“I have done nothing illegal” – Tourism Minister on APNU/AFC legal proceedings
Tourism, Industry, and Commerce Minister Oneidge Waldron, whose appointment as a Minister and Member of the National Assembly is being challenged in the High Court by the Opposition – APNU/AFC – has asserted that she has full legal right to sit as a parliamentarian.
Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones is seeking to have Walrond removed from the National Assembly, as the coalition claims she was still a citizen of the United States of America when she took the Oath of Office of Minister of Government and member of the National Assembly.
Article 155 (1) of the Constitution bars dual citizens from being elected as members of the National Assembly. It also stipulates a penalty for dual citizens sitting as Members of Parliament which is the daily imposition of a fine.
However, on the sidelines of an event on Friday, Minister Walrond said that she is convinced that she has the full legal right to sit in the National Assembly. “I have done nothing illegal and I continue to sit in the National Assembly as a legal representative. The act of renunciation is a unilateral act. The legal standard is when a citizen has done all that is within her power to renounce,” Walrond said on Friday.
She disclosed that she paid a substantial fee of over $500,000 to complete the process. Walrond said, too, that she is cognisant that the matter is now engaging the attention of the court, and as an attorney-at-law, she will refrain from speaking too much on the legal arguments.
The Tourism Minister, however, added, “I don’t want a trial in the public but suffice to say that I am confident that I have done everything in my power to act morally. The attempt to besmirch my character has not gone unnoticed.”
Minister Walrond had previously said that she was mindful of the constitutional provision which prohibits dual citizens from sitting in the National Assembly, and as such, sought legal advice.
The Minister stated that even though she was informed that this provision did not apply to her, out of an abundance of caution, she decided to renounce her US citizenship.
“I wrote to the US Consular Office on August 18, 2020, renouncing my citizenship to the United States of America with immediate effect. I was thereof informed of the administrative procedure I 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.
Nonetheless, APNU/AFC is insisting that the Minister must resign.
The APNU/AFC said that documents obtained from the Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, confirm that the Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States bearing Walrond’s name shows that she took the oath of renunciation, an expatriating act on September 4, 2020, three days after she was sworn in as a parliamentarian.
According to the APNU/AFC, Consular Section Chief of the United States of America Embassy in Georgetown subscribed her name and seal of her office on September 4, 2020. The coalition said that the Tourism Minister’s Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States was approved on September 8, 2020, by the Overseas Citizens Services of the Department of State.
Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir was previously reported as saying that Walrond’s renunciation was “acceptable.”
Already, US Embassy spokeswoman Violeta Talandis had explained in the media that loss of citizenship occurs when an American citizen takes the Oath of Renunciation before a consular officer, not when the Loss of Nationality Certificate is issued.
“When they appear before the consular officer (loss of citizenship occurs). It’s under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, Section 349, Section 5 (a),” Talandis had explained.
United States’ Immigration and Naturalization Act Section 349 (a) (5) states that “a person who is a national of the United States whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily…making a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign state, in such form as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State.”
In the court action directed to Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, Nadir and Walrond, the APNU/AFC MP is seeking a declaration that Walrond is not a lawful member of the National Assembly. The coalition is further seeking another declaration that she is not a lawfully appointed Government Minister.
Also, the APNU/AFC is seeking a court order directing the Speaker of the National Assembly to prevent the Tourism Minister from sitting in and/or participating in the business of the 12th Parliament of Guyana.