…could be charged by Police – GECOM Commissioners
…another candidate under review
Just days after Nomination Day, Presidential Candidate for the United Republican Party (URP), Dr Vishnu Bandhu, has withdrawn his name from the contest after knowingly signing a statutory declaration form attesting that he was not a dual citizen when, in fact, he is.
Dr Bandhu signed the statutory declaration form on January 10, Nomination Day. On Tuesday, it emerged that he was, in fact, a dual citizen and had written to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) asking to withdraw himself from the election contest.
Article 155 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana 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 acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state”.
Section four of the Statutory Declaration Act, Chapter 5:09 states that “Everyone who makes a declaration according to this Act containing any statement false in fact, which he knows or believes to be false or does not believe to be true, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and shall be liable to imprisonment for one year”.
When asked on Tuesday what action will be taken against Dr Bandhu and whether Police will be called in, Government-nominated GECOM Commissioner Vincent Alexander conceded that this is a possibility.
“In the first instance, if Dr Bandhu is not eligible, what GECOM will essentially do is not approve him as a candidate. There is no other action GECOM will take in direct relation with Dr Bandhu,” he said, though he acknowledged that if the Police got involved, this is an indirect action on GECOM’s part.
Another candidate, who has in the past been known to be a dual citizen, is Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) Presidential Candidate Lennox Shuman. Shuman was on record last year announcing that he would be taking steps to relinquish his Canadian citizenship. When asked, Alexander noted that GECOM has no confirmation that he has completed the relinquishment process.
“We have not verified that he has relinquished his citizenship. He’s advised us, by virtue of information in the public domain. What GECOM will do is seek further clarification from him,” Alexander explained.
Meanwhile, Opposition-nominated GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj was also asked about the situation with Dr Bandhu. While he indicated that Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield has been instructed to follow up the matter, he steered clear of confirming if the Police would be called in.
“I think it is URP that has indicated that the Presidential Candidate is a dual citizen. And he has indicated a desire to withdraw from the process as a candidate,” Gunraj said, also confirming that Dr Bandhu did sign the statutory declaration form on Nomination Day.
The Commissioner was asked what would be GECOM’s course of action, since Dr Bandhu by signing the declaration form while knowing he was a dual citizen, despite what the law says about dual citizens running for high office. He was also asked what mechanism GECOM has in place to weed out dual citizens.
“We have given certain instructions to the Chief Elections Officer, which we have every confidence he will implement,” was all Gunraj would say, declining to confirm whether the Police have been called in.
“The Commission does not have a mechanism to verify one’s citizenship. What do we do? Do we write to all 200 countries in the world to inquire whether (candidates) are citizens of those countries? I’m not sure if we can do that. There is the statutory declaration and there are certain ramifications as a result of a false declaration”.
When asked about Change Guyana’s former Prime Ministerial candidate, Nigel Hinds, Gunraj indicated that Hinds did not offer himself up as a candidate on Nomination Day. As a consequence, he is in the clear.