KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, May 17, 2018 (CMC) – The leader of the main opposition, New Democratic Party (NDP), Godwin Friday, says that his Canadian citizenship does not disqualify him from being a Member of Parliament in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Friday, who recently returned, here, from Canada, told radio listeners that as a Commonwealth citizen he is also qualified to be a legislator in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
He said the Constitution makes it clear that “you must be a Commonwealth citizen of the age of 21″.
“I am a Commonwealth citizen, twice over, if anything, I am twice qualified,” Friday said, on his weekly radio program.
Friday, who was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has been representing the Northern Grenadines since he was first elected to Parliament in 2001. He said that “everybody knows” that he has been a Canadian citizen for over 30 years.
“I have never hid it, that I am, in fact, a Canadian citizen. I have lived in Canada for many years,” he said.
The issue as to whether Friday is qualified to hold political officer, here, surfaced over the past few days after political activist, Matthew Thomas, published an article in the local media.
Last weekend, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) also ruled against the Barbados electoral office policy, regarding the qualification of Commonwealth citizens to be registered as voters.
Friday dismissed the present hysteria surrounding his dual citizenship, saying “it’s something that they (political opponents) have suddenly latched on [to] … as some sort of an issue, all of a sudden”.
One local newspaper recently published an article, indicating that Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Louis Straker, had shown proof, renouncing his US citizenship in 1994, before he was first elected Member of Parliament for Central Leeward.
NDP supporters had been raising questions as to whether, or not, Sir Louis was qualified to be a Member of Parliament here.
But Friday said that the issue with Sir Louis does not bear any resemblance to his situation.
“The two things have no real relationship. They are completely different things,” Friday said, adding that when it comes to voting in elections and becoming a legislator here, the Constitution recognises one citizenship, “Commonwealth citizenship”.
“It is not a question of dual citizenship [but] Commonwealth citizenship. I am a Commonwealth citizen because I am a citizen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, having been born here. I’m a Commonwealth citizen because I am a citizen of Canada,” Friday observed.
Section 25 of the Constitution, under the rubric “Qualifications for representatives and Senators”, states, “Subject to the provisions of section 26 of this Constitution, a person shall be qualified to be elected as a representative if, and shall not be so qualified unless, he is a Commonwealth citizen of the age of twenty-one years or upwards, … has resided in St. Vincent for a period of twelve months, immediately before the date of his nominations for election or is domiciled and resident in Saint Vincent at that date”.
The section also speaks to proficiency in the English language.
But it also makes it clear that “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…”
Friday has dismissed arguments that in order to become a Canadian citizen, he had to pledge allegiance to that country.
He said the pledge of allegiance he took in Canada was to Queen Elizabeth II, who is also head of state here, and the same person to whom local parliamentarians have been pledging allegiance.
“I swear allegiance, whether you like it or not, to the same person: to her Majesty the Queen,” he said, dismissing the debate over his citizenship as “all sleight of hand”.
“They are trying to distract people and trying to muddle it up to say somehow Straker gave up his citizenship,” Friday, said, adding that his passport is not as important as his birth certificate.
“I was born here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. My navel string is buried in Bequia. I grew up in Bequia,” Friday said..
“So this is my home. My first allegiance is to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. If you wanted any proof, I came home when I was asked to serve my country. I came because my first allegiance is to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the place of my birth…”