The dual citizenship laws here in St. Kitts and Nevis has been described as a “bad law” from a former Parliamentarian Dwyer Astaphan, who believes that any citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis should be allowed to serve in public office if they so choose.
The issue of dual citizenship for parliamentarians have been a matter of public debate not only here in St. Kitts and Nevis but also around the world in the past months as obscure laws left some politicians unaware as to whether they have been breaking any laws in their respective jurisdictions.
In October the High Court of Australia ruled that five Members of Parliament were ineligible to run for their seats due to holding dual citizenship and indicating that they are ineligible to serve in Parliament.
The Australian constitution states that if a person “is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power.”
In recent weeks similar debates have popped up in St. Kitts and Nevis after Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis the Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris alleged that former Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas is a holder of a diplomatic passport of the Commonwealth of Dominica and raised questions of his eligibility to serve in the Parliament.
Article 6 (I) of the National Assembly Elections (Amendment) Act of 2009 states, in part, that “a person shall not be qualified to be elected or appointed as a member [of the National Assembly] if he or she (a) is, by virtue of his or her own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.”
The same Dr. Douglas has in the past showed disdain for holders of dual citizenship. His vendetta against Lindsay Grant, against Shawn Richards and Eugene Hamilton, are all well known. So serious was this matter of dual citizenship for persons participating in the Parliamentary life of the country that Dr. Douglas passed the National Assembly Elections (Amendment) Act No. 16 of 2009.
“It wasn’t just simply a matter of policy; it was something that he felt so deeply moved about that he was moved to bring a piece of legislation – and I supported the legislation for what it was worth – as a matter of principle that those who are coming before the people of the country for service, must come unencumbered to the extent that that principle was eliminated in the Parliament,” Dr. Harris said last month at his Monthly press conference.
However Astaphan, a former Parliamentarian and Government Minister in the Denzil Douglas Administration indicated to The Observer that he is in disagreement with the dual citizenship laws in St. Kitts and Nevis.
“I think the law is a bad law. I do not think we should exclude people simply because they have dual nationality from the opportunity to serve.”
Astaphan added that by doing so the country is limiting the stock of people who are eligible to serve some of whom might bring special abilities to the table.
“You can have some extremely talented people and we do in the country of dual nationality and people who might have come here and become naturalized and become citizens why should they be disbarred from holding public office in the country that had raised them and nurture them.
“We are too small to be so exclusionary, but in the meantime the law is what it is and in Dr. Douglas’ nearly 20 years in office he did nothing to change in fact he did all he could to make it even stricter and I am not in favour of that.”
Astaphan also declared that he would like to see the laws changed and embrace individuals regardless if they hold dual citizenship.
“If one becomes a citizen of Nigeria and you are a high capable person, have a character of goodwill, a visionary, someone who loves his country with all of his heart and soul and want to make a public contribution, make a contribution in Parliament or Cabinet why should he be given a chance
“Why should you be disbarred simply because you also are a citizenship of another country.”