Mon | Jan 21, 2019

Hay-Webster's muzzled defence

Published:Monday | July 4, 2011 | 12:00 AM


Starting tomorrow, South Central St Catherine Member of Parliament Sharon Hay-Webster is expected to turn up to Gordon House and sit, for the first time, as an independent member.

Hay-Webster last week resigned as a member of the Opposition People's National Party, which had insisted she leave the House of Representatives in light of her dual-citizenship woes.

The bench-warming member of parliament, however, has insisted she will not be rushed and has insisted she will remain in the House. The Gavel has been of the opinion that Hay-Webster's case, in light of its peculiarity, should be heard by the court and that she should not be chased out. This is not because we believe Hay-Webster has been of any particular value to the Parliament, but indeed, it is our view that the WikiLeaks revelation that led the call for her to resign, does not rise to the level that necessitates her vacating her seat.

This week, The Gavel share the prepared text of a speech Hay-Webster attempted to deliver in the House on January 18, 2011, and was stopped by House Speaker Delroy Chuck who ruled it was sub judice, as the matter is before the court.

Mr Speaker, I rise to speak on this motion - the motion moved by the member for Central Kingston - which asks for members to declare in this House their citizenship or permanent residence other than Jamaica.

In speaking on this motion, I do so to make my choice of citizenship absolutely clear. I was born in the United States of America (USA). My place of birth was not by virtue of my own act. I have never taken an oath of allegiance to the USA. At the time of my birth my parents were Jamaican citizens, which by virtue of our Constitution meant I was also entitled to Jamaican citizenship.

I also wish to place some facts on the records of Hansard, and in the public's view, particularly in light of the range of commentary and debate on the matter of dual citizenship of members of this Parliament and their choice of citizenship.

The Constitution of Jamaica does not prohibit dual citizenship; it does not state that dual citizens are not electable. What it does state is that no person can be elected to serve in Parliament who is, by virtue of his own act, under acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign state or country.

It is absolutely clear that the Constitution of Jamaica makes an obvious distinction between those under an acknowledgement of allegiance by their own act, and those under an acknowledgement which is not by their own act. In other words, those clothed with it by virtue of birth - over which they have no control - and those who voluntarily put on the clothes.

No oath of allegiance taken

I am not, Mr Speaker, under an acknowledgement of allegiance to the United States by my own act. I have never taken an oath of allegiance to the United States. In being born a citizen, it raises an element of allegiance to the United States then, but that was certainly not by virtue of my own act, or my own doing.

Mr Speaker, this motion is linked to Section 40, in particular Subsection (2) clause (a) ,and 41 and these sections are not about dual citizenship. However, I wish to quote 41 (1)(d) of our Constitution which says:

The seat of a member of either House shall become vacant -

If he ceases to be a Commonwealth citizen or takes an oath or makes any declaration or acknowledgement of obedience or adherence to any foreign power or does concurs in or adopts any act done with the intention that he shall become a subject or citizen of any foreign power or state.

Nowhere in the Constitution, Mr Speaker, does it say you cannot be a citizen of another country. What the Constitution cautions is, in taking of an oath, the making of declaration of acknowledgement of sworn allegiance to a foreign state with the intention to become a subject or citizen of that state.

So let us get some facts clear:

1. All persons born in the USA are citizens by birth.

2. I was born there in 1961, in the state of New Jersey.

3. For 48 years and five months, as at today, I have permanently resided in my country of choice, Jamaica, land of my father's birth.

4. I landed here as a baby, months old, with a passport issued by the United States of America in 1962.

5. My entire education, I owe to Jamaica - my basic school to post-graduate degree, all have been in Jamaica.

6. I was never registered by my parents as a citizen of the United States at the embassy here in Jamaica.

7. As an adult, I have not been registered as an American citizen at the USA embassy in Jamaica.

8. I have no entitlements in the USA.

9. I file no income tax returns. I do not have to file one, nor do I pay income tax there, nor have I paid taxes to any country other than Jamaica.

10. I do not, and have never had a Social Security Number.

11. I do have a Tax Registration Number (TRN) issued by the Government of Jamaica.

12. My family has never sent me on travels to the USA; in fact, my first trip overseas to the United States was with a Jamaican passport and as a servant of the Government of Jamaica, on an OAS Caribbean study tour to North Carolina exploring entrepreneurial education programmes in 1990.

13. I am, by virtue of my own act, a registered citizen of Jamaica, by choice.

14. That is my choice. My own act of taking the oath of allegiance to Jamaica.

I am, therefore, a citizen of Jamaica by my own act. I have sworn allegiance to Jamaica by virtue of my own act. My citizenship and allegiance to Jamaica is by choice and not by birth.

As I have said before, repeatedly, Mr Speaker, I was born in the USA and cannot change that. I am not a citizen of the USA by virtue of my own act and I am not under allegiance to the USA by virtue of my own act.

Natural-born persons in the USA are not required to swear allegiance to the USA.

I have never taken an oath of allegiance to the United States.

Received Jamaican citizenship

So, Mr Speaker, on that occasion in 1988, in Jamaica, by virtue of my own act, I sought and received Jamaican citizenship, and, after taking this oath of allegiance to Jamaica, I was issued a certificate.

This is my citizenship document issued by the Ministry of Justice after I swore allegiance to Jamaica in 1988 when I was an adult.

I was issued a certificate of citizenship under Section 3, Subsection 2 of the Jamaican Constitution on the basis of the following facts:

1. Birth by descent though my father, Lloyd Hay.

2. Evidence of his nationality as child of a Jamaican mother, born in White Hall, St Ann.

3. His passport and

4. My parents' marriage certificate

Interestingly, there is also a note on this certificate of my place of birth in the Mountainside Hospital, Glen Ridge, New Jersey. Just as in all my Jamaican passports, it is stated, my place of birth - New Jersey, USA. I had no control over that.

What we must clearly recognise, Mr Speaker, is that the issue of swearing allegiance is associated with the process of naturalisation.

What we must further understand is that in renewing my USA passport as an adult, there was no requirement to swear allegiance in undertaking this procedure.

What we must also clearly recognise, Mr Speaker, is that the Constitution of Jamaica creates and recognises a difference between citizenship and allegiance.

The process of swearing allegiance, by choice, is associated with the process of seeking naturalisation as a citizen of the country of your choice.

Mr Speaker, I did not, while sitting in this honourable House go to a foreign country and take an oath to become a citizen of that country. I did the opposite, long before becoming a member of this House.

And as I have said before, although I was born in the United States, I have never taken an oath of allegiance to the country of my birth.

There are matters which have been filed in the Supreme Court, by the government side, seeking to question my election to this honourable House by the people of South Central St Catherine. I am confident that my service, in this House, as a citizen of Jamaica, by choice, with allegiance sworn to Jamaica, by choice, will put the matter to rest.

I urge my colleagues, and especially those in my parish of St Catherine, to make as full and frank a disclosure of their status as I have done.