“Not all Commonwealth citizens are created equal.”
by Doris D Charles
Not all Commonwealth citizens are ‘created equal’ within the Commonwealth of Nations. Each sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations is vested with its independent legal constitutional personality. St. Vincent and the Grenadines along with many a Commonwealth country allows citizens from other Commonwealth countries to vote in its general elections.
The Constitution is the Supreme law. See section 101 – St. Vincent and the Grenadines and section 52 (1) – Canada. Commonwealth Constitutions are representative of British jurisprudence on constitutional democracy. Under Schedule 3 of the British Nationality Act 1981, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Canada are listed as “countries whose citizens are Commonwealth citizens.”
General Elections are slated for 5 November 2020. There are misconceptions as to whether prospective candidates with dual citizenships can hold office as Representative and Senators. The Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, section 26 (1) (a) is quite explicit. A similar provision for Senators is to be found in section 31 (2) of the Canadian Constitution.
Disqualifications for Representatives and Senators in St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- (1) No person shall be qualified to be elected or appointed as a Representative or Senator (hereinafter in this section referred to as a member) if he –
- is by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state,
- So, “No person shall be qualified … appointed” refers citizens [Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth]. The question is whether this could be interpreted any other way within the full meaning of the constitutional provision. The answer is no!
- “By virtue of his own act” … “under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence” … are critical to the process of disqualification. The recent case of Attorney General of Saint Christopher and Nevis v Denzil Douglas is instructive and to be read in its entirety. See: https://www.eccourts.org/the-attorney-general-of-saint-christopher-and-nevis-v-dr-denzil-douglas-3/
- The phrase “foreign power or state” can only refer to a state or power foreign to the sovereign Commonwealth state itself within the Commonwealth of Nations. On pages 15 and 16 of the aforementioned case, the following is instructive, in that:
- “It is clear, in any event, that Dominica is a foreign state for the purposes of the Constitution, notwithstanding the fact that Dominica is a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, the Caribbean Community and the Commonwealth of Nations.
As the learned judge found:
“ The Constitution of Saint Kitts and Nevis declares in Chapter 1 that it is a sovereign democratic state. Both St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica are vested with independent international legal personalities. They have separate and distinct laws relating to citizenship and its citizens owe different allegiances. Their respective exercise of sovereignty is completely independent of each other.
 The fact that for the limited purposes of the Citizenship Act, Dominica is not regarded as a foreign country does nothing to attenuate or negate its status as a sovereign, independent state and thus a foreign power or state within the meaning of section 28(1)(a).”
- Sovereign democratic states are vested with independent international legal personalities. They have separate and distinct laws relating to citizenship. Citizens owe different allegiances to their sovereign states separately. The respective states continue to develop and are completely independent of each other.
- Does the Citizenship Act 1984 of St. Vincent and the Grenadines emphasize it as a foreign country within the Commonwealth? The island has specific laws and rules for Commonwealth citizens (Canada inclusive).
- In this current ‘impasse’ even if Canada is not regarded as a foreign country within the Commonwealth grouping, this does nothing to attenuate or negate its status as a ‘sovereign, independent state and thus a foreign power or state within the meaning of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Constitution section 26 (1) (a).
- Prospective candidates of the New Democratic Party are alleged to have dual citizenship as a result of them being Vincentians and Canadian simultaneously. I make particular reference to 2018 when one such candidate gave an opinion about his dual citizenship status. I have taken the time to consult with a few colleagues who share similar legal opinions, that all prospective candidates with dual citizenship are likely to be positioned for “constitutional legal battles” once they win their seats in the upcoming General Elections. Could they be correct? Could a legal debacle be avoided at this late stage of the political process?
It is not enough to simply say that dual citizenship contradicts the constitutional mandates of section 26 (1) (a) of the Vincentian Constitution.
An ‘Opinion’ given by Dr. Godwin Friday as Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday 24 April 2018 – The Searchlight Midweek newspaper may need to be revisited if not done already.
Doris D. Charles holds a PhD in law and is a retired diplomat