Over the past week or so I have read and kept silent on the matter of a bi-election in Jamaica having a candidate without Jamaican citizenship.
What I have seen is a solid reflection of classism, partisanship, and party above all on both sides of Gordon House. What I find not being discussed is why we are so agitated about it. So let’s talk about the questions this situation poses.
First, what do we (the people of Jamaica) believe makes someone Jamaican?
Truth be told we are a passionate people when it comes to the privilege and honour of being Jamaican. However, while the law states that anyone born of a Jamaican ancestor has the right to claim citizenship, we the people have a different litmus test.
Born and raised here? Jamaican.
Born here but raised elsewhere? Let’s check your accent, how you say plantain, if you know the difference between Tastee & Juici Beef, if you drink sorrel or eat chicken back/foot… then we will decide.
Born abroad but raised here? Yeah, sort of ish. I mean if your parents are from here then yes, but if they’re not there’s another checklist to go through. Ever tek bus? Firecrackers or clappaz? Shinehead or Super Cat? Also, can you cook run down or make fry-boil dumpling? Which corner shop ‘ave the best Curry Goat?
Born and raised elsewhere to Jamaican parent(s)? Once again the status check, including how often have you been to Jamaica? Can you speak patois without sounding like Taye Diggs? What Jamaican foods do you crave? How do you pronounce plantain and pomegranate? Have you ever used a dutch pot? No, not a Dutch oven, a Dutch pot.
Then we have to decide IF we want to claim you. So we sort of claim Colin Powell, but give reasons why Lee Boyd Malvo doesn’t really count. We celebrate Patrick Ewing but often brush off Ben Johnson. We hail Biggie but not Tyga. The list goes on and on.
The more pertinent question is, why does citizenship of Parliamentarians matter more than Jamaicaness?
Simple, we believe that Parliamentarians must have just as much to lose as the citizens they are making decisions for. We do not think that our government is incorrupt, in fact, we accept (actually assume) that there is a lot of corruption in all arms of our government. As a result, we would like to believe that anyone elected or selected to be in parliament is in the same boat with us. We want to know that they can’t easily escape the consequences of the decisions made.
The ability for CARICOM and British Commonwealth citizens LIVING in Jamaica to vote is not an issue to us. (Jamaican citizens living outside of Jamaica voting is.) However, when it comes to making laws, voting on the budget, and making national policy, your loyalties matter to us. No, you don’t get to run to an embassy and hide from the electorate if we are angry at you. You have to face the consequences with us.
I know each side is pointing fingers at the other and saying “But you….”, but If it were up to me, proof of citizenship would be a requirement to running for office and sitting in Gordon House. I would require that any current member who cannot prove citizenship as of the 2007 debacle, resign and refund the people of Jamaica all income garnered as a member. Further, they would be barred from running for at least 2 election cycles. Though I find this desirable, the law does not provide for this kind of action.
At this point, Shane is permitted to run. As much as I consider him Jamaican and believe his intentions are genuine, I would have preferred that he had at least applied for citizenship before running. I grew up with him and believe he is a man of integrity with a heart of service, but I am not one of the constituents he is offering to serve so I don’t get a vote. I don’t get a say in this, but I know I couldn’t knowingly vote for someone who couldn’t be bothered to file some paperwork. He knows too many lawyers to not have done it.