…but to remain in “Govt service”
The Ministry of the Presidency has announced that effective from April 1, Members of Parliament (MP’s) on the government side that have dual citizenship have resigned. As such, these MP’s will not be returning to parliament when it reconvenes on April 11.
These MP’s include Minister of State, Joseph Harmon (a United States citizen) and Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge; Business Minister, Dominic Gaskin and Public Service Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine (all United Kingdom citizens).
According to the government’s statement, President David Granger accepted their resignations on Monday. This would have been before he left the jurisdiction for medical treatment in Cuba.
Meanwhile, in a statement afterward, government clarified that the vacated Ministerial posts will be occupied by the former Ministers’ cabinet colleagues. According to a statement, Ministers who acted in the past for them will once more fill in.
“Following rulings by the High Court and the Guyana Court of Appeal, His Excellency President David Granger had sought Cabinet’s advice on how to definitively address the status of Members of Parliament who hold dual citizenship.”
“The Courts have held that it is unconstitutional for persons swearing allegiance to a foreign state or power to be eligible for election to Parliament. Consequently, the four Government MPs who were also ministers, submitted to the President their resignations from the House.”
Calling the resignations satisfactory, government in the statement noted that it was the politically correct thing to do. At the same time, however, government hinted that these Ministers may be making a comeback in other governmental roles.
“While it is conceded that the Constitution strictly bars a person who holds dual citizenship from being an MP, they are not precluded from remaining in government service. This is a matter to be addressed by the President who will finalize ways in which the four resigned MPs will serve in government.”
“Cabinet thanks the four resigned MPs for their yeoman and exemplary service to the people of Guyana and looks forward to their future contributions in their new roles. Cabinet looks forward to names being extracted from the APNU+AFC Coalition list of candidates to fill the vacancies of the MPs who have resigned their seats.”
The fact that these MP’s may be rehired was reiterated by Minister of Natural Resources and Alliance For Change (AFC) Leader Raphael Trotman, who in a broadcast alluded to the former Ministers continuing in government in other capacities.
“They are not gone altogether from government, they are only resigning from the National Assembly and as a consequence, not being Ministers, they cannot be members of cabinet,” Trotman said.
However, the AFC leader said nothing about a permanent replacement for Gaskin, who is a high ranking AFC member. He only noted that President Granger, as the keeper of portfolios, would delegate same.
“The President is the keeper and holder of all portfolios, and he distributes these as per the constitution and our agreement in the Cummingsburg Accord,” Trotman explained in his broadcast.
“So in the interim, as has happened before when Ministers were unable to attend cabinet, due to ill health or travels, other Ministers are designated by his Excellency to perform the functions. And as we speak we are having over Ministers perform the functions and cabinet continues.”
Article 155 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana states that “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.”
In February, Chief Justice Roxanne George had ruled on the case filed by Compton Reid over the dual citizenship of former AFC Member of Parliament (MP) Charrandas Persaud. In the case it brought to the Chief Justice, Government had argued that Persaud’s dual citizenship status invalidated his vote in support of the No-confidence Motion that brought the Government down.
This argument also formed part of the opinions presented to Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Barton Scotland in the hopes that he would reverse the ruling… something the Speaker ultimately refused to do.
The Court of Appeal later upheld the January High Court ruling that it is illegal for persons holding dual citizenship status to be sitting in the National Assembly. Government has been under increasing criticism, even from its own supporters, for stating that dual citizens will return to the National Assembly despite these two rulings.