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Sharon leaves PNP - This is not the party I know, says MP

BY PAUL HENRY Crime/Court Co-ordinator henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 29, 2011    

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MEMBER of Parliament Sharon Hay-Webster yesterday resigned from the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), telling the Observer hours later that she could tolerate no further abuse and lack of support from the party regarding her dual-citizenship case.

That case has been fodder for critics within and outside of the PNP who have been clamouring for her to relinquish her US citizenship, especially in the wake of that party's dogged pursuit of the removal of MPs in the ruling party found by the courts to have been unlawfully elected because of their dual citizenship status.

A seemingly embittered Hay-Webster, in a release issued after she formally tendered her resignation to party president Portia Simpson Miller, stated: "In the face of a body of legal opinion substantiating my stance from day one, that my (dual-citizenship) case is inherently different from those decided, I insist I will not be rushed, or pushed, but am intent on allowing due process to take its course. This is my right," said Hay-Webster, who has represented the South Central St Catherine constituency since 1997.

"There has not been any proper sit down and assessment of the issues surrounding my case and yet there has been this constant attack," said Hay-Webster, without elaborating what form these attacks had taken.

In May, the PNP's youth organisation, PNPYO, publicly called for Hay-Webster's resignation, days after it was made public that she had changed her mind about renouncing her United States citizenship after visiting the US Embassy in Kingston with exactly this intention.

"There has been no proper co-ordination on this issue, and I don't believe that I ought to leave myself open to any more abuse," added Hay-Webster who will now sit in the House of Representatives as an independent member of Parliament, pending the outcome of her dual citizenship case in the Supreme Court.

But the PNP, in a release last night, rebutted Hay-Webster's assertions, claiming that it had been nothing but supportive of the former member.

"Over the several months, the party has been engaged in numerous discussions with Mrs Hay-Webster about resolving the issues related to her dual-citizenship case. These discussions intensified after the public revelation of information related to her status as a United States citizen, which was unknown to the party at the time. During this period, the party has offered full and complete support to Mrs Hay-Webster, including the assignment of legal counsel at no cost to her," said the PNP.

Added the PNP: "The party came to the conclusion that Mrs Hay-Webster's tenure as a member of Parliament was untenable and, as such, discussions were focused on and centred around her resignation as a member of Parliament."

Days after the "public revelation" on her citizenship status, which was published in local media, Hay-Webster confirmed that she had changed her mind about renouncing her US citizenship on the advice of "many eminent" local and overseas attorneys, who told her that her case was different from those adjudicated in the Jamaican Supreme Court.

The Constitution of Jamaica prevents Jamaicans with citizenship other than that of Commonwealth countries from holding a seat in Parliament.

Last year, the ruling Jamaica Labour Party filed a motion in the Supreme Court seeking Hay-Webster's ouster from the Parliament.

Yesterday, in her release to the media, Hay-Webster said that the PNP had "diverged from the values of Norman and Michael Manley, that of nation building, capacity building and seeking to safeguard the interest of the less fortunate".

This initiated a return salvo from the PNP.

"The Party wishes to note that during the numerous discussions held with Mrs Hay-Webster, she never raised any issue of the party's alleged divergence from its mission or core values, as stated in her resignation letter."

Councillor Denise Daley (Linstead Division) will be the party's candidate for the constituency.

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