Munroe wants ‘provisional citizenship’ in constitution
BY ROYSTON JONES Jr.
Guardian Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas
All children born in The Bahamas irrespective of their parents' status should be offered provisional citizenship similar to permanent residency status with all rights available to a permanent resident up to the age of 18, Bahamas Faith Ministries President Dr. Myles Munroe has recommended to the Constitutional Commission.
"Where a child is born in The Bahamas to non-Bahamian parents who reside in The Bahamas, that child is not regarded as a Bahamian citizen," Munroe said.
"The social impact of this current policy is to deprive a child of any official status or sense of reality of belonging for 18 years of his or her life.
"Moreover, this category of persons must be treated with careful consideration and sensitivity.
"...The social impact of this current policy is that the child does not belong to anywhere for 18 years. The child is stateless, without legal or official status and thus due to the psychological, emotional, physiological and mental disillusionment impacting him or her, the sense of disconnect and lack of loyalty and allegiance breeds contempt.
"This scenario creates the potential for an antisocial response to the society as a whole."
Babies born in The Bahamas do not automatically become citizens, but the Bahamas Constitution provides that children born in The Bahamas to non-Bahamians could apply for citizenship on their 18th birthday or within the following 12 months.
Munroe presented the recommendation during a meeting of the Constitutional Commission at British Colonial Hilton hotel yesterday.
He noted that upon turning 18, the young adult is entitled to apply for a Bahamian passport and be registered as a citizen upon successful completion of a citizenship and allegiance test, and swearing the oath of allegiance.
The provision remains a controversial one in some circles.
Months before the 2012 general election, Haitian President Michel Martelly told more than 6,000 Haitians and Haitian-Bahamians at the church of God Auditorium on Joe Farrington Road that people born in The Bahamas to Haitians are 'stateless'.
He lamented the plight of people who have to wait until their 18th birthday to apply for Bahamian citizenship.
During that same meeting, Martelly urged his countrymen to align themselves with the political party that will best serve their interests.
"So until they are 18 they don't belong to anywhere, and yet they were born here, meaning do I have to tell anyone if you send them back to Haiti they probably don't know anybody or won't recognize the place they land?" said Martelly at a press conference the following day.
His comments sparked outrage among some Bahamians.
Munroe also recommended that the constitution be amended to eliminate discrimination against women; institute a fixed election date; appoint an independent boundaries commission; provide for a non-partisan commission on citizenship and immigration reform; remove the Privy Council as the final appellate court for final criminal appeals and gradually move away from the British Monarch as the head of state, among other things.
Former Bahamas Christian Council President Bishop Simeon Hall and Senior Pastor of Grace Community Church Rev. Dr. Rex Major also presented recommendations.
Hall agreed that provisions should be made in the constitution for an independent boundaries commission and for the removal of the Privy Council.
He also said the Senate should be abandoned.
“It seems as if its purpose is merely to give privilege to political supporters at the expense of the Bahamian people,” he said.
“I favor those who believe we have outlived our Westminster system of government and it is time to consider The Bahamas as a republic.”
The commission is expected to present its recommendations to the government on or before March 31, 2013.
January 18, 2013