Situation highlights bizarre local election rule
George Town independent political candidate Sharon Roulstone has said that she has given up her American citizenship in order to seek elected office in the Cayman Islands during the May general election.
“I surrendered my US passport [on 31 January] after I filled out all the forms,” Ms Roulstone said last week. “I have one passport; that is the Cayman Islands passport.”
Ms Roulstone has lived in the Cayman Islands her entire life. She was born here, the child of an American father and a Caymanian mother. Aside from a one-year stint away in Texas when she was a child and a year of college in Virginia, she has never lived anywhere else.
Giving up US citizenship was a requirement for Roulstone prior to nomination day on 27 March if she wished to be eligible to run for office, although she admits that back in her teenage years she might not have made the same decision.
“There was nothing when I was a teen in Cayman … not much to do,” she said. “So I was very upset, I said to my father ‘you’re an American citizen, you could take us away from here and we could have better opportunities’. He put his finger up at me and said ‘you live in the best place in the world and we are never leaving’. Remembering that gave me the go ahead that it was OK to renounce [my US citizenship].”
According to US law, any child born to an American parent anywhere in the world can automatically apply to receive American citizenship and Ms Roulstone was granted US citizenship in that manner. However, being born in the Cayman Islands added another wrinkle for Ms Roulstone’s 2013 general election candidacy.
Section 61(2)(b) of the Constitution qualifies a person for elected membership in the Legislative Assembly if that person has a close family connection with the Cayman Islands and is a British Overseas Territories citizen. According to the section, the person can qualify to stand for election if they were born outside the Cayman Islands, had at least one parent or grandparent born in the Cayman Islands and who is Caymanian and “who at the date of his her nomination for election possesses no other citizenship save for any right he or she may have to some other citizenship by virtue of his or her birth outside the Cayman Islands”.
So, Ms Roulstone, having been born in the Cayman Islands, could not keep her US passport and citizenship and run for local office, while someone else who was born outside Cayman but with the requisite family connections, could maintain that citizenship.
One such individual is her older sister, who was born outside the Cayman Islands and who at one point had to get a work permit and eventually be granted Caymanian status via application. Yet, Ms Roulstone said her sister could run for office while keeping her US citizenship and she cannot.
“She was not regarded as Caymanian [at the time] but now, under the Constitution, she complies with section 61(2)(b),” Ms Roulstone said. “She has another citizenship as a right by virtue of her birth abroad, so she could run for office in Cayman – more qualified than I could – yet, I was chairman of the immigration board when my sister had to have a work permit.”
Ironies aside, Ms Roulstone said she was happy to give up her US citizenship for a chance to serve. The application to renounce her citizenship also allowed her to do a bit more research into her family background.
“I thought I was actually a seventh generation Caymanian because I could only trace back to [the] Thompson [family] on my maternal grandmother’s side. But I found that my lineage actually goes all the way back to the Edens. I’m very proud of that heritage.”
Any relation to current Bodden Town MLA and potential political party opponent Anthony Eden?
“Probably,” Ms Roulstone said. “I’ll proudly own him, though he may not do the same for me.”
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