I’ve thought about this a lot, and I can see why some people would want to amend the Jamaican constitution to allow elected representatives to have dual citizenship. But, even though I am a citizen of the United States and Canada as well as my native Jamaica, I have to side with those who think the constitutional ban is necessary.
Many members of the Jamaican Diaspora probably dream of returning to Jamaica some day and running for office. And I say to the Jamaicans who harbor this desire: Go for it!
But when you do that, give up your foreign citizenship. I don’t think elected representatives should have one foot in Jamaica and one in another country.
I know from personal experience that it’s comforting to have that escape hatch in case things go terribly wrong. I returned to Jamaica when I was a young man, and tried to help my country. In my naivety, I crossed some powerful people, and they were going to have me imprisoned for “violating the Official Secrets Act.” I won’t go into the details of the case. Take my word for it: The charge was trumped up. The point is that I was immensely relieved to be able to flee to Toronto without question.
It wasn’t until those powerful enemies had died that I dared set foot in Jamaica again. Thankfully, I kept my Canadian citizenship because I was almost killed during the violence of the early Seventies, and once again I was glad to be able to return to Canada.
Now retired, I live in Florida, and I have become a U.S. citizen. If I ever return to Jamaica, I will keep my “dual” citizenship — just in case.
However, if I were ever to run for office in Jamaica, I would feel obliged to renounce my foreign citizenships. It seems to me that anyone who accepts the responsibility of helping to shape Jamaican society should do so with both hands (and both feet). With no escape hatch available, elected representatives would be more committed to the welfare of the country they are leading.