Thursday, February 7, 2013

Guest commentary: Presidential candidate meets all requirements

by Vishnu Bisram, New York.

Regarding the controversy (residency requirement) surrounding Justice Anthony Carmona’s eligibility to serve as President, according to international norms, the Judge for all practical purposes has never surrendered his residency or citizenship of Trinidad and Tobago and as such has met the criteria of continuous residency as required in the constitution.

His eligibility to serve is not an issue with regards to the constitutional stipulations of being resident of T&T for 10 years preceding his nomination for the office. It should be noted that T&T is not the only country  that has a residency requirement for nominees for President. The US, for example,
has a 14 year requirement in addition to the criteria of jus sanguine (of blood or of being born in the US). 

According to international standards (residency rule is flexible) when a person is posted abroad on behalf of his or her government or for an international government position, he or she retains citizenship and residency of the nation of birth. 

Thus, years served in overseas posting on behalf of the US government or an international agency abroad (as an American delegate) or as a soldier overseas counts towards the 14 years residency requirement.

Incidentally, being born overseas to parents who are posted overseas on
duty for the US government also qualifies one as jus sanguine. Senator
John McCain, for example, was born overseas while his mother accompanied his father for duties in the navy in a foreign mission. 

President Bill Clinton studied abroad (at Oxford on a one year Rhodes
scholarship) and it is not clear whether that period of time would have
qualified as residency had he been short of the 14 years stipulation.

But for all intents and purposes, his home had remained the U.S and he
returned home after his scholarship and ran for office as a Governor. If such a controversy had arises, the Supreme Court would have had to make a determination and would have applied the flexibility rule. 

Clinton resided in the US for more than 14 years after he finished his
studies at Oxford. So it did not arise as an issue.

The fact that the Presidential nominee, Carmona, was posted overseas on
ICC matters in recent years does not make him a non-resident of T&T and as such as failing to meet residency condition to serve in the office.
He was not in Europe on private business or on his own accord in which
case the years abroad would not count towards the 10 years residency.

Judge Carmona was an international public servant posted abroad (Rome
and elsewhere) as a result of a request from the government of T&T bringing pride to the nation as a public servant of the country being asked to
serve as a public servant internationally. 

He retained his home and family etc in Trinidad. He was properly domiciled in Trinidad. He did not go abroad on his own accord but because of his nomination by the government to be a representative of T&T (as Caricom, OAS rep) to the ICC similar to how Queens Counsel Karl Hudson Phillips was requested to serve the nation in Rome. 

So his years as an ICC judge counts towards the ten years residency as he did not abdicate his domicile. In addition, he retained his home and family in T&T while serving abroad. 

I don’t think one needs to consult with Queens Counsels for an opinion. It is common sense and international precedence exists to support such a viewpoint. 

Anyone who studies international relations (and I did my doctoral studies in IR) would so wisely inform the public. I should also note that for US green card purposes, card holders must meet continuous residency requirement or forfeit their cards. 

But continuous residency does not mean the person cannot live abroad for brief periods. According to US court and immigration requirements, residency meant that for all intents and purposes, the individual considers the US as his or her permanent domicile and has certain obligations like paying utility bills, rents, taxes, credit cards, etc. The same criteria would apply in the Carmona matter.
He has been ordinarily resident of T&T and if his nomination were challenged in court, the Judges would render him eligible applying a flexible residency interpretation of the legal concept.

At any rate, Carmona’s eligibility only becomes an issue if there is some opposition to the nomination filed with the court or with the Speaker’s Office that is responsible for overseeing the process.

Vishnu Bisram

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai