KINGSTOWN: Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, Commerce and Information Technology Minister, Camillo Gonsalves, has defended his right to be appointed as a legislator in St. Vincent & the Grenadines insisting that he has always been a national of the country.
Camillo, the eldest son of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, was born in Philadelphia in 1972.
In an “Open Letter” citing the St. Vincent & the Grenadines Constitution, Gonsalves said that he automatically became a Vincentian at the moment of his birth and that while his birth in the United States does not disqualify him from holding his senatorial post, he had quietly renounced his American citizenship ahead of his appointment as a legislator on September 16, 2013.
“To be clear: I am not a citizen of the United States of America,” said Gonsalves, a lawyer and former ambassador to the United Nations. “I took that decision as a mark of my personal and unambiguous commitment to public service in
St. Vincent & the Grenadines. The decision was compelled not by law, but by my own conscience and my private determination about what I consider to be the best way for me to serve the government and people of St. Vincent & the Grenadines.”
The disclosure by Gonsalves follows recent comments on social media and on political talk shows questioning his eligibility to serve as a parliamentarian. He likened the statements to those made by “the so-called ‘birthers’ in the United States, who, despite ample legal and factual evidence to the contrary, continue to question Barack Obama’s constitutional right to serve as President of his country”.
The younger Gonsalves said some parliamentary members of the opposition New Democratic Party have raised questions about his eligibility to serve in his current capacity.
“It is regrettable that, almost six months after they welcomed me into the Parliament of St. Vincent & the Grenadines without objection, some members of the Opposition have allowed themselves to be misled on this issue by fringe elements and Internet crackpots,” Gonsalves wrote in the Open Letter. “It is even more unfortunate that opposition parliamentarians with extensive legal training have been so completely bamboozled by the mindless patter of the uninformed chatterati.”
Gonsalves said he listened “with dismay” to a radio program last month in which “opposition members, with no knowledge of the facts, and precious little understanding of the applicable law, made a series of false statements that would have confused Vincentians not only about my situation, but may have had a chilling effect on other, similarly situated individuals who may have an ambition to serve their country in a similar capacity.
“In light of these recent flights of fancy by otherwise credible individuals – as opposed to the earlier rants of uninformed partisan zealots – I now feel compelled to set out the facts and the law related to my citizenship and allegiance,” he wrote in the Open Letter.