By Edwin G. Wandah
House Speaker Alex J. Tyler, has been giving the pros and cons on ‘Dual Citizenship’ in the country, which is a major issue of debate in recent time.
Speaking during a roundtable discussion organized by the Governance Commission on dual citizenship, the Speaker noted that dual citizenship is not a new phenomenon to the Liberian society. He stated further citizenship had existed amongst nations worldwide from time immemorial.
On its advantages, the Speaker said citizens of Liberian descent may become citizens of other states without fear of losing their Liberian citizenship, resources they would have acquired and accrued over the years in the Diaspora and stated that Liberia would be expected to experience a “brain gain” as opposed to a “brain drain,” the siphoning away of experts and technicians to more attractive markets would be reversed.
Speaker Tyler also mentioned the freedom of movement in and out of the country as opposed to living in the shadows of the law, not knowing for sure what each day may bring, is moved, waiving restriction on visa which facilitates easy travels, especially, for the business people for whom time is money.
“A dual citizen, like to be bi-lingual, could be an asset to the increasingly global network of firms requiring sensitivity to multi-culture, languages, ideas, and talents, one may live and work in both states claim benefits from each and represent companies in either country,” the Speaker said.
Naming some of the disadvantages, Speaker Tyler pointed out that amongst other things is the problem of prosecuting people, where to prosecute an accused who opts to abscond to what might be a more lenient, tax or convenient jurisdiction than the country in which the alleged act was committed, citing that the Ellen Cockrum saga may be an ideal scenario to illustrate my point.
Speaker Tyler listed several cases like the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Chief Justice, Minister of Finance amongst other issues, saying that this would feel a bonding to such states where they feel less than fully endowed with all the rights and privileges enjoyed by others.
He said, opponents argue that dual nationals may employ their easy access to terroristic causes for their organizations and members in cross-border crimes, and added that dividing loyalties may pose a threat to national security especially, in an uncertain world as ours.
He asked, “In the event of conflict or war, on which side would you lay the loyalty of the citizen?”A dual citizen may use the cloak of one country or the other to shield his incomes from legitimate taxes owed to one or both states.
Another concern raised by Speaker Tyler was that of authority’s position to ensure quality on the part of the tax payer, adding that these are few of the questions of dual nationality faces.
Both the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization and student leader MamensieKabba of AME University agreed with the view of accepting dual citizenship for the country but with key restrictions.
In its presentation, the BIN told participants at the roundtable discussion that the Constitution and Statutory Provisions on Dual Citizenship could be amended under the law to allow Dual Citizenship in Liberia.
The Bureau, however, recommended that citizens holding dual citizenship do not contest for any elected office, such as, Representative, Senator, President, and Vice President and occupy high senior level of appointed positions.
Other key aspects mentioned by the Bureau are naturalization of citizens who should not be given the opportunity of Dual Citizenship in that acquiring another citizenship or nationality through naturalization in another country, after one has obtained a Liberian Citizenship, automatically nullifies his Liberian Citizenship.
For her part, student Kabba talked about the plight of Liberians who hold loyalty to Liberia only. She said, “Any Liberian who desires to choose to hold dual citizenship must not be allowed to serve as Minister proper, Deputy Minister, Director, Governor, as well as those of Maritime Authority, the National Port Authority, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Central Bank of Liberia and so on.
As for elected positions such as Representative, Senator, and President, she suggested that the “people themselves will determine who becomes their lawmakers or President by means of voting.”
She recommended that in order to make dual citizenship work in Liberia, the government of Liberia must empower Liberians who reside in Liberia and are more familiar with the people to disseminate the proper information about dual citizenship in Liberia.
Also speaking, Mr. Anthony Kesselly, former president of the Unions of Liberian Associations in the Americas, said dual citizenship would give Liberians equal rights with other citizens of countries that practice dual citizenship who are presently at liberty to naturalize here.
He further said that free pass to and sense of security for Liberians hold other nationalities to increase their involvement in the country, and to reinforce the capacity of Liberians in the Diaspora to advocate and lobby for resources, support opportunities for Liberia and Liberians.
He added that maintaining security for Liberians have naturalized in stronger countries to survive wars and disasters by way of evacuation so that they are in the position to help other Liberians who are unable to leave.
In a speech delivered at the roundtable, President pro-temp of the Senate, ArmahJallah said, in order for one to intelligently discuss dual citizenship, it must lay the circumstances which spurned Africans in general and Liberians in particular to taking up citizenship in other nations other than their own around the world.
Senator Jallah, although supports the idea, but deplored some factors which might have compelled the acquisition of dual citizenship, difficulties faced in exile, ignorance and ill-advice, poverty and longing for a better living and the coercion and xenophobia.
“I must go on to opine along this path that I subscribe to and believe a maxim I have created which states, ‘once a Liberian, always a Liberian!’.We must not shut the door before our kindred on the premise that they took up citizenship in other countries,” Senator Jallah stated.
“I believe that the time is ripe to welcome home our returnee brothers and sisters to the land of their nativity and heritage. We must unite efforts in the rebuilding agenda of this country. We must harness our experiences and education and world pictures into a creative symphony meet for progress and prosperity,” Senator Jallah averred.