This analysis of the Citizenship Decree, announced yesterday, was sent to Coupfourpointfive.
Our writer says while the 1997 Constitution discouraged dual or multiple citizenship, the new Decree allows both, but it's not clear what the reasoning is for this - and the other changes.
He says it could be aimed at allowing citizens, from say, New Zealand, to return to Fiji and to hold key positions in the military regime in perpetuity, but this has already happened to some extent:
The Citizenship Decree replaces Chapter 3 of the 1997 Constitution(Section 8-20) that defines citizenship.
Marked differences between the Constitution and the new Decree are as follows:
The Constitution disallows dual or multiple citizenship. Number 6 of the Decree states, “An application for citizenship by registration made by an adult who is a citizen of another country must be granted if the person was formerly a citizen of the State”.
Section 12(6) of the Constitution states, “An application for citizenship by registration made by an adult who is a citizen of another country must be granted if: -
(a) the person was formerly a citizen of the State; and
(b) he or she renounces the other citizenship
Number 8 of the Decree on Renunciation of Citizenship states:
“A person may renounce his or her citizenship only if he or she:
(a) has reached the age of 18; and
(b) has been since birth a citizen of another country or has acquired the citizenship of another country by registration or naturalization
The Constitution (Section 15) says any Fiji person may renounce his or her citizenship if he or she has reached the age of 21. Therefore, the Decree has reduced the age from 21 to 18, just like the Peoples Charter proposes to reduce voting age from 21 to 18.
To state in the Decree that a person may renounce his or her citizens, if he or she has acquired citizenship of another country by naturalization or been a citizen of another country since birth, is meaningless on the face of offering dual citizenship.
The Decree has removed Section 14 (1) of the Constitution Loss of Citizenship. The Constitution states that a Fiji citizen renounces his or her citizenship if he or she voluntarily acquires citizenship or nationality of another country.
Section 14 (2) of the Constitution states that a citizen of the State who, while a minor, acquires the citizenship of another country forfeits his or her citizenship of the State at the age of 22 unless, after reaching the age of 21 and before reaching the age of 22, he or she renounces the other citizenship.
Section 14(3) of the Constitution states that an adult, who involuntarily acquires the citizenship of another country, does not forfeit his or her citizenship of the State unless he or she fails to renounce the other citizenship within 12 months of
(a) becoming aware of it; and
(b) being required by the Minister to renounce it
Section 10 of the Decree is titled Prevention of Statelessness and Multiple Citizenship. The Constitution’s Section 20 is titled Prevention of Statelessness only. This Section’s (a), (b) and (c) is exactly the same as that in the Decree. But the Decree has added part (d), “a person who has acquired the citizenship of one or more other countries is not restricted in applying for and being granted citizenship solely by virtue of having acquired the citizenship of one or more other countries”.
This nullifies Number 7 of the Decree Citizenship by naturalisation. Even this has been amended, when compared to the Constitution. It requires a person to be lawfully present in Fiji for a total of 3 of the 5 years immediately before application for naturalization is made.
Section 13(2) of the Constitution requires a person to be residing in Fiji lawfully for 5 of the 10 years immediately before the application for naturalization is made.
Section 19 of the Constitution Deprivation of Citizenship is not in the Decree. Under the Constitution, Parliament may make laws depriving a person citizenship only if:
(a) if citizenship was obtained by fraud, misrepresentation or the concealment of a material fact and
(b) if a person declares not to exercise the entitlement of citizenship of another country but has since making that declaration exercised such an entitlement
The regime’s intention of allowing dual - and even multiple citizenship - makes no sense as far as attracting former residents or investors go.
Number 9 of the Decree and Section 16 of the Constitution both state that former citizens, foreign wife or widow or foreign husband or widower of a citizen and a child of a citizen, may enter and reside in Fiji in accordance with compliance of the laws governing entry and residence.
Under this, former citizens enjoy access into Fiji. So, the offer of multiple and dual citizenship does not make sense for a small nation like Fiji.