Sun | Nov 18, 2018

EDITORIAL - Mrs Hay-Webster, too, is shameless

Published:Monday | September 20, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Public opinion is understandably scandalised by what appears to have been Shahine Robinson's abuse of the processes of the court until she could no longer get away with it.

Indeed, the by-now-ex-North-East St Ann MP only dropped her fight to stay in the House last week when, in our view, it was clear that she could no longer get away with it. Lawyers for Manley Bowen, the former People's National Party (PNP) parliamentarian, produced documents to prove Ms Robinson's allegiance to a foreign power, the United States and, therefore, her ineligibility for membership in the Jamaican legislature.

Indeed, Mrs Robinson became an American citizen in January 2006, five years after she first became a member of the House and more than a year before she was last re-elected in September 2007.

In this newspaper's view, Mrs Robinson's misbehaviour in allowing the court challenge against her to linger on was reprehensible, especially in the face of earlier rulings on the same issue against three of her governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) colleagues - Daryl Vaz, Michael Stern and Gregory Mair - in circumstances far less egregious than her own. They all renounced their US citizenship and won at by-elections.

But this amorality in handling the dual-citizenship issue among legislators is not singular to Mrs Robinson. We are particularly struck by the shamelessness with which Mrs Sharon Hay-Webster, the PNP representative for South Central St Catherine, continues to sit in the House and even lecture her constituents, and the wider Jamaica, on issues that, at their core, have their foundation in morality and respect for the law.

The basis of this imbroglio is Section (2) (a) of the Constitution that prohibits a person, other than a citizen of a Commonwealth country, from being a member of the Jamaican Parliament if that person "is, by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state".

It is a section of the Constitution to which the average Jamaican paid little attention until Abe Dabdoub, Mr Vaz's opponent in the last election, challenged on the citizenship issue during the campaign and followed through in court after the poll. The PNP, having narrowly lost the election, went to court with other cases, even though some of its own members were similarly afflicted.

Unresolved question

The PNP's Mr Ian Hayles, though, had taken steps to renounce his US citizenship prior to the election, but it remains a question still to be resolved whether he was still an American citizen on nomination day, and whether it matters.

Mrs Hay-Webster, a US-born citizen of a Jamaican father, who holds an American passport, which we assume she acquired as an adult, has weaselled her away around the issue, pleading first about how different her case was from Mr Vaz's and then, a year, promising to renounce her American citizenship. She, however, continued to sit tight in her parliamentary seat - even through last weekend's haranguing of Prime Bruce Golding's and the JLP about an absence of morality over their handling of the 'Dudus' Coke and Manatt affairs. Personal morality should rise above party allegiance.

Perhaps the constitutional bar on dual citizens being members of the legislature is nonsense. If so, let us change it. But being contemptuous of the Constitution should not be condoned ... and certainly not by legislators.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.