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I wasn't asked to renounce US citizenship - Hay-Webster

Published:Wednesday | November 2, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Finance Minister Audley Shaw (left) welcomes Sharon Hay-Webster to the Government benches while Government members of parliament Frank Witter (second right) and Ernie Smith look on during yesterday's sitting of Parliament inside the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

Sharon Hay-Webster, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) new recruit and member of parliament for South Central St Catherine, is at variance with a deputy leader of her new party over whether renouncing her United States citizenship was a precondition of her crossing the floor.

Hay-Webster, who is in her third term as MP, crossed the floor to join the Government side yesterday. She became a member of the JLP the day before. She had resigned as a member of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) in June.

Asked by journalists whether the JLP demanded she renounced her United States citizenship before being allowed to join the party, Hay-Webster said "no, they did not and they could not do that".

She added: "There were no conditionalities."

However Audley Shaw, a deputy leader of the JLP, who welcomed Hay-Webster to the party, said the party made it clear that she had to renounce her US citizenship.

"She has renounced her citizenship and clearly that was one of the prequisites for her to successfully join and she has renounced," Shaw told journalists after the sitting of the House of Representatives.

Hay-Webster resigned from the PNP after the party insisted that she either step aside as member of parliament or sit as an Independent MP.

Reacting to her resignation then, the PNP said revelations made by The Gleaner through whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, of a US diplomatic cable - which alleged Hay-Webster withdrew her renunciation letter but left the impression that she had given up her US citizenship - had caused the party to come down hard on her.

"The party came to the conclusion that Mrs Hay-Webster's tenure as a member of parliament was untenable and, as such, discussions were focused on and centred around her resignation as a member of parliament," the PNP said in a statement last June.

The Constitution prohibits persons who are under acknowledgement of allegiance or obedience to any foreign power from serving as a parliamentarian.

Yesterday Hay-Webster, after crossing the floor, indicated she has commenced the process of renouncing her United States citizenship. She also said she would be resigning as member of parliament for South Central St Catherine.

Asked when she intends to resign, she told reporters: "I can't answer that now."

Hay-Webster also maintains that her dual-citizenship issue was unique and said she has decided to renounce in order "to place myself to the people".

In the meantime, Hay-Webster told the House of Representatives that she decided to join the Andrew Holness-led parliamentary majority because she is inspired by the vision of the new prime minister.

"The decision to join the JLP was an easy one for me. The level of maturity displayed by the party in its approach to governance, inclusiveness and a declared position of a new politics I find commendable and attractive," Hay-Webster said.

PNP member Dr Peter Phillips, who Hay-Webster twice backed to lead the PNP, said it was "a disappointment to see anyone so confused about their own principles, their philosophy of life and their political commitments but that every human being has the right of exercising her free will".

He added: "She has exercised hers."

Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller said Hay-Webster's crossing the floor represented "political expediency" on the part of the Government.

She said her party was "quite comfortable" with Hay-Webster's decision to join ranks with the JLP.

In the meantime Holness, when asked what political mileage his party would gain from having Hay-Webster in its corner, held a long smile before saying "silence cannot be quoted".