Categorized | National News

Citizenship Struggle Continues After 42 Years of Independence

Citizenship is the most precious gift a country can give to its people, according to former Progressive Liberal Party MP George Smith, but he says the Bahamian government has been “mean” in its effort to present this gift to some people.

As a guest on Love 97’s radio talk show Jones and Co., Smith was asked, why didn’t the government, which led The Bahamas to independence in 1973, make it simple for people who were born in the country to become citizens?

Smith, who was one of the men who signed the constitution of the Bahamas in December 1972, which led to independence in 1973, said the government back then was “mean” and “selfish.”

“I’m prepared to admit that yes, we were mean. Yes, we were selfish because the greatest gift any country can give anybody is citizenship,” Smith said.

Even though the government has made provisions for children born in The Bahamas to foreign nationals to apply for citizenship by the age of 18, Smith said there are still many people in the country who ought to be given citizenship.

He explained that these persons do not have citizenship because their applications are not being processed by the Department of Immigration.

Smith pointed out that the Constitutional Review Commission recommended that a body should be appointed to process the applications of the thousands of people born in The Bahamas to foreign nationals who are entitled to citizenship.

“The government continues to be inactive in putting in place a mechanism by which these applications could and should be considered,” Smith explained.

In 1972, when the constitution was signed, Smith clarified that the government didn’t anticipate the problems it is experiencing now as it relates to granting Bahamian citizenship to persons born in The Bahamas to non-Bahamian parents.

He said at that time, the government representatives who attended the constitutional signing in London were preoccupied in becoming an independent country and believed that any problems would be fixed upon their return home.

According to Smith, their belief at that time was, “Whatever is wrong we can fix when we go home. Give us the thing (the constitution) so we can go home and be independent.”

Obtaining Bahamian citizenship was not an issue back then, but it became an issue years later when more illegal immigrants sought The Bahamas as their new home.
Smith noted that Sir Lynden Pindling, the country’s first prime minister, pointed out this issue and other issues the country now faces during a speech he made at the College of The Bahamas in 1997.

As a result, Smith said people would often quote Sir Lynden when they discuss the debate on gender equality.

Last year, debate began in the House of Assembly on the gender equality bills, as the government is seeks to amend the constitution to institute full equality between men and women in matters of citizenship and also eliminate discrimination based on sex.

The first amendment bill seeks to achieve gender equality through the transfer of citizenship. It seeks to give a child born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian-born mother and non-Bahamian father the same automatic right to Bahamian citizenship that the constitution already affords to a child born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian-born father and non-Bahamian mother.

The second amendment bill enables a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to secure for him the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a Bahamian man has always enjoyed under the constitution in relation to his foreign spouse.

The third amendment bill addresses an area in the constitution that discriminates against men. It will give an unwed Bahamian father the same right to pass citizenship to his child that a Bahamian woman has always had in relation to a child born to her out of wedlock.

Finally, the fourth amendment bill addresses ending discrimination based on sex. It calls for the insertion of the word “sex” in Article 26 of the constitution therefore making it unconstitutional to discriminate based on whether someone is male or female.

This particular amendment has become highly controversial as some observers have suggested that this may be an attempt to allow for same sex marriages.

Currently, the government is continuing its efforts to educate Bahamians on the proposed amendments before a constitutional referendum can he held.

Written by Jones Bahamas

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Watch JCN Channel 14 Shows

Jcn Channel 14

Sign in now to see your channels and recommendations!

Join Us on Facebook