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Election rules threaten candidate disqualification
Published on October 22, 2012 Email To Friend    Print Version

Deputy leader of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), Sharlene Cartwright Robinson (L) and Progressive National Party (PNP) candidate Akierra Missick

Current election rules threaten in some cases to disqualify some of the candidates prior to or after the forthcoming election.

The most recent concern is dual citizenship. For example, people born in the United States and The Bahamas of Turks and Caicos parents find themselves in this situation.

One such example is a candidate for the Progressive National Party (PNP), attorney Akierra Missick, who was born in the United States and who, it appears, carries a United States passport. Missick registered for the election as being born in Grand Turk, which it appears is not true. Missick has now claimed this was an error.

Pictures of Missick celebrating having voted less than four years ago for now President Barack Obama in the US have emerged. To vote in the US one must register as a US citizen and claim a residence to vote for local politicians. Missick who is running for the PNP in a Provo consistency, now has to renounce her US citizenship and apply for a TCI passport. This, she says, she will hurry to do.

Deputy leader of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), Sharlene Cartwright Robinson, along with three other members of her party, finds herself in a similar situation. In these cases, they were born in The Bahamas while their parents were working and temporarily residing there. Robinson returned home at six years of age with a Bahamian passport but during all of her adult life has been issued a TCI passport because her parents were citizens of the TCI.

Sources indicate that the renunciation of US citizenship is a lengthy process but the procedure in The Bahamas is fast and easy.

The same problem, sources say, is severely affecting candidates of the newly formed third party, the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), and it appears the party may disband without contesting the election.

In response to complaints from candidates and others about the dual citizenship rules, Attorney General Huw Shepheard issued a lengthy statement on the matter, saying, “It must be remembered that the new Turks and Caicos Constitution was very much a joint product of both then Turks and Caicos political leaders, representatives civic society here and the UK Government in the summer of 2011.

“However, what appears to have been forgotten amongst all the views being expressed is that this particular provision was also in the 2006 Constitution. It is, therefore, not entirely new, nor an imposition.

“As well as it being jointly agreed by Islanders’ representatives, it is also typical of election legislation all around the world: most countries expect their politicians to have no allegiance but to that nation where they were elected. In this, the TCI is really no different to anywhere else.

“I can see that this prohibition potentially gives rise to difficulties in a small country like the Turks and Caicos Islands where significant numbers of Islanders are born elsewhere for purely practical reasons, such as the availability of specialised medical care. I understand that these individuals may, without their choosing, find themselves to be citizens of the country that they were born in as well as being a Turks and Caicos Islander. In today's international environment, they are very likely to have to be issued a passport by the country in which they were born to enable them, even as babies, to return home to the Turks and Caicos Islands. Does this have any effect on the operation of this clause of the Constitution?

“The clause is written so that an Islander born in another country is not automatically disqualified for standing for election in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The important words, however, are ‘ virtue of his or her own act’. They can only mean that the clause applies where they have been fully legally responsible for their own actions after the age of 18 when they become adults in law.

“Difficulties arise because, as a matter of Common Law, getting a passport from another country constitutes an acknowledgement of allegiance to a foreign state. This was decided by the House of Lords in the case of Joyce in 1946. If an Islander then obtains a passport from a foreign state after he or she attains the age of eighteen, whether by application for the first time or by renewing a passport from that country issued when the Islander was under eighteen, he or she is disqualified for election to the House of Assembly until he or she cancels his or her allegiance to that foreign country.

“An additional problem affecting some Commonwealth citizens is that Her Majesty the Queen, in right of the Turks and Caicos Islands is not, in law, the same person as the Queen in right of a Commonwealth country. This means that, for example, Canada and The Bahamas are foreign countries as far as the laws of the Turks and Caicos Islands are concerned. This was clearly set out by Lord Justice May in R v Foreign Secretary, ex parte Indian Association of Alberta [1982] QB 892 and his view of the law has been accepted as accurate by the High Court of Australia in two significant cases, Nolan and Sue v Hill.

“How one cancels, or renounces, one's allegiance to a foreign country depends on what the law of that other country says. Generally speaking, to be effective, a renunciation ought to be a public record and in a form acceptable to the laws of the country concerned; it is impossible to advise on individual cases without assistance from a lawyer qualified in the foreign country concerned."

The dual citizenship problem may be only the beginning of issues for the candidates. The Integrity Commission will review all elected representatives post election and if they do not pass scrutiny it appears the next candidate in line with the next highest votes may be declared the winner, subject to passing similar scrutiny by the Integrity Commission.

The burden is therefore placed on each political party to ensure that its candidates are able to pass Integrity Commission scrutiny, otherwise it risks forfeiting a winning result in the election.

These problems and a host of other election issues were never dealt with in the past. The wide array of new laws and the enforcement of existing laws are now bearing down on candidates who are under close scrutiny by British officials.

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