ALL AH WE IS ONE: Dual citizenship
A spate of legal challenges to Caribbean parliamentarians holding dual citizenship has opened up an interesting debate on the need to amend our Representation of the People’s Acts.
Those calling for the rethink hold the view that it is wrong to deprive the resource-poor Caribbean of potential leadership talent simply because such leaders may be citizens of other countries.
They also argue that in this world of globalisation and international travel, in which the talented tenth is the least likely to remain at home, the likelihood of persons within the leadership strata having dual citizenship is extremely high.
From this perspective, they argue, like Charles Dickens’ Mr Bumble, that “the law is an ass”.
But is it, really? The main weakness of those calling for the relaxation of the dual citizenship restriction on parliamentarians is that they tend to forget that politics is not “just another job”.
From the earliest writings on politics dating as far back as Plato’s, there has been an understanding that we ought to put restrictions on those who hold political office.
In Plato’s view, we ought to make political office as unattractive as possible in order to weed out the opportunistic, the greedy and the self-serving.
Once this is done, only those who are prepared to make personal sacrifices would come to public life.
When viewed in this light, the renunciation of one’s membership as a citizen of a rival state is a small sacrifice for those who seek to lead us.
There is nothing wrong with private citizens having dual citizenship. The only requirement is that once that private citizen decides to enter public life there must be no doubt that his/her loyalty is without question to the state and people that he/she represents.
It is for the same reason that we place on public officers property restrictions and accountability requirements from which private persons are exempt.
Those who denounce the dual citizenship rule also suffer from historical amnesia. They forget the history of imperialism, from which our countries have suffered.
They therefore downplay our nationalism as “archaic” and hide behind the slogan of globalisation to mask their own lack of vigilance against external interference.
Imperialism, however, is a permanent threat confronting the Caribbean. Once we relax the dual citizenship rule, it becomes easy for persons whose links to us are tenuous to become our rulers.
It is also easier for foreign powers to pluck from among their own populations Caribbean “citizens” and impose them upon us.
This is precisely what happened in Haiti after Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forcibly removed and the United States selected the “Haitian” businessman and Miami resident Gérard Latortue to head an interim government.
A man cannot serve two masters. It is simply wrong for the leader of one country to be an ordinary citizen of another.