by James McCall,
I find it a little strange that we have always known that a passport is issued to citizens of countries for the purpose of international travel, but because our former prime minister is now caught in the tangled web he wove for himself, we are now endeavouring to redefine passports.
The website www.dictionary.com, describes the word “passport” as follows:
“…an official document issued by the government of a country to one of its CITIZENS and, varying from country to country, authorizing travel to foreign countries and authenticating the bearer’s identity, citizenship, right to protection while abroad, and right to reenter his or her native country.”
Encyclopedia Britannica, through its website www.britannica.com, describes it as follows:
“…a formal document or certification issued by a national government identifying a traveler as a CITIZEN or national with a right to protection while abroad and a right to return to the country of citizenship.”
So, whether or not Dr. Douglas requested citizenship when he applied for his Dominican passport, is immaterial, given that he was issued the passport which and, like every Dominican passport does, describes the holder as Dominican. The type of passport issued is also immaterial in the face of whether or not he is regarded as a citizen of Dominica, but the fact that he holds one with a diplomatic designation speaks volumes in terms of how highly he is being regarded by the government of the Commonwealth of Dominica. When he travels on that passport, he falls under the protective umbrella of the Commonwealth of Dominica so that, if there were to be an international incident that involves him, he would be reported as a citizen of Dominica.
This attempt at redefining passports and their inextricable tie to citizenship is comical and reminds me of when Bill Clinton said that something depended on what “…the meaning of the word ‘is’ is…” In other words, he was caught in a situation that he was unable to wriggle himself out of and was willing to try anything, in the eyes of the public, at least, to make himself look better. Similarly, Dr. Douglas, his legal counsel and minions, are endeavouring to disentangle him from a system of knots that he personally and, by an act of his own will, bound himself with.
Section 28-1-a of our constitution says: “A person shall not be qualified to be elected or appointed as a member [of the National Assembly] if he is, by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state…”
That, in and of itself, was merely a guideline so, in 2009, in order to give it teeth, Dr. Douglas himself piloted an amendment to the law, which imposed (i) a fine as high as $30,000.00 and (ii) a prison term of up to five years on anyone found to be in violation. Lindsay Grant and Shawn Richards, holders of US Passports, duly renounced their US citizenship in order to be in compliance with the law. We will also recall that, following the 2010 election in which Cedric Liburd was defeated by Eugene Hamilton, Cedric filed suit against him on grounds that he had a US Passport, going as far as quoting a number.
Hamilton was able to show that he did not have a passport, but was the holder of a Green Card, so Liburd dropped the matter regarding the passport, but persisted with the case on the Green Card. Once he lost the case, he proceeded to appeal it and was joined by the government of Dr. Douglas.
It is clear that Dr. Douglas is, and has always been, fully cognizant of the slippery slope on which one finds himself if he/she is a member of the National Assembly of St. Kitts and Nevis while carrying the passport of another country. Yet, notwithstanding that, in July of 2015, by an act of his own will, applied for, and received, a Dominican Passport.
In our local parlance, we say: “When you play wid fire, fire gun bun you”