Government Minister Daryl Vaz yesterday began the process of renouncing his United States citizenship in order to contest a pending by-election in the West Portland constituency from which he was disqualified as member of parliament by the Supreme Court last Friday.
Following a mid-morning press conference at the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) headquarters in Kingston, Vaz made his way to the US Embassy in Liguanea, St Andrew to begin the process of giving up his US citizenship, as promised last Friday.
On his arrival at the embassy, around 10:38 am, Vaz was greeted by a handful of jubilant female supporters, who shouted, "By-election pon dem! By-election pon dem! A him a di real MP."
The women escorted Vaz all the way to the entrance of the premises where they could go no further. All the while, a smiling Vaz, dressed in a brown suit, with an emblem of the Jamaican flag pinned to his left breast, flashed his US passport for a handful of journalists who showed up at the embassy.
After little under a half-hour, Vaz emerged from the embassy holding a form that he had to fill out as part of the renunciation process. The process, Vaz told reporters, could "take a few weeks" based on his discussions with embassy officials.
". I'm to come back tomorrow [today] to furnish further information and hand in my US passport. From then on, the ball will be in the [embassy's] court," Vaz said, while the same group of female supporters cheered him on.
The Opposition's Abe Dabdoub, following his defeat at the September 3, 2007 general elections, had brought an election petition against Vaz, claiming that the Jamaican Constitution does not allow Vaz to sit in Parliament because of his status as a US citizen. Dabdoub had also asked the court to hand the seat over to him but was not successful in that bid and has, since Friday, indicated his intention to appeal that decision. A 42-day stay of the execution of the judgement, and by extension, the by-election, was last Friday granted by the court.
Chief Justice Zaila McCalla said in her ruling on Friday that the ". positive acts of renewing and travelling on his United States passport [Vaz] . has, by virtue of his own acts, acknowledged his allegiance, obedience or adherence to the [US] and by virtue of Section 40 (2)(a) he was not qualified to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives".
Responding to a question posed by the Observer at yesterday's press conference, Vaz said he never renounced his US citizenship when his eligibility was questioned before the election because of the legal advice he had received.
"Had I known that there would be a possibility that my renewing my [US] passport would have caused such a problem, I would have renounced my citizenship before," he said. "There would have never been a question of my citizenship. I would have returned it [the citizenship] to sender."
JLP general-secretary Karl Samuda also said that the party had received legal advice from "luminaries" within the legal profession that Vaz's status as a US citizen would not have prevented him from contesting the election.