The past few weeks have seen the silly season going into overdrive. For the casual observer it makes for great entertainment; for the two parties it is life or death; and for their supporters an opportunity to cement their party in power for at least another term.

The focus of the silly season has been the citizenship question, namely the fact that Mark Golding holds British citizenship through his father.

Now, truth be told, the issue is nothing more than a storm in a teacup. According to the constitution, any Commonwealth national can run for elected office once they have been living in Jamaica for 12 months. The same is not true for non-Commonwealth nationals or people who hold dual citizenship with non-Commonwealth nations. In short, it is legal to be a British, Kenyan, Rwandan, or Caymanian and run for office here.

This, is I repeat, is a storm in a teacup. The monarch is our head of state, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, judges and so on swear oath to the king. Put frankly Jamaica is a realm of King Charles just as much as Wales or Gibraltar, so being a British national and being able to sit in Parliament really isn’t a shock. The letter of the law says Mark can run for office.  The letter of the law is very clear in privileging the Commonwealth nations over other countries.

The fact that this is now a key tool in the Government’s toolkit reeks of desperation and gutter politics. They know that their majority has whittled down, they know that the next election will be a slugfest and are looking to get in critical blows from early.  It makes sense especially if you have major questions hanging over your ability to maintain the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) in office.

It makes sense to attack like this from a moral stance, but what is immoral oftentimes is perfectly legal, and this is one of those cases. The fact that Mark Golding and Matthew Samuda have held key posts in Cabinet while having British nationality is repugnant, calls into question their loyalties and why they act the way they do. But it is legal. As sad as it may be the law is on their side.

The fact that it was Daryl Vaz who raised the issue has not been lost on people who view it as simple badmind and envy. Of all the MPs to raise an issue with this, Daryl is the most ironic. He should know, based on the case surrounding his dual citizenship, that what Mark and Matthew were doing is perfectly legal. People are not foolish. Some of these MPs, like Mr. Vaz, have been in office for over 20 years. Why, during that time, did they not move to amend that bit of the constitution, why is a move which is legal now deemed to be deserving of tarring and feathering?

In their desperation to hold off an Opposition which is no longer viewed as unelectable, they have inadvertently disturbed a hornet’s nest.  People who had either forgotten or eventually bought into the Government’s message about NIDS and data security are now questioning how secure their data is if the leader of the opposition can fall victim to his information being made public.

The responses offered by Minister Vaz and Minister Dana Morris Dixon are not sufficient for a public that has been burnt by politicians before. It is not enough to say Mr. Vaz did not get the information from the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency. Someone provided what should be private information to Mr. Vaz. I may be wrong, but it is not moral (the thing the JLP has been harping on about) to show it to the media, even if it is legal.

People are taking note, are a bit paranoid when it comes to these things and are liable to refuse it point blank if the questions are not sufficiently answered. We only have to look at the refusal to abandon cash and transition to debit cards to see how hard it is to move people who are entrenched in their beliefs.

The Government by raising this issue and making it a moral one has also inadvertently opened an old wound that will only get worse. Many politicians have offshore investments. Where do their allegiances lie if they do not invest their money at home?  Many politicians go to the US or Europe for medical treatment, what incentive do they have to make the medical system here better if they seek their medical treatment abroad.

The actions mentioned above may be perfectly legal, but we go back to the question, just because it is legal does that mean it is morally correct? Both parties, through this mini scandal, have shown themselves to have the morals of alley cats. Mark has lost much moral capital with this despite it being legal and will have to work doubly hard to win back support while also now looking out for daggers that will be pointed at him internally.

The Government has lost much moral ground by releasing Mark’s information and sitting on the fact that it also had a minister who was in a similar position as Mark. The uptake of people into the NIDS programme will be impacted, and ditto for entering the banking system and moving from cash to card. 

They will also be impacted at the polls as the moral breaches mount and the party faithful stay home rather than vote and campaign for politicians who put them in awkward positions when debating the opposition faithful.

This, in the end, shows Jamaican politicians and politics for what they are: a bad joke that should have stopped being told years ago. They do not tackle issues. The engage in style over substance and will do anything, even endanger their key policy pillar, in order to remain in power. This goes for both parties who have shown they have morals so low that a turtle can get over it with ease. It is morally wrong for Mark to do what he is doing, it is morally wrong for Daryl to do what he did, legality aside.

We can now expect this to become routine which will result in people moving off the government ID grid whenever possible and when questioned why they are off the grid they will have a readymade and valid excuse, If Mark gets burnt, why wouldn’t I?

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