In her landmark judgement on the no-confidence vote, Chief Justice Roxane George cleared up a nettlesome issue that had been in suspended animation for decades – the status of dual citizen MPs. The Constitution, in Article 155(1), after all, had been crystal clear: “No person shall be qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly who – (a)is by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state…”
Yet, here it was, from the moment the clause was introduced in 1980, dual citizens had been nominated and allowed to become MPs by their parties. Since the matter affected both sides, there was obviously a tacit agreement not to trouble this particular “ants’ nest”!! Your Eyewitness had wondered whether the CJ would’ve invoked the legal doctrine of “desuetude” by which a law may be abrogated because of its long disuse.
But no, the CJ decided to call a spade a spade and let the chips fall where they may!! Anyone who holds dual citizenship CANNOT be a Member of Parliament!! And immediately this disqualified not just some regular MPs but a few with higher ambitions. From the Government benches, it knocked out Joe Harmon and Carl Greenidge, who’d been touted as possible PNC presidential candidates if President Granger dropped out of the race. Over in the PPP, dual citizen Gail Teixeira had bowed out of their presidential nomination and has now announced she’ll “renounce” her Canadian citizenship.
And, of course, this is an avenue open to Harmon, Greenidge and any other dual citizen presently in the House. The problem for them in this election, however, is the process takes at least six months and for sure the elections boat would “done gone ah watah”!! There’s also a lot of ink spilled recently that only those who’d explicitly taken an oath of allegiance to another country were disqualified – and not those who attained the status by birth. In the CJ’s judgement, following precedent from Jamaica, the distinction is immaterial: the issuance of the passport by the second country presumed allegiance. So that eliminates Dominick Gaskin, the President’s son-in-law.
But as the Opposition Leader pointed out, with Guyana needing the services of its (relatively) massive Diaspora, we may need to relook at Article 155 (1). In the meantime, the CJ clarified the impact of having MPs who were disqualified from being so on legislation or Budgets passed with their votes. This was addressed by Article 165 (2) which states “…the presence or participation of any person not entitled to be present at or to participate in the proceedings of the Assembly shall not invalidate those proceedings.”
The Opposition got its cake and could eat it too!!
There are some who’ve maintained that because of President Granger’s “goodness”, he would have obeyed the clear language of the Constitution’s Article 106 (6) and resigned with his Cabinet immediately after the NCM was passed. This was, in fact, his (and his PMs) immediate reaction. But he disappointed those optimists when he latched on to the ridiculous claim of 33 not being the majority of 65, even though the same majority had made him President!! It exposed, once again, that his amiability was only skin deep and he was as opportunistic as any of his predecessors in the PNC leadership.
Wasn’t he the one who’d already called the ruling of Justice George on the qualification necessary for the GECOM chair (doesn’t HAVE to be a Judge) her “perception”?? And this is what he’ll also dub her rulings on the NCM and refuse to “walk”, as we say in cricket. In this, he’s spitting on our WI traditions of fair play.
And acting like a banana republic dictator!
The ANUG’s founders are nothing, if not “well meaning”. However, Timothy Jonas, is now disqualified by the dual citizenship ruling, and – with 50 per cent voters under 35 – Guyana’s “no country for old men”.
Who’ll be the presidential and PM candidates??