Home Letters “Context is king” – this adage is markedly relevant at this...
The controversy regarding ex-Member of Parliament, Charrandas Persaud’s (CP) dual citizenship has elicited heated arguments on many fronts because of what is written in the Constitution of Guyana. The MP’s “allegiance” is cause for concern because of his dual citizenship since Section 155 (1) of the Constitution states: “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 acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.”
According to the Government of Canada’s website, one becomes a citizen of Canada by taking an oath and affirms the following: “I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second Queen of Canada her heirs and successors and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.” In examining Section 155 (1) of the Constitution, CP does not flaunt the tenets of that section of the Constitution since he does not acknowledge “allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.”
The (official) Canada website clarifies and illuminates that oath by underscoring, “In Canada, we profess our loyalty to a person who represents all Canadians and not to a document such as a constitution, a banner such as a flag, or a geopolitical entity such as a country. In our constitutional monarchy, these elements are encompassed by the Sovereign (Queen or King). It is a remarkably simple yet powerful principle: Canada is personified by the Sovereign just as the Sovereign is personified by Canada.” The person who makes that citizenship declaration, therefore, does not contravene the Guyana Constitution if he or she wishes to stand in the capacity as an MP.
It must be noted that in the US, new citizens pledge allegiance to the Constitution and laws of the US, but they are also required to renounce their allegiance to any foreign or previous entities. This condition is not the case of new Canadians.
I became a Canadian citizen more than 40 years ago. Like most Canadians, I have never thought Queen Elizabeth as anything more than a figurehead. Therefore, if one examines the literal and figurative meanings of the two entities (Section 155 (1) of the Guyana Constitution, and the oath taken by new Canadians), a Guyanese who holds dual citizenship with Canada is still eligible to become a Member of Parliament in Guyana.
According to a recent newspaper editorial, more than 38 per cent of the Members of Parliament in Guyana have dual citizenship. If the court rules that CP’s dual citizenship makes him ineligible to sit as an MP, the authorities would have no choice but dissolve Parliament since what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
It is ironic and ludicrous that the Government is claiming that CP’s vote was negligible and inconsequential because of dual citizenship, while at the same time replacing him with Barbara Pilgrim, who is allegedly a US citizen!
One must examine the context in a thicker layer. In a small country such as Guyana that has suffered from a brain drain and is desperate for qualified and experienced personnel, it would send shivers to the diaspora about wanting to return and help develop the country.
The CP dual citizenship question is a no-brainer; Guyanese who have dual Canadian citizenship should be allowed a parliamentary seat.
Dr Devanand Bhagwan