More collaboration needed on constitutional reform – British Envoy

…says Constitution clear on dual citizens until reforms made

With criticisms abounding about the slow pace of constitutional reform, British High Commissioner Gregory Quinn has noted the need for a collaborative and consultative approach.

British Envoy Gregory Quinn

The British High Commissioner noted that while many persons recognise the need for constitutional reform, a more collaborative approach is needed.
“We’ve been talking about constitutional reform. In 2016 we funded a project with the Carter Center, which launched a discussion on constitutional reform. Ultimately constitutional reform has to be a Guyanese-led process. There are a lot of people who recognise work must be done on the Constitution.”
“It’s now over to the political parties to decide what needs to be done to move the process forward, if that’s what they want to do… because it has to be a consultative process. Changing the Constitution takes two-thirds of the 65 seats in Parliament. So it’s not like one party or another can direct. So they need to decide how to move that forward, if they want to move it forward.”
Asked about the recent resignations of dual citizen Members of Parliament (Minister of State Joseph Harmon, Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, Business Minister Dominic Gaskin and Public Service Minister Dr Rupert Roopnarine) from Guyana’s National Assembly, the diplomat noted that the Constitution is clear on the matter.
“The Constitution at the moment is clear about the dual citizens’ issue and the courts have ruled on that. So unless there’s a change to the Constitution, things will have to play out the way they’re currently playing out [resignations].”
“The Constitution is the supreme law of Guyana and, therefore, must be adhered to across the board. And I think that’s what we’re seeing. And that’s how it must be,” the British diplomat said.
The Ministry of the Presidency had previously announced that effective from April 1, Members of Parliament (MP’s) on the Government side that have dual citizenship have resigned and as such, would not have been returning to Parliament when it reconvenes on April 11.
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.
During a recent press conference, Trotman had said that his party wants the constitutional provisions against dual citizens sitting in the National Assembly removed through the constitutional reform process.
Over the past few years, constitutional reform has been before a parliamentary committee. There is a Constitutional Reform Commission bill that was to be examined by the committee. But there have been accusations made of members of the committee stalling the process.