Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Unlike in Jamaica's dual-citizenship cases, the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands has ruled that a United States-born politician who renewed her US passport as an adult does not mean that she has pledged allegiance to a foreign power.
In a case that has more Jamaican connections that one, Jamaican attorney Abe Dabdoub represented the petitioner, John Gordon Hewitt, who filed the petition under Cayman's Election Laws to unseat Tara Rivers, who won the election for the electoral district of West Bay that was held on May 22 this year.
"I am compelled to the conclusion that the first respondent (Rivers) remained domiciled and ordinarily resident in the Cayman Islands while she also resided abroad for the purposes of obtaining her full professional qualifications, and that the time so spent abroad must be disregarded by virtue of Section 61(3) of the Constitution. I am also satisfied that the first respondent, in renewing and using her United States passport as an ordinary incident of her United States citizenship acquired by birth, and a citizenship she is allowed to keep by virtue of Section 61(20)(b) of the Constitution, has not placed herself under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign state or power, within the meaning of section 62(1)(a) of the Constitution. The petition therefore fails on both grounds and the relief sought in it is refused," reasoned Anthony Smellie, chief justice of the Cayman Islands, in the conclusion of his judgment.
As it relates to wasted votes and the need for a by-election, Smellie said: "It follows that this secondary issue does not arise for determination and so the declarations sought in that regard must also be refused."
After perusing the judgment handed down by the Cayman Islands' chief justice, noted Jamaican attorney-at-law Bert Samuels told The Sunday Gleaner that the constitutional provisions of both territories are similar and the findings by both chief justices are also quite similar.
"The judgment is consistent with Chief Justice (Zaila) McCalla's judgment in the (Daryl) Vaz matter. It is just that the outcome is different," said Samuels.
He explained that a decision was arrived at by examining the law and facts and the latter might have been what caused the variation in Smellie's ruling.
"He had a different set of facts (to analyse)," said Samuels.
In February 2009, the Court of Appeal ordered a by-election in the constituency of West Portland to select a new member of parliament. In doing so the Appeals Court upheld the Supreme Court ruling in the dual-citizenship case involving Vaz, the Jamaica Labour Party's West Portland MP, and Dabdoub, who had been the candidate for the People's National Party.
Vaz not eligible to be a member of parliament
On April 11, 2008, McCalla ruled that Vaz was not eligible to be a member of parliament because he was a US citizen at the time of the election in September 2007 and that there should be a by-election in the constituency of West Portland, which Vaz represented in Parliament.
The chief justice ruled that by virtue of the fact that Vaz obtained an American passport when he was an adult and travelled on it, he had pledged an allegiance to a foreign power.
But Vaz took issue with that aspect of the ruling and filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal. Dabdoub had appealed against the chief justice's ruling that there should be a by-election.
He appealed on the grounds that he should have been made MP since he was the only duly nominated candidate.
The ruling in the Cayman Islands did not go unnoticed by Vaz.
When contacted, he told The Sunday Gleaner that his legal team remained convinced that the argument it put forward was legally correct.
"However, you respect fully any decision taken by the Jamaican courts. The situation, as it relates to my dual citizenship, is now history and I am still committed to the position that I was advised prior to the election that my situation, as it relates to dual citizenship, was perfectly legal," said Vaz.
The West Portland MP said he would do anything required to ensure that he is legally fit to represent his people and country. However, Vaz admitted that the multi-million dollar hit to his finances left a mark.
"The only issue that comes to mind is the massive cost to settle legal fees of $25 million ... and a by-election campaign. My only regret is the monetary cost," said Vaz, who also noted that he was mindful of the hit taxpayers had to take to fund the by-election. "However, I put all that behind me and continue to serve without any ill-feeling."
Efforts to get a comment from Dabdoub on the judgment handed down in the Cayman Islands were unsuccessful.