Former Jamaica elections director wants dual citizenship issue fixed

(Jamaica Gleaner) Four years after the dual-citizenship drama threatened to collapse the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) government, former Director of Elections Danville Walker says he wants the entire matter to be “fixed” urgently and that a Commonwealth dual citizen should have no greater right to enter representational politics than any other.

Walker, who on Friday demitted office as commissioner of customs, resigned from his post as director of elections because he held citizenship not allowable under the Jamaican Constitution.

Walker was the second casualty in the affair after Daryl Vaz was booted as parliamentary representative for West Portland because he held non-Commonwealth citizenship. Vaz later won a rerun of the election against the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Kenneth Rowe.

Walker said the constitutional provision against non-Commonwealth citizens holding certain offices was unfair to American citizens who want to serve the country.

“What is so bad about dual citizenship?” Walker asked during a press conference called to unveil him as the JLP’s candidate in Central Manchester.

“When I joined the electoral system, I wasn’t aware that this was an issue. When you go to a job, people would have to tell you that; no one ever told me that,” he said before pointing to what he labelled the hypocrisy of the situation.

“What I had a huge difficulty with was when they reran West Portland, they took a Canadian citizen (Rowe) and ran him against Mr Vaz. If it is wrong, it is wrong in principle, not by basis of country,” Walker declared.

“It is a finer point that the lawyers don’t understand. America is no more alien than Canada is. So you are telling me that if I went and got citizenship in Pakistan, I could become prime minister in Jamaica, but because I went to the United States, a country that gives us so much aid and support … ,” Walker added before he was reminded that it was a constitutional matter.

Canada and Pakistan are both members of the Commonwealth.

“So, therefore fix it. Has anything been done about that? No. And I tell you when the next election is called, I will be asking the Electoral Commission, ‘Are the candidates properly nominated?’ Because that’s all I said, that they are properly nominated because there was nothing wrong in what I said … ,” Walker argued of his conduct as director of elections during the 2007 general election.

The PNP’s West Portland candidate in that election, Abraham Dabdoub, took Vaz to court and forced the rerun of the election after Vaz was disqualified. Walker’s press release stating that Vaz was properly nominated was cited in the judgment as influential.

Billed as a “proven performer”, Walker said he had an enviable track record before his dual citizenship – a status given by his parents, who wanted their children to have options – became an issue.

He will contest the Central Manchester seat against PNP General Secretary Peter Bunting.

In 2007, Bunting narrowly defeated the JLP’s Sally Porteous but Walker, credited with overhauling the country’s electoral system, said he loves a challenge and believes he has something to offer the constituency.

“Central Manchester to me presents opportunities that can be developed. It has universities, it has declining bauxite industries. In the next 20 years or so, bauxite will be over. So I figure I want to be in a place that needs my industry and intellect to solve the employment issues, crime issues and the development of this place,” he told The Gleaner.

“Central Manchester has tough issues and I know I can work on them because, as you know, I love a challenge.”

Noting that he could have always negotiated “some easy seat”, Walker said he instead chose the seat with the largest constituency of returning residents in Jamaica.

He said he was a proud returning resident and would take on their issues with passion as Jamaica has not made it easy for individuals to return home.

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