Chief Justice declares Tourism Minister’s appointment unlawful

The appointment of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister Oneidge Walrond was on Thursday declared unlawful by Chief Justice Roxane George.

Justice George also made another declaration that Minister Walrond is not a lawful member of the 12th Parliament of Guyana.

Tourism Minister Oneidge Walrond

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who appeared on behalf of the Minister, conceded that Government recognises that her appointment may have collided with the Constitution as she was still a citizen of the USA at the time she was sworn in as Minister and Parliamentarian.

According to Nandlall, the Government has already taken steps to have this constitutional breach rectified by having Walrond re-sworn as Minister on December 1, 2020.

He said that she will be taking a new oath as Member of Parliament at the next sitting of the National Assembly.

In light of Nandlall’s admission, Justice George granted the declarations sought by Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones, who filed the case challenging her appointments.

Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall

Minister Walrond was ordered to pay $75,000 in court costs to Jones.

Last month, Jones filed an application challenging her appointment as Minister and Member of Parliament on the ground of her being a citizen of the USA at the time she took the respective oaths of offices.

According to Jones, the facts are clear and indisputable that at the time she was sworn in as Minister on August 5, 2020, and as a Member of Parliament on September 1, 2020, she was a dual citizen.

This, he contended, makes her ineligible to be a member of the National Assembly, and therefore she is not eligible to be appointed as a Minister of Government.

Christopher Jones

Jones had argued that Walrond’s appointments were in flagrant violation of Articles 103 (3), 105, and 155 (1) Constitution of Guyana.

Walrond had issued a press statement in which she sought to clarify her status as a USA citizen. She had said that as an Attorney-at-Law and being mindful of her status as a US Citizen, she sought legal advice on whether the sections of the Constitution prohibiting elected members from being dual citizens applied to her as a technocrat minister.

“Despite advice that this provision did not extend to technocrats, out of an abundance of caution, I decided to renounce my citizenship to put the matter beyond all doubt and avoid any distraction to the good work of the government,” she had said.

According to the Tourism Minister, on August 18, 2020, she wrote to the US Consular Office renouncing her citizenship to the United States of America with immediate effect. She said that she was informed of the administrative procedure she must comply with to obtain a Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States.

“I complied with that process by August 27, 2020. I have since received the Certificate of Loss of Nationality. I took the oath to the National Assembly on September 1, 2020. That was after I renounced my citizenship of the United States of America,” the Minister had said.