Jamaica's Opposition Leader Writes Open Letter to Public on Dual Citizenship Controversy

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Opposition Leader Mark Golding says he does not want his decision to revoke his British citizenship to be used “as a distraction by an unpopular government that has lost the trust and confidence of a majority of the Jamaican people”.

goldingmMark Golding (File Photo)In an open letter to Jamaicans, Golding, who last weekend had confirmed that he would be revoking his British citizenship, described the situation as a “ a matter of personal significance and national importance”.

He said it is important to acknowledge that having citizenship of a Commonwealth country is required under the Jamaica Constitution and that this provision recognizes the historical and familial connections that many Jamaicans, including himself, share with other Commonwealth nations.

“I am a Jamaican citizen and have a Jamaican passport. I was born in Jamaica, I grew up in Jamaica and I have worked my entire life here. I have always acted with Jamaica’s best interests at heart. I have sworn allegiance to Jamaica, and to Jamaica alone,” Golding said.

The ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has criticised Golding at his decision over the years to maintain dual citizenship and last weekend, Science, Energy, Telecommunication and Transport Minister, Daryl Vaz, dismissed the decision by the Opposition Leader to renounce his British citizenship.

Vaz said that the move has come “too little, too late” and that it’s unacceptable that Golding has not given a timetable regarding when he will act on his stated intention to renounce.

Vaz said it was a national disgrace that Golding, who aspires to be head of the Jamaica government, hesitated for approximately 40 days since admitting to his dual citizenship “on the issue of whether to choose Jamaican citizenship only”.

The senior government minister said that it’s instructive that Golding only announced his intention to renounce after “several calls for his resignation, weeks of obfuscation and two years of not coming clean with the Jamaican people on his status” .

But in his open letter to Jamaicans, Golding said that his father, Professor Sir John Golding, OJ, came to Jamaica from the United Kingdom, and “I also acquired that citizenship by descent.

“My citizenship status has always been in full compliance with our laws,” Golding said, adding that “in a democratic society, it is important that our laws reflect the collective will and evolving values of the Jamaican people.

“The question of eligibility requirements for political leaders is important, and should be addressed comprehensively as part of the ongoing constitutional reform process.”

Golding said that discussion should recognize that “as many Jamaicans live overseas as live here, that our economy and society are deeply reliant on the support of Jamaicans overseas, and that we need talent and participation drawn from the entire Jamaican family to tackle our nation’s challenges in the pursuit of national development”.

He said based on a scientific poll that was recently commissioned, “I am aware that, while not an overwhelming majority, a significant percentage of our population believes that political leaders and other holders of high national office should hold only Jamaican citizenship.

“My father was a great servant of the Jamaican people. I love him dearly. He has always been a moral compass in my life, and I remain proud of his legacy of service, especially to persons with disabilities.

“Nevertheless, as someone putting myself forward to the people of Jamaica for high office, I have decided to ensure that my citizenship is not a matter of concern to those who feel strongly that persons holding high office in Jamaica should be Jamaican citizens only”.

Golding said moreover, “I do not wish this matter to be used as a distraction by an unpopular government that has lost the trust and confidence of a majority of the Jamaican people,” adding “we must focus on the pressing issues facing our nation, and solutions to give a better quality of life to our people”.

Golding said the current administration’s dismal failures in healthcare, education, social infrastructure, and the persistent problem of crime and violence, need the country’s “undivided attention and collective effort to address.

“It is also crucial to focus on and tackle the corruption, mismanagement, nepotism, and waste that have unfortunately characterized the current Government. These issues must remain at the forefront of our national discourse.”

The Opposition Leader said that by renouncing British citizenship when it is not a legal or constitutional requirement to do so, “I demonstrate and reiterate my unwavering commitment to Jamaica.

“At a time when we must focus on the critical challenges facing our nation, it also eliminates a potential distraction that political opponents have grasped at in the face of electoral defeat,” Golding said, thanking the population for their “understanding and continued support”.