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No child's play: Nation or nothing

December 26, 2000
By Bukka Rennie

Most would agree with the general view that everyone must be encouraged to come home and serve in the capacity of one's choice. Our founding fathers, the framers of our Constitution, apparently felt strongly though about anyone serving at the highest levels executive and legislature while holding allegiance to any other country. But why were they of such a view? An explanation is yet to be proffered.

One must remember the thinking then; we were an emerging nation in a highly bi-polarised world, caught up in the web of the super powers and the viciousness of Cold War fulminations and manipulations in which even basic foodstuff had become political weapons. We were fighting in context of all this to stay non-aligned just like India, Indonesia, some African States, etc, who all met at Bandung in 1955.

It was there in Bandung that the Non-Aligned Movement as a clear political option for developing countries had been launched.

Also the participants had all witnessed what happened in countries such as India and Palestine in the years 1947-1948 when nationalist aspirations were severely hampered by the machinations of foreign forces that exploited historic, traditional ethnic cleavages to their own ends, with the result being the total fragmentation of the nations.

The progressive nationalist movements around the world then all were of the ideological persuasion that stipulated that the struggle for Independence and the struggle for non-alignment were hand-maidens.

The PNM that spearheaded T&T's anti-colonial struggle was founded on such a world view. I for one having been saying for the past five years that world view has to be revisited and reformulated for the globalised 21st century.

The point is that PNM's lengthy stay in governance and state administration has naturally strengthened its conservative, reactionary nature at the expense of its left-progressive heritage which needs to be rekindled in accordance with the necessities of the present times. I am about to complete a piece of work titled Remembering and Understanding CLR which takes these views to a logical conclusion.

However, to get back to the question at hand, the political sentiment of non-alignment was predominant internationally in the early 1960s and must surely have informed the thinking of the framers of our Constitution.

Given the politics of the world then, given the "winds of change" blowing across the developing world, how could we not expect the framers of our Constitution to have enshrined in that social contract the view that no one must qualify to hold executive and legislative office who holds allegiance to any other power.

Later, with the coming of the Republican Constitution, and the allowance of dual citizenship, it was not an oversight to have reinforced this stipulation. If a native or naturalised citizen of T&T wishes to serve the populace of T&T at the highest level and holds dual citizenship, then the foreign citizenship must first be renounced before that native or naturalised citizen can legally participated in the electoral process.

What can possibly be unjust about this, as so many UNC apologists and supporters have been suggesting? One has to be born in the US to become the President there. They take no chances with their destiny!

Given the ongoing gobalisation process, given the increasing marginalisation of developing countries, given the problems facing small nations in terms of sustainable development, given the prevailing universal threat to environment and to sovereignty, why must we not do everything possible to ensure and preserve the integrity of our nation? We, too, must leave nothing to chance.

The fear, of being manipulated by either superpower, that provided the underlying motivation for the Non-Aligned Movement of yesteryear is now no more.

What exists now is the reality of being an integrated but subordinate part of an international economic system managed by the masters and owners of technology in their own interests, to whom the existence of small nations like us is a total abomination.

What is difficult to comprehend, though, is how some people among us are quite willing to do anything to hold on to governance, but are not prepared in like manner to do anything to hold on to nation and to region as our founding fathers were.

How many of us remember that Panday, in Opposition, once held the view that Caricom is dead and should be buried and T&T should aspire to become part of the USA?

To those of us who remember, the unholy signing of the Shiprider Agreement was not a surprise. Neither were the words of the Attorney-General that "sovereignty was a thing of the past..."

It is only in this context that we can understand the blatant disregard for the constitutional requirements and the flippant attitude of the incumbents in the Gypsy/Chaitan issue. They seem to want to break the highest law of the land and to gain from this travesty.

The PNM has no choice but on principle to contest the matter in the courts. It matters not whether "half the country wants to run to New York, while the other half wants to run to Canada". Commentators only obfuscate the matter when they throw in such statements into the mix. It does not help.

The issue is not dual citizenship in itself, but whether we must continue to protect our nation at all costs by ensuring that those who may want to serve in our Parliament hold no allegiance to any other power.

One journalist has even had the gall to suggest that the "Judiciary is anti-UNC so no one will trust its judgment", and that the PNM's pursuit of the matter in court can have "deadly consequences". These are fighting words, we dare say. Geared we can guess to scare somebody. But the history says that the issue is nation or nothing and who dead, dead!

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