JG - A fifth column of divided allegiances
A fifth column of divided allegiances
published: Sunday August 19, 2007
Dawn Ritch, Columnist
Readers will know that I care very little for the opinions of Jamaicans who live overseas. My view is that their chosen place of domicile instantly disqualifies them from having any voice in Jamaican current affairs. They should run for office over there.
I don't want them to get the vote in Jamaica. They should not even have a letter published here, or be heard on any radio call-in show. All they do is whine. The marvels of technology, therefore, quite underwhelm me. Just because it can be done, doesn't mean it ought to be. They may pay the piper, but they should not call the tune.
It was most noticeable to me, therefore, that in her opening remarks, Prime Minister Mrs. Simpson Miller was the only candidate to acknowledge the diaspora in the National Debates. I would have ignored them, as indeed did Opposition Leader Bruce Golding in his opening remarks. His omission was just a callous insult, because they both knew that the National Debates were being streamed live on the Internet to Jamaican communities abroad. She greeted them, he did not. This was an infraction of the first rule of debate.
Mrs. Simpson Miller has a natural sense of occasion. On this one, she was steely throughout. Golding got vexed, however, at the very first two questions and adopted a petulant and hectoring tone. The first was about the shape of his possible future Cabinet, and the next one was about his now legendary political flip flop.
Golding was flummoxed by both. He stammered, and still hasn't answered the question about the possible ascendancy of undesirable elements among his political candidates. Evasively he said he would choose a Cabinet from those who won their seats.
In answer to the second question, he flicked his wrists from left to right, apparently he thought, demonstrating other people's flip flops, on public TV. This looked to me like an own goal, but the majority of analysts say he won the debate hands-down. In any event, 'speaky-spokey' is not what runs a country.
None of the political flip flops Golding mentioned then, before, or since have been in any way analogous to his own. The politicians to whom his apologists have repeatedly referred, among them the late British prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill, did not found another political party. They merely crossed the floor of the House of Parliament. They left one side and joined the other.
What Golding did was totally different. He created a brand new party, the National Democratic Movement. This party could only succeed through the demise of the one he abandoned, because he set it up as the antithesis to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). When it failed to win even one seat, he left and returned to the JLP.
In any Westminster system, third parties do not do well. They can only do so at the expense of two usually main political parties. Golding as a so-called intellectual ought to have known that. Churchill went from the Conservatives to the Liberals, and back to the Conservative party. He didn't invent a political party.
Golding himself is an entire invention. So many people have had a hand in him, there's no him left anymore. The paramount issue of trust snaps at his heels wherever he goes. So he decided to snarl back at his detractors in the public debate.
To top it all, the Jamaica Labour Party, under his leadership, is fielding numerous candidates in the next general election who may not even be qualified to sit in the Senate or the House of Representatives. They have become a party of flip flops.
The Jamaica Constitution states: "No person shall be qualified to be appointed as a senator or elected as a member of the House of Representatives who (a) is, by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state."
By virtue of his own act
The operative words here are "by virtue of his own act". In other words, you don't even have to apply for citizenship in a foreign country in order to be disqualified from sitting in the Jamaican House of Parliament. You only need to have done any of the three things above, none of which necessarily requires taking an oath to a foreign power. This section of the Constitution is designed to protect the sovereignty of the country.
According to this newspaper last Sunday, at least seven people running in the next general election, the bulk of them in the Jamaican Labour Party, are in violation of this constitutional provision. These are people who, by their own act, became citizens of a foreign country.
I think the Constitution is right in demanding that nobody like that should be appointed a senator or elected to the House. Yet plenty of them are lining up to do so.
This is a duplicity that beggars description. Our Constitution expressly forbids it. These are potential legislators who are breaking the law without even taking a seat in Gordon House. They already think the law does not apply to them.
The Electoral Office of Jamaica, funded at vast public expense, has had a lot to say about many things that don't even concern them, but not a word about this. Who or what is supposed to see that there are no foreigners in the Jamaican House of Representatives?
It's bad enough that those who do win constituencies are going to get foreign health insurance paid for by Jamaican taxpayers. That Members of Parliament should also have dual citizenship, and a choice as to whether or not they stay or leave Jamaica, yet legislate for all the people lined up for visas in the hot sun outside the U.S., U.K. and Canadian High Commissions, is an unbearable insult to the whole integrity of the process.
They are like a fifth column of divided allegiances. They should emigrate instead, and join the diaspora.
Jamaicans only get to vote once every five years. It cannot be that the end result of such an event is to install a bunch of puppets to a foreign power in the House of Representatives. That makes a mockery of national independence.