Friday, April 3, 2009


The fact of the situation is that in no democratic country foreign-born registered citizen can be President or Prime Minister.
The American Constitution stipulates that only natural born citizens and those who have been resident in America for 14 years prior to his or her nomination are eligible to the office of President. Henry A. Kissinger, a naturalised US citizen born in Germany, was not eligible to succeed to the office of the President.
The Singapore Constitution says that a person who is not a citizen of Singapore born in Malaya shall not be elected President.
The law in Finland is that the President of the Republic must be from among the natural born citizens of Finland.
These are just three of the innumerable examples available the world over to show how constitutions bar naturalised citizens from high public offices.
In Australia, the only Senator from the far-right One Nation party was thrown out of parliament for having dual citizenship. Heather Hill acquired Australian citizenship but did not complete the procedure of relinquishing her British citizenship. (Here how Sonia relinquished her Italian citizenship is not known) Under Australia's constitution, dual nationals cannot sit in the legislature. The High Court ruled that the UK was a 'foreign power' as understood by the constitution. 4
Hill only took up Australian citizenship a few months before the election, but appears to have been confused about what was involved in renouncing her former citizenship. She had lived in Australia since childhood. One Nation, which opposes Asian immigration to Australia, retained the seat in the Senate and appointed a replacement. 4
Merve Safa Kavakci was stripped of her Turkish citizenship less than a month after her election to parliament and faces expulsion from the legislature. The Cabinet ruled that she had taken out US citizenship without permission. Under the law, Turkish citizens who take out a second citizenship are required to inform the authorities. She acquired US citizenship through her Jordanian-born American ex-husband, a month before the parliamentary elections in April. Whether the loss of citizenship will result in Kavacki losing her seat in parliament is to be decided by the Supreme Election Board. US immigration officials said that they would investigate Kavakci if she takes an oath of allegiance to Turkey. Such an oath would violate the terms of her US citizenship. 4
Zambia's High Court finally ruled that former President Kenneth Kaunda was stateless. It ruled that he was not a Zambian citizen. 4
Political parties who are talking of constitutional amendment to bar foreign-born citizens from acquiring posts will do well to use the existing Constitutional provisions in the best interests of the country. We can learn in this regard from German basic law.
Nilfur Shayegan, born and brought up in Germany has failed to get a German citizenship.
According to the German Basic Law - the nation's constitution - foreigners must spend at least eight years in the country to be eligible to vote, prove their command of the German language and "acceptance and knowledge" of the constitution to qualify as a citizen. 2
But even after meeting these standards, a large proportion of foreigners are still denied from becoming Germans. 2
Nilfur Shayegan, 34 was born and brought up in Frankfurt after her parents left Iran in the fifties. She is one of the many 'Germans' who cannot vote on Sunday. She first applied for citizenship when she was 18. She was denied a German passport two more times and gave up trying." (Indrajit Hazra, Berlin, September 20, published in Hindustan Times, Bhopal, 21 September 2002) 2
As far as having outsiders as Prime Ministers - what happened in Fiji - neither BBC nor CNN objected when the Indian born Hindu - Mahendra Chaudhary was thrown off the post by George Spait. Now some law has been passed there that only native tribes will be allowed to the post. Perhaps because they are all Christian and Indians are mostly non-Christians.
For a moment, let us assume that instead of Rajeev Gandhi, Sonia Maino had married an American. She could not have aspired for, forget her staking claim to, the American presidency. Article II, Section 1(5) of the American constitution would have debarred her from that office. It says, 'No person, except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the USA at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President…' 5
No such provision exists in the Constitution of India -- not because it was framed by "secular nationalists" but because no member of the Constituent Assembly could have ever imagined that 50 years after Independence, a foreigner would be in the race for the prime minister's job. If they had, they would have surely incorporated necessary safeguards. 5
The constitution of the USA demands that an applicant for American citizenship must be proficient in English, loyal to the USA and have basic knowledge of the constitution, the country's history and system of government. 5If the Constitution of India had similar guidelines, the indigenous people of India would have been spared the ignominy of being ruled by a person of foreign origin. For, Sonia Gandhi is proficient in no Indian language, including English; her loyalty to India is all of 15 years old; her knowledge of the Constitution of India is non-existent; she would fail the most elementary history test; and, beyond the fact that she wants to be the prime minister of India, it is doubtful whether she has an inkling about the Government of India.
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