PM presents Dual Citizenship Bill

Assured that benefits in proposed law out way any disadvantages

By Gary Hatigeva

PRIME Minister, Rick Houenipwela has presented to parliament one of the government’s much anticipated bills, which looks to allow for indigenous Solomon Islanders and naturalised Solomon Islanders a status to become a citizen of Solomon Islands while being a citizen of another country.

Presented in two complementing Bills, namely the Constitutional (Amendment) (Dual Citizenship) Bill 2018 and the Citizenship Bill 2017, the two make up the Dual Citizenship proposed legislation.

Both bills were presented on the floor of Parliament following their second reading yesterday.

The Prime Minister is responsible for the Constitutional (Amendment) (Dual Citizenship) Bill 2018, who presented on the inside aspects and background on it, and the Minister of Home Affairs presented on the Citizenship Bill 2017.

The Constitutional Amendment Dual Citizenship Bill is looking to amend the Constitution, which intends to allow for Dual Citizenship, because currently, the dual status is prohibited under the citizen and immigration laws of the country.

The Citizenship Bill 2017, which was presented by the Home Affairs Minister, Ishmael Avui, looks into the structures and application of the dual citizenship proposed legislation, and also facilitates in the implementation of the proposed act.

Based on the Core Dual Citizenship proposed legislation, the Bill seeks to repeal certain but relevant sections of the constitution that deal with citizenship status, and a few amendments to various subsections in terms of aspects and applications.

In presenting his side of the core legislation, with the Constitution (Amendment) (Dual Citizenship) Bill, the Prime Minister pointed out that objectively, the Bill will remove the Constitutional prohibition on dual citizenship.

He however clarified that the proposed law has set out a clear cut, prohibiting those holding dual citizenship from being elected as a Member of Parliament, the provincial governments, and the Honiara City Council, and this is something that is also well spelt in the national constitution of Solomon Islands.

“This is to make it absolutely clear to us that the political leadership of this country must remain in the hands of Solomon Islanders with single citizenship,” the Prime Minister told Parliament.

The PM then outlined that it is also his government’s intention to see that this bill facilitates the return and reintegration of Solomon Islanders by birth or ancestry, who lost their citizenship by reason of marriage, naturalisation in another nation, or forced to do labour in Samoa, Fiji and Queensland during the blackbirding days, and will also allow naturalised Solomon Islands citizens to regain or retain their birth nationality.

He pointed out that the bill is also the government’s response to a growing trend in a now global family, and that the policy to allow citizenship of more than one country is an exponentially growing trend in the 21st century.

He explained that Solomon Islands is the only country in the Pacific region that is yet to legislate the dual citizenship law, and the bill is also a way of tolerating such a status.

He added that the not having such a law will also deny a big number of Solomon Islands nationals that have denounced their allegiances to this country due to the prohibition laws.

The PM then spoke on the negativities the current citizenship law is putting on the rights of indigenous Solomon Islanders to exercise their cultural obligations and values.

“Mr Speaker, these people of Solomon Islands descents, their children and grand children, are generally recognised by their Solomon Islands extended family as members of their tribes by genealogy.

“In some cases, they have important cultural and social status, and may be accepted as land and resource owners.

“However, under our current law, they cannot fulfil their tribal or cultural obligations because the Solomon Islands citizenship and immigration laws do not recognise their status.

“They are treated as foreigners and we deny them the freedom of movement and residency that they require to maintain and foster their genealogical ties and obligations,” the PM stressed.

He admitted that the dual citizenship does have some for concerns, and that some countries have resisted this form of citizenship law, fearing for lack of integration and preservation of traditions and religious practices by immigrants that are inconsistent with liberal democratic principles.

He further pointed out that another area of concern that is being debated under this form of citizenship status is the dual voting, which is said to be against the democratic concept of one person-one vote, if a person is able to vote in more than one jurisdiction.

He added that most countries now believe that having residences participate fully in the state where they reside is necessary to uphold the democratic principle that the governed should have a right to participate in the process of choosing those who will govern on their behalf.

He further added that for dual citizens themselves, there may be issues relating to double taxations, inheritance restriction or military service obligations, depending on their countries of origin, but assured that most dual citizenship nations have dealt with these issues, through bilateral and multilateral treaties.

“But the good news is, the benefits from dual citizenship far out way any disadvantages, and the notions that dual citizenship may somehow diminish a person’s allegiance and commitments to the nation is outdated.

“The government recognises that Solomon Islanders and their children living abroad, have had educational and employment opportunities, and experiences in their current countries of residence, and that these skills would greatly benefit Solomon Islands if such persons were free to return to the country.

“In fact, dual citizenship would help reverse the brain drain, because those talented persons would be free to move between countries with full and secure citizenship rights whenever they choose,” PM Hou added.

Hou then highlighted that dual citizenship proposed legislation will also help to provide social, economic, family, employment and study opportunities by providing ease of movement between country of origin and country of residence for eligible persons, thus, will require parliament’s utmost support and backing.

Following the two bills’ introduction in the house yesterday, the Speaker through advice and requests from the government, adjourned all debates into both bills to a later sitting session, after the resumption of Parliament on November 27, 2018.

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