Cablegate: Jamaica: More Backlash Against U.S. Passport

DE RUEHKG #0398/01 1281203
P 071203Z MAY 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

B. 07 KINGSTON 1348


1. (SBU) On May 5, Director of Elections Danville Walker
announced his immediate resignation. Walker's resignation
marks the latest casualty in the dual citizenship imbroglio
that already has forced at least three Members of Parliament
to formally renounce their U.S. citizenship (Ref A). Under
Jamaican law, the post of Director of Elections may not have
sworn allegiance to a foreign power. In his official
statement, he stated that he was unwilling to renounce his
U.S. citizenship. His resignation comes at an inauspicious
time, as the possibility of a rash of by-elections or a snap
general election looms large on the horizon. End Summary.

Respected No-Nonsense Leader

2. (U) Danville Walker was appointed as Director of Elections
(DOE) over ten years ago by former Prime Minister P.J.
Patterson of the People's National Party (PNP). Over his
years of service, Walker has developed a reputation as a
no-nonsense leader who is politically neutral. The 49-year
old certified public accountant took over an organization
that was failing in its basic mission to provide up-to-date
voters lists and to allow free and fair elections at all
polling stations. However he has been at the center of much
of the recent controversy of dual national elected as Members
of Parliament (MPs) in contravention of the constitution.
Walker's official proclamations, that all candidates for
Parliament had been properly nominated, were cited in the
Supreme Court hearings of MP Daryl Vaz of the Jamaica Labour
Party (JLP) in the election petition filed against him by PNP
candidate Abe Dabdoub (Ref A). Walker later came under fire
personally when his U.S. citizenship came to light in the
media, since the Electoral Commission (Interim) Act prohibits
"allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or

3. (SBU) During his last year on the job Walker supervised
national and local elections, both declared free-and-fair by
impartial observers. In fact, Jamaica has developed a
reputation as a leader in election operations in the Western
Hemisphere. After observing the September 2007 general
elections, some members of the Organization of American
States (OAS) mission declared a desire to make
recommendations to their home countries to follow the
Jamaican model (Ref B). Walker has been lauded in the past
by senior members of both the JLP and PNP, and some are now
calling for a review of the Electoral Commissions Act.

Critical Juncture for Election Commission

4. (SBU) Danville Walker's resignation comes at a critical
time in Jamaican politics. Since the initial ruling for a
by-election to be held to settle the Vaz-Dabdoub dispute for
the West Portland constituency, and with other election
petition suits pending, a series of by-elections or even a
snap general election loom. Prime Minister (PM) Bruce
Golding has stated that he will not let anyone serve in
Parliament through a legal technicality who had not been duly
elected by the voters (Ref A). Therefore, a general election
before the end of 2007 may become unavoidable. The Election
Commission is completing a new voter registration list which
should be published before the end of May. However, there is
no clear successor for Mr. Walker for the critical post of
DOE. The government must work fast to identify a solidly
qualified and impartial replacement in advance of what could
prove the most closely-scrutinized election in the history of

Election Petitions and Dual Nationals in Parliament
--------------------------------------------- -------

5. (SBU) Abe Dabdoub recently announced his intent to proceed
with an appeal of Supreme Court Justice Zaila McCalla's
decision that the West Portland seat should be settled in a
by-election (Ref A). Dabdoub maintains that he alerted the
voters that Vaz was not eligible to serve in Parliament, and
therefore any votes for Vaz were 'null and void.' Meanwhile,
Vaz is using the publicity generated from the suit to
increase his own visibility, and appears more popular than
ever among the constituents. (Note: Vaz has renounced his
U.S. Citizenship, and Embassy Kingston delivered the
Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN) to Vaz on May 6.
After collecting his CLN documents, Vaz stated to Conoff that
when PM Golding returns to Jamaica from his state visit to
Cuba, he will deliver an ultimatum to two other JLP MPs to
renounce or resign. Vaz plans to run again for the seat in
any upcoming by-election or general election. End Note.)

6. (SBU) There is still a chance that the dual-nationality
issue can be solved via a mutual agreement between the PNP
and the JLP to not contest any by-elections ordered by the
courts. This would allow the current government to move on
and concentrate on other pressing issues such as high crime,
soaring prices, and inflation. According to Embassy sources
within the PNP, many within the opposition party do not
support Dabdoub's attempt to gain a seat in Parliament at all
costs. Some now speculate that Opposition Leader Portia
Simpson-Miller was not properly briefed on the possible
repercussions of a litigious approach to contesting the

7. (SBU) In a previous Dabdoub bid for Parliament in 1997,
the seat winner was resolved through the courts when a
recount led to several votes being disallowed and saw the
then member of the JLP usurp the seat of PNP sitting MP
Phylis Mitchell. Dabdoub was unhappy with senior leadership
in the JLP after Golding's return to the JLP in 2002, so he
crossed over to the PNP; and now, once again, is seeking to
gain power through the courts, instead of at the polls. He
is viewed by some as a 'turncoat' who will do whatever it
takes for personal gain, since he has developed a reputation
for being litigious and for switching party allegiance.
Ironically, his last election petition adversary, Phylis
Mitchell, is herself challenging for a seat in Parliament
through an election petition filed against the JLP's Gregory
Mair. Mitchell alleges that Mair possesses Venezuelan
citizenship and therefore was constitutionally ineligible to
be nominated as a candidate for Parliament. However, the
initial ruling by the courts stated that the subpoena had
been improperly served, so the case may be thrown out.
Mitchell has appealed the initial ruling, but no further
hearings have taken place.

No Effect on Demand for U.S. Visas

8. (SBU) Despite all the controversies over high ranking
government officials holding U.S. Citizenship contrary to the
law, there has been little effect on the general population.
The Consular Section remains as busy as ever, and has seen
huge demand for their attempts to offer special interview
procedures for previous U.S. visa holders to renew their
visas. Despite very little fanfare in the media, over 350
visa holders came on the first day of the new program. On
the second day of the program the re-issuance line was shut
down after less than one hour, because of security concerns
which arose when the numerous applicants began pushing and
shoving, refusing to form an orderly line. The remaining
applicants were sent away and a press release spelling out
the issue was submitted to local media outlets. Consular
plans to continue the popular program after examining ways to
ensure it can proceed in a safe and orderly manner.

9. (SBU) The American Citizen Services (ACS) Section reports
that demand for U.S. passports continues at all-time high
levels. So far for Fiscal Year 2008 (FY08), applications for
passports are approximately ten percent higher than the
record levels of Fiscal Year 2007 (FY07). While the huge
FY07 increases can be explained by the new travel
requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
(WHTI), demand for passports in other countries has declined
from peak FY07 levels. Thus, despite the controversy
surrounding dual nationals serving in high government
offices, there appears to be no decline in demand for U.S.
travel documents and citizenship determinations among the
general population.


10. (SBU) The resignation of the senior government official
in charge of elections in Jamaica, comes at a most
inauspicious time. The Election Commission is currently
finalizing a fresh voter list and the possibility of a rash
of by-elections or a snap general election looms large on the
horizon. Unless a compromise between the JLP and the PNP can
be reached before the culmination of the Dabdoub-Vaz Election
Petition dispute, PM Bruce Golding may feel forced to call a
fresh general election. Since Golding already faces
challenges from the narrowest majority in the history of the
Jamaican Parliament (Ref C), he may utilize the PNP
litigation to justify the need to call a new election, thus
ensuring that all serving MPs are serving at the mandate of
the people and not the courts. While as many as four seats
involving alleged dual nationals may be visited by the
courts, the total number of dual nationals serving in
Parliament is unknown. Some in the media have speculated
that as many as ten current members of Parliament may have
sworn allegiance to foreign powers and thus serve in
contravention to Jamaican law.

© Scoop Media

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