ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) — The prime minister of Dominica on Monday won a four-year legal battle over whether his French citizenship disqualified him and his education minister from running for office under the Constitution of the small, eastern Caribbean country.
Two members of the opposition United Workers Party had filed suit challenging whether Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and Education Minister Petter Saint Jean had the legal right to run in the December 2009 election, claiming the pair had French passports and that they had thus sworn allegiance to a foreign country.
Skerrit and Saint Jean were both born in Dominica, but their mothers had French citizenship and they acquired it through them. Both men declined to say whether they had French passports but denied ever swearing allegiance to another country.
Opposition members Ronald Green and Maynard Joseph first filed suit in Dominica, but the court dismissed their case. The judge ruled that they failed to prove the prime minister and his minister had French passports and the courts had no authority to make them prove otherwise.
Maynard and Green appealed to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court on Monday in a unanimous decision. Anthony Astaphan, the lead counsel for Skerrit, said the government was happy the case was finally over.
"We are very, very happy for the decision," Astaphan said. "This was a dishonest campaign of the UWP and the Dominica Freedom Party. It was all a political machination of the opposition." Challenges over the citizenship of a political figure have become common in the Caribbean, where many people acquire passports in other countries so they can travel abroad to work or go to school. In one of the best known cases, in March 2012, President Michel Martelly of Haiti displayed his Haitian passport on national television to quell rumors that he had become an American citizen and given up his Haitian citizenship.