimination and misdeeds to happen. The election is just one example of this.

You and many also seem to be conflating two issues here: returning to Jamaica after having taken on US citizenship to participate in the society is different from returning to Jamaica after having taken on US citizenship to take on political office.

Not everyone who returns and has an agenda wants to, and even has a snowball's chance in hell of becoming involved in government affairs at the level of Parliament. And we would be short-sighted and just plain dumb to think that somehow the best or most important way that returnees can contribute to the society is through involvement in governmental affairs. In fact, the problem in government is created outside of government, and cannot be resolved solely by government.

We need a much more active and vibrant civil society and to cultivate diverse and viable forms of leadership. Our collective failure to do so is why folks like Danville Walker seem to us to walk on water -- he doesn't -- and why we are crying about all the other pathetic folks who would [should] have to step down, and would not even have been elected, if we bothered to follow our laws and had a sense of what constitutes ethical leadership in the first place.

Danville Walker did the ethical thing. That is, if there is a question about eligibility, step down and move on. The post does not belong to him. I wasn't surprised when he stepped down, because he has shown himself to be a person of integrity. There is not more of that to be said. He can do the same things he has done in another venue. Again, there's the notion that he should be in that position for life because he has done a good job so far. Another clue about our limited thinking.

Darryl Vaz, on the other hand, stepped down out of expediency. More scrutiny is not what he needs right now, given his past misdealings. He is absolutely useless in any governmental position, and is only there at the discretion and behest of the PM . Any more discussion focused on him will invariably reveal this condition, and create more problems for the party.

At 5/13/2008 1:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not Jamaican (but married to a wonderful Jamaican woman) but I keep up with Jamaican news, so I find the Darryl Vaz case fascinating. Personally, I think PNP wouldn't have made a stink about it had they retained control of Parliament, but since they lost it, they're being sour grapes about it. I can't blame them, in a way. I just wanted to chime in with a few points about the situation since I've read a few errors in previous posts/sites.

1) Since US law prohibits its citizens from serving in a policy-level position for a foreign country, Daryl Vaz had no choice but to give up his US citizenship. Some will argue that Arnold Schwarzenegger is governor of California while an Austrian citizen; however, a state governor is not a federal/national policy level position. California law requires a person be a US citizen in order to become governor, which Arnold meets; however, there is nothing barring a dual citizen from holding office.

2)While US law does not prohibit dual citizenship; US policy is somewhat ambivalent. On one hand, the oath of citizenship states the person renounces his/her allegiance to any foreign state, yet US law does not require a person to formally denounce his/her other citizenship. Interestingly enough, a US citizen who swears allegience to a foreign power during a routine act of citizenship will not lose his/her US citizenship, unless the person elects to give it up. For example, if I decided to move to Jamaica and become a citizenship, I would not lose my US citizenship in the process. That said, it would be downright contradictory for the US to require a person to give up citizenship of another country when taking the oath while not acknowledging an oath a person took who swore allegiance to antoher country.

3) I wonder if Vaz argued he used the passports to enter the US as required by US law. The logic is this: if a Jamaican citizen cannot lose his Jamaican citizenship by taking an oath of allegiance to another country, why would renewing a passport be treated differently? Vaz had no intent on being a US citizen because he never paid taxes and only went to the US for studies.

4) What if my wife's nephew wants to be Prime Minister when he grows up? He's a US citizen by birth as his father was born in the US. He was given a passport so he could travel to the US to visit his family yet has not taken any oath. As a matter of US law, he'll have to travel on his US passport if he ever wishes to visit the US. Why should this prohibit him from being a MP?

At 5/21/2008 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto Anonymous (married to Jcan). Couldn't have said it better myself.


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