As Jamaicans prepare to go to the polls later this month in three by-elections, a dispute has arisen about a candidate’s nationality.
Two by-elections are being held following the retirement of former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and her former Cabinet colleague Dr. Omar Davies. While the other by-election follows the sudden death of parliamentarian Dr. Winston Green in August.
During Monday’s nomination day exercise, the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) Monday nominated its three candidates to retain its hold on the three seats it won in the 2016 general elections.
Former justice minister Mark Golding, Dr. Angela Brown Burke, and Dr. Shane Alexis are the PNP candidates to contest the St Andrew Southern, St Andrew South Western, and St Mary South Eastern, constituencies in the October 30 by-election.
The ruling Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) nominated Dane Dennis, Victor Hyde and Dr. Norman Dunn.
Criticism on nationality of PNP’s Dr. Shane Alexis
However, shortly after nomination day proceedings, the JLP’s Member of Parliament for Portland Western, Daryl Vaz, during a press conference, said the PNP’s candidate Alexis, the former president of the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ), was born in Canada and is not the holder of Jamaican citizenship.
Member of British Commonwealth
The opposition party have not denied the criticism, but noted that Alexis is a member of the British Commonwealth and he is therefore eligible to participate in the political process based on the Jamaican Constitution.
Vaz agreed that the aspiring PNP politician is a Commonwealth citizen but explained that the press conference was called to shed light on the situation and was not about legality but morality.
To formalize Jamaican citizenship
On Wednesday afternoon, the PNP sought to clarify the matter and by way of a release said Alexis will immediately formalize his Jamaican citizenship.
The party reiterated that Alexis has been duly nominated in keeping with the provisions required by the Constitution of Jamaica, adding that he is a registered voter who has consistently voted in elections since 2008.
“Dr. Alexis was born in Canada, but has been residing in Jamaica since age two. Having been granted permanent residency since 1987, he is married to a Jamaican and lives there with his family and will formalize his Jamaican citizenship immediately,” the PNP secretariat explained.
The party further explained that Alexis successfully pursued his medical studies in Cuba and since his return to Jamaica has given outstanding service in public health to the people of Jamaica.
The PNP has sought to blunt the criticism regarding Dr. Alexis, claiming that former JLP leader and Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga was born in Boston, USA.