‘We will end vexing issues over citizenship’

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Tribune Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

ATTORNEY General Ryan Pinder confirmed yesterday the Davis administration will bring an end to the “vexing” issue of inequality between men and women regarding the transfer of citizenship through the proposed Nationality Bill 2022.

During his contribution to the 2022-2023 Budget debate, Mr Pinder said it was “irrefutable” that Article 13 of the Constitution gives Parliament the ability to make provisions for the acquisition of citizenship of The Bahamas.

He maintained that advancing equality when it comes to transmission of citizenship is explicitly permitted through the legislative mechanisms of Parliament, adding the government intended on using that avenue to go forward.

“We will advance appropriate legislation to finally bring equality to Bahamian men and women in the transmission of citizenship to their children,” Mr Pinder said in the Senate.

“An initial draft has been prepared and commented on internally and we look to advance consultation after bringing to Cabinet and ultimately tabling in Parliament.”

He continued: “And for those who may raise questions as to this legislative action, let me be be clear, the Constitution in Article 13 provides that Parliament may make provision for the acquisition of citizenship of The Bahamas by persons who do not become citizens of The Bahamas by virtue of the provisions of this chapter in the Constitution. It’s irrefutable, plain reading of the law.

“Advancing equality when it comes to transmission of citizenship is explicitly permitted through the legislative mechanisms of Parliament and we intend on using that avenue to go forward... We are brave, be brave my colleagues, be brave.”

In April, Mr Pinder said the Davis administration planned to scrap the draft 111-page Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill 2018, saying while it addressed a number of different issues, the government is of the view that it was a better approach to tackle matters individually.

However, some of the concepts of the Minnis administration’s draft will be used in a new bill, Mr Pinder said at the time. He also maintained his view that it was best to bring changes regarding Bahamian citizenship through legislation at Parliament, noting two previously failed referendums to change the constitution in this regard.

It is the government’s intention to bring legislation to allow both Bahamian men and women to pass on citizenship in any circumstance.

“Well, we have failed twice to change the constitution and it is an important element of equality of our people that they see themselves equal among each other and if that means doing it by legislation then that’s what it means,” Mr Pinder said when asked at the time to respond to critics who are against changing the law by way of legislation in Parliament.

Mr Pinder further shrugged off the possibility of the government facing legal action from people who may see the changes as unconstitutional.

“If they take us to court, they take us to court. Everybody takes the government to court these days. (It) doesn’t mean they’re right. You clearly stated that the constitution provides the avenue to provide citizenship that is not covered within the constitution, which is what this is doing.”

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill 2018, drafted under former Law Reform Commissioner Dame Anita Allen features expanded grounds for the refusal of citizenship under the constitution, and registration and naturalisation under the law to include terrorism, human and drug trafficking, as well as gang-related activities. The draft has drawn commentary from both the political and civic arenas.

These issues are derived primarily from articles 7 and 9 of the constitution; but aren’t addressed therein or by later amendments.

The draft bill would have granted individuals in both these categories — born outside of The Bahamas to a Bahamian mother and born inside The Bahamas to two non-Bahamian parents — the “right of abode” or the right to live in The Bahamas while a minor, up to the age of 18.