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Last updated: 28 May, 2008 - Published 07:48 GMT
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Dual nationality: diaspora dilemma
bruce golding
Bruce Golding has been discussing the issue with Jamaicans overseas
Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding has been discussing the issue of dual nationality with Jamaicans living in the UK.

He agrees that it's difficult to ask Jamaicans abroad to go back home with their money and skills but then tell them they cannot run for public office.

Mr Golding has also been talking about the potential of a "conflict of interest" for Jamaican MPs who might have to pass legislation against the interests of another nation for which they might also hold citizenship.

The current debate comes out of a recent court ruling disqualifying an MP from Mr Golding's ruling Jamaica Labour Party on the grounds that he had dual nationality.

The MP, Daryl Vaz, has since given up his US passport.

New development - BBC Caribbean News May 28
The dual citizenship issue in Jamaica could claim another casualty.
Opposition MP, Sharon Haye-Webster, is said to be considering resigning in order to keep her American citizenship.
She was born in the United States but has lived in Jamaica since childhood.
MP Haye-Webster is quoted as saying she does not intend to give up her American passport.

Jamaica is not the only Caricom country grappling with this issue.

St Kitts/ Nevis

St Kitts and Nevis flag

The government has been eyeing the foreign passport held by the lone opposition Peoples Action Movement (PAM) MP in the house, Shawn Richards.

The country's National Security minister Dwyer Astaphan also had to confirm that he also had dual citizenship.


Grenada flag

Opposition MP Peter David is fighting the government in court over his two passports.

The ruling New National Party (NNP) contends that the National Democratic Congress parliamentarian should be excluded from parliament because his loyalties would be divided between his two passports.

St Lucia

St Lucia flag

The leader of St Lucia's opposition Kenny Anthony wants changes to the electoral nomination process, to identify political aspirants who have dual citizenship.

His call followed the Jamaican Supreme Court ruling that a sitting MP was not qualified because he is a United States Citizen.


Guyana flag

Guyana's Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy admitted that he held an American passport but disagreed with critics who suggested that he should give it up.

"What I earned in one year in Guyana for the last eighteen years, I used to earn in a week in the US," Mr Ramsammy told BBC Caribbean.

He said that it is possible that citizens who had moved on to some other life and lifestyle to "make that decision to come back and serve the country of their birth, that's what I did".

Trinidad and Tobago

Flag of Trinidad and Tobago

In 2001, the People's National Movement (PNM) raised a petition stating that calypsonian Winston 'Gypsy' Peters and William Chaitan, both United National Congress candidates, were ineligible to stand for election because they held pasports for America and Canada respectively along with their Trinidadian passports.

The Trinidadian Independence Constitutition says that general election candidates should not hold dual citizenship.

However, post-independence legislation allows dual citizenship - something which the election laws in Trinidad and Tobago do not reflect.

What do you think? Should Caribbean nationals with foreign passports hold elected office?

Have your say

Grenada election laws allows a citizen of any Commonwealth country to run for elections, therefore the case against Peter David is simply a complete waste of time and money, since he holds citizenship of a Commonwealth country, Canada.
The dual citizenship issue is just another example of pettiness in Caribbean politics.
St. Patrick, Grenada

I think there are too many major issues facing us in the region for our politicians to be fighting over these petty issues. I've realised that those who have dual citizenship are more loyal to our cause than those with one. In the case of Grenada there were persons holding dual citizenship some years ago and were in government. Why is wrong for an another person. We should get down to fighting crime, the high cost of living and improving education before we continue to spend so much money on fighting a guy with dual citizenship.
John Loxley
Sauteurs, Grenada

As a dual nationality individual, I have been frequently frustrated by the prohibition on people like me running for President, though I could run for Congress so it's no big deal.
Peter Bolton
North Myrtle Beach, US

No. Not only elective office but should not be allowed to hold high ranking positions such as chair persons of government boards, and even private companies. They should be excluded from all civil service jobs and the military. This should apply to all, including Commonwealth citizens. It should also apply to holders of residence visas as well.
John Brown
Kingston, Jamaica

There are more important issues pressing the Caribbean at this particular time. Think for a moment the significant contribution and positive exchange of idealism that one can contribute if dual nationality is allowed. The Caribbean as we know it is a small scale on the map. Let’s start thinking outside the BOX for a change. The people who are trying to stop this idea: SHAME on all of you. Let’s revive what we have lost in the Caribbean: a sense of pride and culture and most importantly, a sense of nationalism. I thought the coat of arms for Jamaica says "Out of Many one People"
Boston, MA, USA

I had experiences in SVG where persons were challenged for dual citizenship. An honest person may be able to split his/her loyalty but the Bible warns us:-"No man can serve two masters etc". All is dependent on the individual.
Ormond V Robertson
United States

It begs the question, where is one's loyalty?
New York, USA

There are quite a few RETURNING RESIDENTS to the island who want to GIVE BACK and contribute to the Jamaican economy and getting things back the way they should be. I am one of them.
I spent the last 21 years in the USA, am an American & Jamaican citizen. Why should I give up my US citizenship if I want to work in the government field or a certain sector?
This whole dual citizenship thing came about ONLY AFTER the PNP lost the last general elections after being in power for over 18 years and now are finding any teeny excuse to out current QUALIFIED JLP candidates - so what if they have a foreign passport but Jamaican born or roots?
Shame on the PNP and shame on this issue rearing its ugly head - you will deter absentee Jamaicans who want to return home and give back and share our knowledge and experience from doing so.
Tricia Chambers
Kingston, Jamaica

I do not think they should hold dual citizenship period. There is no loyalty there.
L.G. Scott
Atlanta, USA

The question of dual nationality is a contentious issue pitting loyalty to your homeland against that of their adopted country. A probable question is when the going gets tough would they abdicate and head to the promise land? However I do believe that most Caribbean MP'S are in sync with the vast majority of Caribbean nationals who wouldn't mind having dual citizenship given the fact of life after politics and the limited opportunities we do face in small economies.
Nilio Gumbs
McKies Hill, St.Vincent and the Grenadines

I think all of them should leave the house. Is it that our constitution has no authority and can be trampled because it suits the government? I think not. If Mr Golding is so confident the people wants him then call an election and resolve the issue. But I say they must go, irrespective of which side of the house they sit on.

What is the significance in you putting what post-independence legislation allowed for? I would like to remind you that the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago achieved independence from Britain in 1962. Therefore it is a sovereign democratic nation. So there is your answer, it certainly does not need to reflect what post-independence legislation allowed.
Pearce Robinson
Trinidad & Tobago

We have bigger problems than dual nationality, and much bigger fish to fry in the Caribbean. If you want your nationals to return to the Caribbean, and participate, then stop trying to strangle them. Typical example is what is going on in St. Vincent right now. The Govt. decided that the only place to build an International Airport was in Argyle in the countryside. Problem: most of the homes were occupied by expatriate Vincentians, who incidentally lived abroad and also have some of those disputed dual passports. They are also investing a lot of money into the economy. Now half of those people are leaving, and for the rest who were thinking of returning to the Island, they will certainly have to reconsider their options. This applies to all the Caribbean islands. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Learn to compromise. Considering what's going on in the world right now those dual passports may come in handy one day.

Some of our laws are obviously outdated and irrelevant. For example laws against sodomy. However, we need a culture of respect for the law. This is a great opportunity for the political leaders to demonstrate how it is done. That said, I am curious to see how our politicians would behave if they were constrained in the same way as their under-privileged constituents. With no escape hatch to the US and Canada, they might just be a little more responsible with our resources.
Kimberly John
Kingston, Jamaica

Mr Golding and others need to lay off the subject. It would only deter qualified nationals living abroad from coming home to make a contribution to their brothers,sisters and nation.

Just another pointless and senseless law: Even though someone has dual citizenship, think about this; when one is elected to represent the people before taking office they must do a "NEW" pledge of allegiance! So any previous pledge that was made to other countries is automatically voided. Again, this law is just another way to keep the running of the Caribbean islands in the hands of a few. Yet, these politicians will tell us come home to help build your island. I guess we can come home but with limitations. That's why we will always continue to have a brain drain in our islands!!!!!! Why would someone live a developed country (USA,Germany,Canada,England etc) to go back to third world countries? Is it possible that they love their little third world island more than any other?????
G Mann
Cologne, Germany

I just don't see a "conflict of interest" in dual nationality. Caribbean nationals who hold dual citizenship should be given an opportunity to come back home and make a contribution (whether or not it's holding public office). With the threat of global warming, high gasoline and food prices, the Caribbean needs all the best visionaries in politics. And if he or she holds a dual citizenship, let the voters decide. It's very hard to give up your dual nationality when you work so hard for it in the first place. I think it's time we pay attention to more pressing issues in the Caribbean than dual nationality.
Brooklyn, USA

What a waste of the tax-payers time and money. Politicians should focus more on doing an effective job for the future of all nationals. A man’s birth place is his first and only true home. It is little wonder that there is a massive brain drain from these islands, and many educated natives are dispirited living abroad rather than returning home. Professionals who have studied abroad have had to take out citizenship in some cases in order to have full access to the host country’s educational assistance and legal protection programs. This is just a sick ploy to take issue with competing rivals.
Cecil V. Sealy

Prime Ministers and national representatives, these people should not have dual citizenship at all. Live by their Constitutions, die by their Constitutions. Their's no reason for these people to have dual citizenship. This process to require dual citizenship does not fall from the sky. These people took actions and applied for it. They should be asked to give up their foreign passport or resign their post.
Barrymore (Winston) Watkins
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

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Ditch that foreign passport?
19 December, 2007 | News
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