PICKING UP FROM the last story, we continue our journey to look back at the events that evolved around the creation of our national constitution, leading up to Independence Day on 30 July 1980.
During the colonial era, New Hebrideans (as the people of Vanuatu were called then) were not qualified to acquire a citizenship of either of the colonial powers, France and Britain.
Vanuatu’s first President, Mr. Ati George Sokomanu, explained that “before we gained our independence we were not citizens of any country, therefore we cannot own passports to allow us to travel abroad”.
“When we wanted to travel abroad, the British or the French resident commissioner will issue travel identity documents,” Mr. Sokomanu said as he recalled back on the processes used by the British and French Condominium in the then New Hebrides.
“The travel documents included necessary information like the date of birth, and the two flags of the two powers are also always printed on the document,” he related.
“Those travel documents will identify you as a protectorate for France and England when travelling abroad,” Mr. Sokomanu added.
This practice continued for some time until 1980 when Vanuatu gained its Independence.
It this for these reasons that chapter three of Vanuatu’s national was constituted into our national constitution.
Chapter three states that on the “Day of Independence a person who has or had four grandparents who belong to a tribe or community indigenous to Vanuatu; and a person of ni-Vanuatu ancestry who has no citizenship, nationality or the status of an optant shall automatically become citizens of Vanuatu”.
The chapter continues to explain that “they shall become a citizen of Vanuatu if they make an application, or an application is made on their behalf by their parent or lawful guardian, within 3 months of the Day of Independence or such longer period as Parliament may prescribe”.
The Vanuatu citizenship of such a person shall automatically lapse if he has not renounced his other citizenship or nationality within 3 months of the granting of Vanuatu citizenship or such longer period as Parliament may prescribe, except that in the case of a person under the age of 18 years the period of renunciation shall be 3 months after he has reached the age of 18 years.
It is because of chapter three that we, the people of Vanuatu, can be a citizen of a country. It is because of this chapter that we, the people of Vanuatu, are able to fill any application form that requires a nationality. Today, we inherit the Ni-Vanuatu (meaning of Vanuatu) nationality.
Furthermore, anyone born after the Day of Independence, whether in Vanuatu or abroad, shall become a citizen of Vanuatu if at least one of his parents is a citizen of Vanuatu.
When Transparency International Vanuatu visited the Vanuatu Citizenship Commission to inquire on matters involving unlawful citizenship, the Secretary General for the Commission, Mr. John Enock Ware, read proudly the legislation for naturalized citizens to TIV.
He held his copy of the constitution and read out loud “A national of a foreign state or a stateless person may apply to be naturalized as a citizen of Vanuatu if he has lived continuously in Vanuatu for at least 10 years immediately before the date of the application. Parliament may prescribe further conditions of the eligibility to apply for naturalization and shall provide for the machinery to review and decide on applications for naturalization.”
“This means that any foreigner who wants to obtain Vanuatu Citizenship must live in the country for at least 10 years,” he explained.
Therefore, as Ni-Vanuatu citizens we should all be concerned when cases involving the unlawful granting of citizenship’s are leaked, or are reported through the media or through other sources.
In 2013, an amendment was made on this chapter that allowed Vanuatu to recognize dual citizenship. This means that a person who is a citizen of Vanuatu or “of a state other than Vanuatu may be granted dual citizenship”.
However, for the purposes of protecting the national sovereignty of Vanuatu, “a holder of dual citizenship must not: hold or serve in any public office; be involved in Vanuatu politics; fund activities that would cause political instability in Vanuatu; affiliate with or form any political parties in Vanuatu; stand as a candidate and vote at any of the following elections: general election for Members to Parliament; provincial election for members to a Provincial Government Council; and municipal election for members to a Municipal Council”.
To avoid doubt, this article (above) does not apply to an “indigenous citizen or a person who has gained Vanuatu citizenship by naturalization, who hold dual citizenship”.
In sub article 5 Parliament may prescribe: the requirements to be met by categories of persons applying for dual citizenship; or the privileges to be accorded to any category of persons who are holders of dual citizenship.”
Our citizenship is an inheritance that was struggled for. And because it is our sovereign identity therefore we must not let it be de-valued through unlawful means.
Next week we will look at chapter four of our constitution and the reasons behind it. Transparency International Vanuatu will be getting in touch with those that signed the constitution to get their stories and to share it. We believe it is important that today’s generations are aware of these stories. We also believe that taking ownership of the freedom and being proud of our national identity will empower us to develop Vanuatu in the rightful way.
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