Citizenship Question-Nassau Guardian

The Davis administration, like its predecessor, the Minis administration, has promised to pave the way for citizenship through statutory means rather than constitutional means.

Attorney General Ryan Pinder, who spoke in the Senate last week in a budget debate, said the government intends to move forward with a bill that would allow men and women in the Bahamas to transfer citizenship in all circumstances by the end of the summer.

Given that two constitutional referendums failed in April (one in 2002 during the Ingraham administration and one in 2016 during the Christie administration), the government has a third referendum. He said he did not expect to pass.

“So we will move forward with legislation for equality in the transmission of citizenship for both men and women,” Pinder said.

The government plans to skip constitutional amendment efforts that require a referendum, but the planned citizenship law could face fierce opposition from some sectors of the general public.

For one thing, there will be strong voices seeing efforts as unconstitutional bids to achieve behind the scenes what past administrations could not achieve in the referendum.

A. About the legislative measures planned to achieve the change of citizenship. Loftus Roker was nearly 87 years old and was one of the five signatories of the 1973 Constitution and is still alive today. Change the constitution by ordinary law. They want to avoid going to the referendum, but that’s the only way they can change the constitution. That is the problem. “

Roker’s statement previously reported National Review, Created in April after the Attorney General foresaw the Citizenship Act.

The Government most certainly points out that Article 13 (a) of the Constitution states: This chapter … “

Former Prosecutor General Sean McWeeney, who chaired the last Constitutional Review Committee reported in 2013, said: National Review The Constitution was not intended to comprehensively provide for all circumstances in which the Bahamas could obtain citizenship.

“It wanted to deal with certain special categories rooted in existing qualifications and ensure that people in those categories were properly offered, but never offered to other categories. There are a lot of things that weren’t intended. Constitution; That’s why we always have nationality law because we were independent to deal with situations where we could obtain citizenship by means other than referring to the Constitution. That’s why I was, “said McWeeney.

Roker said it was important to know exactly what the government was proposing each time he submitted a citizenship bill, but he predicted that such measures would face legal issues.

“You can be confident of the challenge,” he said in response to a question from. National Review.

He added, “Once you start it, you can change the whole constitution with ordinary law. That is, the majority of Bahamans cannot agree to change our constitution. The constitution is Bahamian. Says that it must decide whether to change the Constitution, according to the Constitution, the Bahamian people, and the referendum.

“Well, if you think you can’t change things in a referendum, it tells me you have to be a dictator if you intend to change it in other ways.”

Roker goes on to say: But why do you want to do something without the permission of the majority of people in the Bahamas? Can you tell me why, as you say they aren’t going to agree with it?

“If the majority of the Bahamian people are against what you are trying to do, who are you working for?”

The nationality law does not “change” the Constitution, but future governments may change the law, but it has basically the same effect as a constitutional amendment.

But Mr. Pinder said, “I don’t think there is a future government that will change the law to impose inequality in citizenship on the Bahamans. That is, if so, they should be voted on immediately.”

George Smith, a member of the Constitutional delegation who turned 30 at a meeting in London in December 1972, shared the same view as when Loacker spoke with us.

“I think it’s an insult to the Constitution and any means other than those stipulated in the Constitution that are specifically stipulated in the Constitution,” Smith said.

“I think the architects of the Constitution were thinking a lot about these issues of citizenship, national issues, judicial issues, and how to change all the positions that are firmly established in the Constitution. increase.

“And they are well aware that it may be desirable to change these things over time and experience, and that it is desirable to correct the inequality that exists to correct gender bias in the Constitution. I understand.

“It is desirable to make changes, but after extensive consultations with the Bahamian people, after consultations with the government and opposition, the changes must be made in the manner envisioned by those who enact a constitution and make certain changes.

“Why do you want to find an easier way when you say you want to talk to the Bahamian people? We don’t trust them? They know what’s right for their country Don’t we believe that?

“It hits the distrust of the Constitution. It’s an insult to the architects of the Constitution. It’s not easy to find an easier way that wasn’t intended to be easy.”


The Citizenship Bill has not yet been circulated for consultation, but how many issues will be addressed when the Attorney General reveals that it will address “equality in the transmission of citizenship for both men and women.” I pointed out that.

The first amendment proposed in the 2016 Constitutional Referendum will allow children born abroad to obtain Bahamian citizenship from either Bahamian’s father or mother in situations where the other parent is not Bahamian. I was able to do it. Currently, only married men in the Bahamas have the right to transfer Bahamian citizenship to children born abroad in these circumstances.

With the second amendment, Bahamian women marrying non-Bahamian men follow the same procedures and the same considerations as those granted to Bahamian men who are currently married to Bahamian men. You can secure the ability to apply for. Non-Bahamian women.

Amended Article 3

A constitution that currently discriminates against men. This change means that a non-Bahamian woman can transfer Bahamian citizenship to her father’s child if an unmarried Bahamian man can prove that he is a father with DNA evidence. This right currently belongs only to women.

If voters approve it, Article 26 of the Constitution will be updated and it would be unconstitutional for Congress to pass a law that discriminates by gender, which is defined as “male or female.”

We asked Mcweeney if he thinks a constitutional amendment will happen in his lifetime.

“Basically, I would be very surprised if that happened in my life because of the historical challenges we had in passing something in the referendum,” he says. I did.

“We tried to raise the retirement age of the judge fairly modestly (2002). It didn’t pass either. The Bahamans tend to use a very wide range of brushes and wipe out all suggestions from the table. They tend to confuse these referendum issues with what the day’s dissatisfaction is against the government.

“When adding that to the xenophobic prejudice that Bahamian voters have, it’s a pretty toxic cocktail that you have to deal with.”

The Minis administration has announced early on that it will not hold another referendum to attempt a constitutional amendment.

In November 2017, a few months after taking office, then Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis told Congress that his government would provide a statutory path to achieving equality in civil rights issues.

“We know that the four referendums (questions) brought into this country have failed,” said Minis.

“My government [Bahamas Nationality Act] Automatically all children born to single or married Bahamian women from the Bahamas [conferred citizenship].. “

Anita Allen, a member of the law amendment, has spent a lot of time on immigration, asylum, and nationality bills that would abolish the Bahamian nationality law and immigration law, but no such bill has ever been introduced. ..

The Attorney General said the bill was too long to be separated.

He said last week that the bill’s provisions for asylum seekers were “impossible” to be enforced by a small country like the Bahamas.

Interestingly, in 2017 after the declaration of Prime Minister Minis in Parliament, Fred Mitchell, chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), now Minister of Foreign Affairs, was reported to have stated in the Tribune: Grants automatic citizenship to “almost certainly” “transcendence of the Constitution” to the children of Bahamian women born outside the Bahamas.

“The Constitution stipulates who automatically becomes a citizen,” Mitchell said.

“But we need to confirm the details. In any case, under the PLP, we have a policy that the category of Bahamian female children with foreign spouses is granted citizenship at the time of application. So, given the refusal to amend the Constitution that the government is in a legitimate position to overturn it, I don’t know. I don’t think the grammar can change that. “

Mitchell stated that Section 6 (2) of the Bahamas National Law now empowers the Minister to grant citizenship to all children at the time of application.

In a 2013 report, the McWeeney Commission recommended that the discretion of the minister denying a claim for citizenship should be subject to court review.

The Commission recommended that all provisions of the Constitution on Citizenship be rewritten in gender-neutral terms.

The Commission also said that Article 7 on children born in the Bahamas, where neither parent is a Bahamian and is entitled to apply for citizenship at the age of 18, is the most of all the citizenship provisions of the Constitution. He said there was a problem.

The McWeeney Commission recommended further questions about nationality and the appointment of a Commission to consider the rationale for children born in the Bahamas to acquire nationality to non-Bahamas parents.

No such committee has ever been appointed.

We understand that this issue of children born to foreign parents in the Bahamas could be addressed in a citizenship bill that the current government intends to bring in with a right of abode. I am.

When he spoke to us earlier this year, McWeney said such a bill could be involved in the dispute.

“And, in fact, it’s definitely more so, because you have to face the accusations of trying something secretly, knowing enough that you can never pass the referendum. Because it has to be a problem that every government has, “he says. He said.

Editor’s Note:

Another version of this article was first published in the National Review in April. Citizenship Question-Nassau Guardian

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