Push for citizenship issue should be sole topic of next referendum
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: May 04, 2013
The government should hold a referendum that deals specifically with the question of citizenship, according to Eugene Dupuch Law School Students Association President Viraj Perpall.
Perpall, who addressed a meeting of the Constitutional Commission yesterday, said the citizenship issue has great national implications.
He recommended that all forms of gender discrimination be removed from the constitution, so that Bahamian women married to non-Bahamian men can confer citizenship to their children.
"This indeed is an issue that has caused much debate in this nation and must be cured,” he said. “It is discrimination and cannot escape revision and amendment.”
He added that the section of the constitution that deals with that provision should be removed and replaced so that every person born in The Bahamas after July 9, 1973 shall become a citizen of The Bahamas at birth if either of his parents is a Bahamian.
Perpall said it may also be time to consider whether all people born in The Bahamas should be entitled to automatic citizenship.
"The principle of jus soli or a right of the soil with reference to nationality and citizenship is predominant in international law and has been adopted throughout the world by scores of nation states," Perpall said.
"The time has certainly come for this question to be placed to the Bahamian people. What should follow will be ultimately the decision of the Bahamian people regarding the issue.
"It is therefore my humble suggestion to this commission that is considering the preeminence of citizenship and its effect on the Bahamian society that the first constitutional referendum present only questions of citizenship making it a citizenship referendum.”
Perpall also made recommendations regarding the executive authority of the state.
He said as the country is a sovereign nation, the constitution should be amended to transfer the executive authority from Her Majesty The Queen, which is exercisable by the governor general, to the Cabinet of The Bahamas.
"As the chief elected official of the nation, it is therefore nothing less than suitable for the prime minister to have senior scope over the executive authority of these islands," Perpall said.
"Anything contrary to this is an affront and an undermining factor to the sovereignty of this nation."
Perpall also promoted the protection of the country’s natural resources.
With the exploration of oil and other natural resources a topic of national debate, Perpall said a provision should be contained in the constitution to protect the resources.
"As the supreme law, a modern constitution should positively speak to the government's ability to, if it so desires, exploit the resources of the territory of The Bahamas," he said.
"In today's world there is constant competition for the use of natural resources. The Bahamas remains one of the few territories on earth containing legions of untapped resources.
“The time is quickly approaching when these untapped resources must be harnessed. This, as a chapter inserted into the constitution, would ensure that the natural resources of The Bahamas would be secured for the benefit of future generations."
The Constitutional Commission intends to hold its next public meeting on May 14 at the Performing Arts Centre at The College of The Bahamas from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The government is expected to hold the constitutional referendum in late November. The commission is expected to present its report to the government by June 30.