Qualification and disqualification of parliamentarians

1. Is it important for the constitution to state the qualifications and disqualifications which apply to parliamentarians?

The people elected to the House of Representatives and those appointed to the Senate are empowered to make laws which impose rights and obligations on people and provide the legal framework for economic development and social progress for the people. Parliamentarians should therefore be required to satisfy and maintain certain standards since they are permitted to exercise such important powers and functions.

2. What qualifications are parliamentarians now required to have?

Any person who is a Commonwealth citizen of the age of 21 years or over and has been ordinarily resident in Jamaican for 12 months is qualified to be elected to the House of Representatives or to be appointed as a senator.

3. Is the qualification of being a Commonwealth citizen too wide in view of the nature of the powers and responsibilities of parliamentarians?

This qualification is wide since there are more than 50 countries in the Commonwealth, many of them without any earlier association with Jamaica. This is strong ground for changing this position so that only Jamaican citizens qualify to sit in Parliament.

4. What are the disqualifications for membership in the Senate and House of Representatives?

A person is disqualified from either House if they are:

(1) Involved in the compilation of the register of electors or has responsibility for the conduct of elections is barred from being a candidate for election to the House of Representatives;

(2) By virtue of his or her own act is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or State;

(3) Acting as a judge or is a member of the Jamaica Defence Force;

(4) Under sentence of death or is certified as insane is disqualified.

5. What is the significance of allegiance and adherence to a foreign State?

A person who pledges, promises or assumes a position of loyalty to a foreign State has a conflict of loyalties. Such a person may therefore agree to policies or to the making of laws which are for the benefit and protection of that other State rather than for Jamaica.

6. What acts should be regarded as the pledging of allegiance or loyalty to another country?

Clear cases are joining the armed forces of another country, taking an oath of allegiance to another country. Applying for and travelling on a passport issued by another country has also been treated as an acknowledgement of foreign allegiance.

TODAY’S QUESTION

Should the qualification for membership of Parliament be limited to citizens of Jamaica and allegiance to any other country be treated as a disqualification?

The information for the Jamaica Observer’s Road to Republic Questions and Answers is provided by Citizens Action for Free and Fair Election (CAFFE).

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