WHICH justice is right when it comes to citizenship?
That’s the question at the heart of the case before the Court of Appeal. Those affected are children born out of wedlock to Bahamian men and foreign women.
Last year, Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder ruled those children are citizens at birth and do not have to wait until 18 to apply for citizenship.
Against that is the 2009 ruling of former Chief Justice Sir Burton Hall, who ruled otherwise.
There’s a lot of legal to and fro over the details, but what should not be lost in all of that are the children this affects.
For those who have to wait until they turn 18 to apply for citizenship, there is a prolonged period of uncertainty.
Worse, there have been many who have reached that age and made the appropriate application who find themselves waiting years before they get a decision. That leaves them in an uncomfortable position – and can even alienate these young people to the country they grew up in that doesn’t seem to want them.
Over in the courts, the debate centres on the meaning of the word father, with Article 6 saying quite simply “Every person born in The Bahamas after 9th July 1973 shall become a citizen of The Bahamas at the date of his birth if at that date either of his parents is a citizen of The Bahamas.”
Seems straightforward enough – until you get to Article 14, which says “Any reference in this chapter to the father of a person shall, in relation to any person born out of wedlock other than a person legitimated before 10th July 1973, be construed as a reference to the mother of that person.”
That’s the point under debate. The word father doesn’t even appear in Article 6, but Article 14 is being used to affect the application of the earlier article.
Now, lawyers and judges will judge, but what is the right thing to do?
This could of course be changed in law by amending the Constitution to make it clearer – but that leads us on the path to a referendum and governments haven’t had much luck with those in recent times.
That shouldn’t deter people from doing the right thing, however, if after all the legal wrangling people are still left in the cold.
We shouldn’t be afraid of making the necessary changes as the years go by. Our Constitution is a map to our future, but sometimes course corrections are needed along the way to keep us on the right path.
We hope the Court of Appeal rules in a way that helps those left on the sidelines, uncertain of their citizenship. But if they do not, we hope those who form our next government are not afraid to find a way to close such loopholes.
The news that there is a drop in delinquent student loans is a welcome one. There has been a reduction of just under a third of those accounts.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that round 3,500 accounts are still delinquent. That’s a lot of money owed, and a lot of money that cannot be repurposed for the next generation of students.
The technology to sort this out has been around for a long time – students around the world commit to automatic deductions from their bank accounts or pay packets to repay the loans they took out to help them get to where they are.
We are long overdue for such arrangements to be carried out here at home. This shouldn’t just depend on the goodwill of the borrower – you get the loan, you pay it back, that’s the deal.
That said, we applaud the work of the Education Loan Authority in reducing the amount still owed – that’s no mean feat at the best of times, not least during a pandemic when so many are out of work.
For those trying to make payments even in the toughest times, well done. For those, however, who are making no effort to pay even when they can – perhaps it’s time for the authority to get tougher.
If you gained thanks to the helping hand of government, it’s time to pay it back – and give a helping hand to the next generation. It’s only fair.