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Lawyer urges probe before diaspora representation

Published:Tuesday | March 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM

CONSTITUTIONAL LAWYER Dr Lloyd Barnett is advising the legislature to conduct detailed studies and carry out extensive consultations before altering constitutional provisions to facilitate parliamentary representation by members of the diaspora.

Barnett's advice was contained in a submission he made to a joint select committee of Parliament late last week. The committee was reviewing the issue of dual citizenship, voting rights in Jamaica for members of the diaspora, and the appointment of a diaspora senator.

In his submission, Barnett outlined that many non-resident Jamaicans who were likely candidates for appointment or election to parliamentary offices would probably be affected by disqualification based on conflicting allegiance.

"It is highly probable that they would have obtained citizenship in their adopted country and travelled on non-Jamaican passports," he said.

"The practical result is that the constitutional provisions relating to multiple allegiance would have to be altered," Dr Barnett added.

Necessary questions

According to the respected constitutional lawyer, several questions would arise from any proposal for such an alteration.

"Should there be a disqualification in respect of allegiance to any state, or should the provision be completely revoked? Should a person be allowed to sit as an MP who owes allegiance to a country which has policies which are generally inimical to Jamaica's interests, or the culture of which is repugnant to Jamaican norms and principles?" Barnett asked.

He also asked that if non-resident Jamaicans were permitted to run in elections, would there be special constituencies or seats provided for them? Dr Barnett also questioned: "Should a minimum residential requirement be retained, and if so, for what minimum period?"

Turning to the matter of registration of electors, Dr Barnett queried: "In what polling division would a non-resident be placed? Further, the question of whether second-generation Jamaicans overseas would be accorded voting rights was also raised. "If not, what is the basis of the distinction?" he queried.