Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter
SHARON HAY-WEBSTER, the opposition member of parliament identified by government sources as not being qualified to sit in the House of Representatives because of her allegiance to a foreign power, is getting ready for a fight.
And she has already identified legal counsel for the possible battle, which, she says, she is confident of winning.
Over the past two weeks, several Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) officials have charged that an opposition member of parliament is in a position similar to government MP Daryl Vaz, who the court booted from the Lower House because of his ties with the United States.
Null and void
Last week, JLP leader, Prime Minister Bruce Golding joined those making the allegation, but did not disclose the name of the MP. But other JLP officials told The Sunday Gleaner that the nomination of the 47-year-old Hay-Webster to run as a candidate in last September's general election should also be declared null and void.
They pointed to the decision of Chief Justice Zalia McCalla who ruled that on nomination day (August 7 last year), Vaz was not qualified to be elected to the House of Representatives and his nomination was invalid, null and void and of no legal effect.
The chief justice held that although Vaz received his US citizenship through his mother, by renewing and travelling on a United States passport, he acknowledged his allegiance, obedience or adherence to the United States.
According to the JLP sources, Hay-Webster should be sent packing from the House because she was born in the United States and holds an American passport.
That is a claim which the South Central St Catherine MP does not deny, but she says that is where any similarity with Vaz ends, arguing that there is no basis on which to challenge the validity of her nomination.
Hay-Webster says she was born in the United States in 1961. Her mother was born in Haiti and her father was a Jamaican. She was moved to Jamaica as a small child and has lived here ever since.
Hay-Webster says in the late 1980s, she held a US passport while she was a lecturer at what is now the University of Technology but never travelled on it for government business.
"I have travelled on a Jamaican passport, a diplomatic passport and an official passport, but never used a US passport to leave or enter Jamaica," Hay-Webster declared.
She indicated that 1990 was the first time she travelled out of Jamaica and it was on official business as an employee of the Social Development Commission, which was under the Ministry of Youth and Community Development.
"Since then, I have travelled to 43 countries including Mali, where I am an Officer of the Order of the Republic."
Commitment to the country
Hay-Webster said she applied for Jamaican nationality in 1987 and took the Oath of Allegiance in 1988, which underscores her commitment to the country.
"I don't have a US social security number, business or property in the United States," Hay-Webster added. "Treat me as a world citizen."
It is not yet clear if the government will seek a court ruling on the eligibility of Hay-Webster to sit in Parliament.
Last week, the prime minister argued that while the JLP could have mounted a similar challenge to the one brought against Vaz, it could be too late to do so now.
Officials of the Government and the Opposition are expected to meet shortly in an attempt to negotiate a settlement to the crisis over the eligibility of members, which the Golding administration has already warned could lead to an early election.