NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Attorney General Carl Bethel advised yesterday that the government intends to go to the Privy Council to appeal a Court of Appeal ruling that children born out of wedlock to foreign women and Bahamian men are entitled to citizenship at birth.
The government had sought to appeal the ruling handed down by Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder last May, in the “public’s interest”.
The appellate ruling dismissed the government’s appeal and awarded costs to the respondents.
Bethel told reporters ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday morning that the matter would have ended in the highest court — the Privy Council — no matter which side won the appeal.
“I’m sure that the Bahamian people will not accept any judgment on a matter that doesn’t come from the highest court in the land, which is the Privy Council,” he said.
“So, it is the government’s intention to appeal the matter.”
The controversial ruling dealt with separate applications for declarations over the true interpretation of Article 6 of the Constitution, which deems that “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”.
All five judges of the Court of Appeal sat in on the hearing and gave written judgments on the matter, with three agreeing with Winder’s ruling and two offered dissenting views.
The matter of passing on citizenship continues to be a longstanding hot-button issue throughout the country’s history.
Bethel noted that not only is the ruling a question of the Constitution’s original intent but also the national intent, given that there were two referenda on this issue.
Both referendums in 2002 and 2014 to address gender-based discrimination in the Constitution failed.
“We will advance the same positions that we have advanced to date in the Privy Council — that the existing Constitution, as originally written, as originally supported by the Bahamian people on two occasions, ought to prevail,” Bethel said.
Asked what would happen if the government also loses the appeal at the Privy Council, he said: “That would be the law of the land as interpreted by the highest court in the land and we will all be bound to follow it.
“Whatever adjustments would have to be made to domestic law would have to be made in order to accommodate the views, if that is their view.
“If not, there would be no changes. But it is a matter for the highest court of the land at this point.”
A bill has been drafted by the Law Reform Commission, headed by Dame Anita Allen, that would repeal the Bahamas Nationality Act and the Immigration Act.
The proposed legislation puts forth sweeping changes to the country’s immigration laws by seeking to address long-standing issues surrounding statelessness and the right to pass on citizenship.
Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson said he will wait until he receives further advice from the attorney general on the matter.