Constitution Commission Report.
A number of recommendations for reforms in the island’s citizenship laws have been put forward by the Constitutional Reform Commission.
These are contained in Chapter 11 of the report , the second and final part of which follows:
The Commission was equally consumed with submissions on the issue of dual citizenship in relation to Members of Parliament, including the Head of State, Prime Minister, Parliamentary Representatives and Senators. There were strong sentiments that persons in such high offices entrusted with the peace, order and good government of the country ought to demonstrate a clear and unequivocal allegiance to the State and that therefore they should not have dual nationality. In considering these submissions the Commission reviewed the current requirements relevant to the various offices.
With respect to the Office of Governor General, Section 19 of the Constitution only requires that the individual be a “citizen”. There is no distinction as to the source of citizenship, that is, whether by birth, descent or naturalisation. The Commission was of the view that in keeping with the recommendations of the changes in that office to “President”, eligibility for appointment should be citizenship by birth or descent. It was further agreed that in the case of citizenship by descent the individual must have been resident in the State for the least thirty (30) years. This would assist in guaranteeing that the Head of State is someone who is “Saint Lucian in heart and identity” and in whom the confidence of all Saint Lucians would repose.
In relation to elected members of the House of Assembly, the Commission considered Section 31 of the Constitution which sets out the grounds of qualification for election to the House. In particular Sections 31 (a) and (b) which provide:
“31. Subject to the provisions of Section 32 of this Constitution, a person shall be qualified
to be elected as a member of the House if, and shall not be so qualified unless, he –
(a) is a citizen of the age of twenty-one years or upward;
(b) was born in Saint Lucia and is domiciled and resident there at the date of his
nomination or, having been born elsewhere, has resided there for a period of twelve months immediately before that date; and …….”
Section 32 (1) (a) goes on to disqualify a member of the House who: “by virtue of his own act, is under any acknowledegment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.”
The provision appears to require a positive act of allegiance to a foreign power or state, for example, swearing an oath of allegiance or pursuing an application for citizenship of another country. The question of allegiance and knowledge of local circumstances was viewed as critical prerequisites of persons charged with the responsibility of making laws affecting the day to day living of Saint Lucians by many persons participating in the consultations of the Commission. It appears therefore, that with respect to Members of Parliament, dual citizenship is not allowed where there has been any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or State. The Commission noted and agreed with the status quo in relation to the restriction on dual citizenship of members of the House of Assembly. There was consensus that eligibility for election to the House of Assembly should be restricted to citizens by birth or descent. In the case of citizenship by descent the individual should have been resident in the country for a period of at least seven (7) years prior to the acquisition of citizenship and seven (7) years immediately prior to the election.
With respect to members of the Senate, the Commission considered Section 25 of the Constitution which provides for qualification of Senators. Section 25 (a) and (b) provide:
“Section 25: Subject to the provisions of Section 26 of this Constitution, a person shall be qualified to be appointed as a Senator if, and shall not be so qualified unless, he –
(a) Is a Commonwealth citizen who has attained the age of twenty-one years;
(b) Has been ordinarily resident in Saint Lucia for a period of five years immediately before the date of his appointment; and….”
There is therefore, no requirement that a Senator under the Constitution be a citizen of Saint Lucia. It is therefore very curious that one of the grounds of disqualification contained in Section 26 is the
same disqualification as for a member of the House, which is “by virtue of his own act, is under any
acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state”.98 The
Commission agreed that eligible nominees should be citizens and resident in the State for at least
five years prior to their appointment, but the dual citizenship rule should not apply.
There was a minority view that the same restrictions placed on membership to the House of
Assembly should be extended to membership of the Senate given that elected members have
greater legitimacy than nominated members.
With respect to the provisions relating to citizenship and the Citizen of Saint Lucia Act, the Commission recommends the following:
(157) The definition, rights and obligations of a possible “regional citizenship” in acknowledgement of current regional integration arrangements should be properly determined through reciprocal treaty arrangements among the OECS or wider Caribbean before amendment to the Constitution or the Citizenship Act can be made to deal with this issue.
(158) There should be a Constitutional restriction on the grant of economic citizenship. 98 Section 26 (1) (a)
(159) The Citizenship of Saint Lucia Act should be redrafted and simplified and made more coherent by dedicating separate sections of the Act to deal with the individual grounds of citizenship. Therefore, the revised Act should have clear sections dealing with citizenship by birth, citizenship by descent, citizenship by marriage, citizenship by naturalisation (residency requirements) and citizenship in special cases, for example, adoptions, minors, stateless children, persons who have given service to the country and people who would have been entitled before 1979.
(160) The provisions relating to the entitlement to citizenship of an applicant by descent which is now restricted to cases where one’s parent is a Saint Lucian should extend to a person whose grandparent is a citizen.
(161) With respect to citizenship by marriage, the current discrimination against Saint Lucian women who marry a non-citizen should be removed.
(162) The Act should empower the Minister to deny the grant of citizenship in cases where a marriage is found to be a sham or marriage of convenience. Strong sanctions should be imposed against persons engaging in sham marriages.
(163) There should be no restriction defining a period of time after marriage before an applicant is eligible to apply for citizenship.
(164) The power of the Minister to refuse a grant of citizenship should apply in all cases of marriage or naturalisation. The power to deny an application must be on clearly prescribed grounds contained in the Act. However, the discretion of the Minister should be limited as much as possible as this privilege can be abused.
(165) The procedure for the deprivation of citizenship obtained through fraud, false representation or concealment of any material particular should be clearly set out in the Act and refer to the procedure for initiation of the process, the process itself and what the Minister has to consider and find.
(166) Matters concerning the investigation of eligibility requirements for the grant of citizenship should be removed from the purview of the Police Force to a civilian entity.
(167) The Act should provide for the grant of temporary residence status as a precursor to the grant of citizenship by qualified applicants to ensure that their status is not in abeyance during the period between the filing of the application and grant or efusal of the grant of citizenship due the lengthy processing period.
(168) The Head of State should be a citizen by birth or descent. In the case of citizenship by descent the individual should have been resident in the State for at least thirty (30) years.
(169) Eligibility for election to the House of Assembly should be restricted to citizens by birth or descent. In the case of citizens by descent, the individual should have been resident in the country for a period of at least seven (7) years following the acquisition of citizenship and seven (7) years immediately prior to the election.
(170) The existing rule which appears to disqualify the holders of dual citizenship in some cases from being eligible for election to the House of Assembly in accordance with Section 32
(1) (a) of the Constitution should be retained.
(171) In relation to Senators, nominations should be restricted to Saint Lucian citizens resident in the State for at least five years.
(172) The existing rule which appears to disqualify the holders of dual citizenship in some cases from being eligible for nomination to the Senate in accordance with Section 26 (1) (a) of the Constitution should not apply.