Enough of the dual citizenship chatter!

May 15, 2008

So, Justice McCalla has ruled and ended the term of the ne-er-do-well Darryl (son of Douglas) Vaz and brought the terms of others under question. And yet, the consternation and handwringing continues. 

What does this mean really? Well, exactly what she said. If you have sworn allegiance to another state, you cannot hold national office. She didn’t make it up you know. What’s so difficult to understand? There is nothing that says someone who has both Jamaican and other citizenship cannot return to Jamaica to participate in national affairs. Said person simply can’t hold national office, even if you managed to slide by and behind the rules and mounted an otherwise illegitimate campaign for office. Well, Sharon Hay-Webster and other seem to think their case is an exception.   And no, I don’t care what the US says or doesn’t say about dual citizenship.  This is not the U.S., this is Jamaica. And although we love to act like the 52nd state, we are not.   So, yes, pay attention to what the constitution says.

If you are mounting a campaign of dissent against a legal statute that you believe to be stupid, then do so in an intelligent and savvy fashion. I can get with that.  Just be ready to mount the other defense in the public as well.  I most certainly don’t follow every law, nor do I wish to.  I think many of our laws are problematic and downright unjust, and when I have a choice, I make it clear that I am not going to obey the ones that apply.  And I don’t plan to accept the consequences either.  That’s the point of registering one’s opposition I believe.  But these politicians ought not to act like they didn’t know they were violating the law, or like they have the right to flaunt the law just because they and their cronies don’t feel like it should apply to them, and they ought not to asked to think about the implications of what they are doing.   [Hear that, Darryl? For once in your life, start acting like you are accountable to someone else besides your clan].

Danville Walker did the ethically appropriate thing: he stepped down.  He will continue doing good work and making valuable contributions to public life in many other ways. He’s not the heir apparent or don man of electoral reform in Jamaica.  End of story.

But, we haven’t left it there. No. For many, this ruling is an affront == to who again?  Yes. All those hardworking Jamaicans who went overseas and who were encouraged to become citizens, and who still send dem money come back.  Apparently, they have been disenfranchised.  I didn’t get the memo, but apparently we have sent them a message that we want their money but don’t want to hear what they have to say, and certainly won’t elect them to represent us.   Over the wailing and gnashing of teeth, I hear that we have conned them into thinking that they of the “diaspora” were more important than they thought they were.

What the fuck, is what I say.  All o’ dis chatter and crisis talk is just exhausting.   Was there some kind of promise made that if you go abroad, and work and get education and send back money, you can come back and get elected to national office anytime you want?  Mi neva know seh a so it go.  Yes, somehow we continue to believe that we are more valuable and worthy only when we can leave the country and go elsewhere and then come back.  But, I really did not realize that becoming an elected politician was part of the deal.  And you see all wha’ dem politrickians do when dem get inna office? Look like seh me shoudda did lef long time an’ come back; I woulda get likkle a’ di Kern-els too!

One columnist asks, why aren’t Jamaican immigrants abroad more pissed off and mobilizing against this ruling?  Probably because “they” are a heterogeneous group that does not have a common agenda much less agree on who gets to be a member; moreover, “they ” who are probably busy working and doing things that are far more important than, say, participating in politicized debate within a fractious political system that is desperately in need of reform? I don’t know.   The only glimmer of good that comes out of all of this?  We actually have some evidence that a member of judiciary does take her job seriously and interprets the law as it applies to this situation.

Frankly, I don’t see what the problem is here.  Folks in politics who are brandishing their two passports are not doing so because they give a damn about the bigger implications.   Some o’ dem rass get ketch now, yes! They do so because dual citizenship serves them individually, and gives them access to resources that allows them to maintain a kind of social power and currency in Jamaica that they wouldn’t have otherwise.  The house and land that they purchase abroad, the access to pensions, Medicare, Medicaid, business opportunities, scholarships, student loans, etc. that they milk and mine as needed to maintain their social status, while carefully skirting the racism and anti-foreigner sentiments abroad that are bound to tell them they are not such hot stuff.   That’s what its about, mi’dear. They take the “go an’ come” higglering lifestyle to a whole other level, yes?

Now, I might be wrong, but I don’t see how this whole political drama affects how things actually work in Jamaica.  The legal fact of being “jamaican” does not get us much of anything in our country — well, maybe a discount at the tourist resorts and NHT loans, but not much more.  If you know of something else, you should definitely tell me.   We don’t vote for those bumbling fools because they are Jamaican.   We take their Jamaicanness for granted.  We elect them because they proffer verbiage and promises that we can get down with for the moment, and we accept that they are because of how they look, how they speak, and that since they’ve been around for a while, we can accept that they are “one of us” (again, whatever that means). The evidence of being Jamaican is resolved, not at the passport level, but at the semantic level, and only becomes a personal or political issue at key moments like now, when the JLP is fighting for legitimacy and the PNP is just fighting period.  At the end of the day, neither party cares about the longterm implications of the constitutional clause.  All they care about is numbers — how many of their side gets to stay in, how many on the other side gets kicked out — and revenge — which side can screw the other side even more.  And we all got dragged along for the ride.  Steeeuuupppssss!!


5 Responses to “Enough of the dual citizenship chatter!”

  1. Janiel Rich Says:

    The least you could do is get Mr. Vaz’s first name right. It is not DOUGLAS the father who is now caught up in the whole dual citizenship issue, but his son DARYL. You didn’t know this?

  2. longbench Says:

    Oops. Yes, thanks for noting the error. I do have to say though, most people, if they claimed to be as knowledgeable as you about Jamaican politics, would have recognized a Freudian slip of sorts there. But not you…I get a snarky, catty response to a weighty issue? Steuuupsss..

  3. diatribalist Says:


    I have to strongly disagree with you on this one. Let me concede that I won’t argue with the constitution, the law is the law and Justice McCalla made the right decision according to my reading.

    But we should change this constitutional provision. This provision only discriminates against those who have pledged allegiance through their own act to a foreign state that is not a member of the Commonwealth.

    The major class of Jamaicans that this constitutional provision truly discriminates against is Jamaicans who emigrated to the United States.

    Canadians and Britons are not excluded as both countries are members of the Commonwealth. As a practical matter there is no influence the US could want to exert in JA that it couldn’t just as easily exert through its staunch and perpetual allies of Canada and the United Kingdom (or a citizen of these states.)

    Dual citizens, even when they seek the benefits of dual-citizenship selfishly are a net gain to Jamaica. The access to capital which the Jamerican has after they remortgage their American house to take out some equity and rent it out to service the new debt is capital that can use to start businesses that hire Jamaicans.

    The access to student loans that the Jamerican has gives that Jamerican access to skills that can be of unique benefit to Jamaica. For example, if a Jamerican living in Negril gets tired of watching news of extra-judicial police killings nightly, that Jamerican can come to NYC and borrow some money to get some forensic and CSI education from CUNY John Jay. Then return to Jamaica and set up a private practice to investigate these killings. Just the existence of more independent forensic experts and coroners in Jamaica would have a deterrent effect on the abuses of some officers who currently do not fear prosecution for their killings. Also it would provide a resource to those officers who think they acted properly when faced with unfair (their opinion) prosecution Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

    The animosity that many Jamaicans show towards to the idea of a
    dual citizen of the U.S. serving in Parliament is short-sighted; and the objections they raise easily refuted. As you indict the rigidly stratified caste/class system of Jamaica, mi waan remind yu sey all a wi wey lef neva lef so tru we did lack love fi Jamaica, a tru wi neva lack ambition and we neva have the privilege wey odda one dem have.

    I will be blogging about this more shortly at diatribalist.wordpress.com; especially to answer a salient point raised by Francis Wade about what would happen if a dual-citizen parliamentarian needed to travel to Cuba in an official capacity.

  4. longbench Says:

    Diatribalist — Thanks for a great response! I do agree with you that the provision is biased towards “commonwealth” countries, really, former british colonies. I think that if f any change should be made to the law, it should be to exclude citizenship in those places as well.

    Your points are well taken, but those are entirely theoretical — not that law isn’t just that, mind you. However, none of those actions you name are forbidden to a US/Jamaican citizen. In fact, I’m asking why dat nuh happen yet??? Yuh know how much o’ we gone a John Jay gohn’ get degree? Whe’ dem a do wid di degree a Merica? Whe’ di love fi Jamaica deh? Inna de barrel weh dem a sen come a Jamaica? My point remains: active political participation is not limited to elected office. In fact, folks coming from abroad would be of much better service in other areas related to social, cultural and economic development. I am not exactly the most loyal Jamaican you will encounter — I’m not loyal to any place actually — but I expect that if one is going to sing one’s love for the country from the tenements of the Bronx or wherever, then one will find ways to actualize that love; dual citizenship does not seem to be such a great obstacle when you are hellbent on making a difference. Unless you feel you need to be PM, of course…I’ll wait to hear your thoughts on this.

  5. sandrar Says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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