The privilege of Bahamian citizenship: Dispelling the myths
Published: Sep 14, 2013
There is a growing movement in The Bahamas being led by Haitian-Bahamians, who are of the view that Haitians living in The Bahamas who do not speak English are increasingly disconnected from mainstream Bahamian life because English, as opposed to Haitian Creole, is the official language of The Bahamas.
But before I can speak to this subtle affront and attack on our national identity and sovereignty, I think it fitting to address the myth of the Haitian-Bahamian. This concept is an illogical mental construct designed to appease and mislead the susceptible. No such creature has ever existed, exists or will ever exist. I challenge anyone of this mindset to present a passport that says that the bearer of the document is a Haitian-Bahamian. Yes, I have a serious difficulty with the misnomer Haitian-Bahamian; to my analytical mind it represents a Bahamian of Haitian descent whose loyalty is not to The Bahamas, its people or our government, but rather to Haiti, the Haitian people and to the president of Haiti. Such people, in my view, ought not to be granted Bahamian citizenship, as they do not see or promote themselves as proud Bahamians or proud Bahamians of Haitian descent, but rather as proud Haitian-Bahamians.
And so we come to the growing cry amongst them that Haitians living in The Bahamas legally and illegally, who refuse to learn our language, are disconnected and therefore we the Bahamian people should abandon our national identity, learn to speak Creole, and promote English as a second language in our schools so as to make Haitian migrants feel more comfortable living in The Bahamas. I do not share this viewpoint and question the nationalism of any Bahamian who subscribes thereto.
The granting of Bahamian citizenship is a privilege. It is not a right. However, perhaps the time has come for the Bahamian people themselves to have a say in establishing agreed prerequisites for the granting of citizenship. What should those prerequisites be? Should they be put to referendum? As it now stands, the right to apply at age 18 leaves much to be desired, and is directly contributing to a people divided against themselves. Surely this is not a desirable or tenable situation.
I would recommend some simple suggestions for the granting of Bahamian citizenship to migrants or children born to non-Bahamian parents in The Bahamas:
• An ability to speak English.
• A clean police record.
• Ability to recite the national Pledge of Allegiance.
• Ability to sing the Bahamian national anthem.
• Ability to name and recognize our national symbols.
• Provide a statement in writing as to why the applicant would like to become a Bahamian citizen.
If these basic prerequisites are met, along with any other additions deemed desirable by the government of The Bahamas, there should be no good reason for children born in The Bahamas, applying on their 18th birthday for status, to be put on a waiting list for 10 years to 15 years.
This in my view is cruel and inhumane treatment and runs counter to the tenet of Catholicism that though we are many, we are one body because we all share in the “One Bread”. This is again echoed in the closing words of our Pledge of Allegiance, “… one people united in love and service.”
– Lavade Darling