PJ Patterson says ‘no’ to dual citizens in Parliament, sides with CRC Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Former Prime Minister of Jamaica, PJ Patterson, has sided with the Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC) in its recommendation that only Jamaican citizens, and not anyone with dual citizenship, should sit in the country’s Parliament.

“The issue of citizenship has always been a burning question. Once the monarch goes, so must disappear any concept of a shared common allegiance,” Patterson declared.

“In my view – and this is in the (CRC) report, which I support – no valid reason exists for maintaining the provisions pertaining to a Commonwealth citizen, other than a citizen of Jamaica, who is resident for at least 12 months, to be eligible for parliamentary office.

“The qualifications must be based, in my view, on Jamaican citizenship,” he stated.

The former prime minister made his viewpoints known during a reasoning on the Jamaican Constitution and the CRC’s recommendations, last week at the Faculty of Law on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).

The opinion of the former People’s National Party (PNP) president comes at a time when debate surrounding dual citizenship is raging across the country. 

Both Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Mark Golding have publicly stated that they are in support of members of the diaspora serving in Parliament. 

But Holness has said no one with dual citizenship should be able to attain the top leadership positions of prime minister and leader of the Opposition. 

Golding is under intense scrutiny for his status as a British citizen, which he said he will not be pressured into renouncing, despite the increased calls, especially from the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), for him to so. 

Patterson stayed well clear of those contentious issues on the current political scene. However, he acknowledged that the present Constitution does allow for persons with dual Commonwealth citizenship to sit in Jamaica’s Parliament.

“I don’t want to cause any confusion. Citizens of the Commonwealth are at the present time legally entitled to sit in the House or the Senate. I am deliberately confining my remarks to the constitutionality of any such position,” Patterson pointed out.

But Patterson argued that Section 40 of the Constitution, which prohibits allegiance to a foreign power, should be extended beyond parliamentarians to other sensitive national positions. 

“There are some positions that I think have to make it clear that allegiance is to Jamaica alone,” he suggested.

The former prime minister cited examples of positions that require utmost loyalty to Jamaica alone, including the chief of defence staff, permanent secretaries, the chief justice, the Court of Appeal president, electoral commissioners, and the director of elections.

“All of these require further national scrutiny and discussion and would apply to further appointments, as existing conditions of judges cannot be altered to their disadvantage while serving on the bench,” Patterson stated.

In looking back at his tenure as prime minister, Patterson said he was confronted with the issue of dual citizenship when he was to make two appointments.

“The people disclosed to me that they held citizenship of another country. I told them, ‘Not putting any pressure on you, you have a choice; … and stay where you are, or if you want to accept this position, because of its sensitivity, you have to renounce,'” Patterson explained. 

He said without hesitation, the individuals renounced their foreign citizenship and were duly appointed to their respective positions.

He did not say what those positions were at the time.

Golding has been on record stating in May of this year, that he does not agree with the CRC’s recommendation to bar certain members of the Jamaican diaspora from sitting in the Jamaican Parliament. 

“My position is that dual citizenship should not be a bar to service. That’s my own view, and I think the party (PNP) will continue to have discussions on this.

“As I’ve said, this issue, we’ve (the PNP) not had an opportunity to discuss it because we did not know what the specific reform proposals were,” said Golding then before he admitted days later to being a British citizen. 

Cabinet Minister, Senator Matthew Samuda, has admitted to also being a British citizen, but said he has started the process of renouncing it.