Replacement MPs likely by next sitting – PNCR Vice Chairman
In the wake of the surprise resignations of four Ministers who are members of Parliament, at least two of the parties have confirmed that the process to select replacements will begin as soon as possible.
Speaking with Guyana Times in an exclusive interview, People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Vice Chairman and Social Cohesion Minister, Dr George Norton, confirmed that his party will have replacements for Minister of State Joseph Harmon and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, by the time the National Assembly reconvenes.
“That (selection) will be done from the list,” the Minister said, adding that the process to replace his party’s two MPs will begin shortly and that “we all got the news this morning.”
While Dr Norton could not speak on behalf of the other parties in the coalition, he confirmed that the PNCR members who resigned as parliamentarians are also no longer serving in their capacity as Ministers.
Meanwhile, Working People’s Alliance (WPA) representative in Parliament, Public Service Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, is another MP who hung up his gloves rather than renounce his citizenship (United Kingdom, in this case).
When contacted, WPA Chairperson Tabitha Sarabo-Halley also confirmed that the process to fill Dr Roopnaraine’s shoes will commence shortly. In fact, she noted that her party will be meeting by this weekend to determine the way forward. She was also optimistic that a meeting with Dr Roopnaraine himself would shed some more light on exactly what transpired.
Article 183 of the Constitution of Guyana says “the office of any Minister shall become vacant if that person ceases to be a member of the National Assembly for any cause other than the dissolution of Parliament.”
In addition, 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 Roxane 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.
According to the CJ, by swearing allegiance to another State, a dual citizen is not qualified to be elected to serve in the National Assembly. But Charrandas was not the only one. In the Opposition camp, Chief Whip Teixeira has already indicated her willingness to renounce her citizenship.
In addition, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said that dual citizens will not be returning to the National Assembly when it convenes. He also made a commitment that dual citizens on candidate electoral lists submitted by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) to stand for Parliament will be a thing of the past.
Only recently, Chartered Accountant and Attorney Christopher Ram has said he believes the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, should not allow dual citizen parliamentarians back in the House.
The Government has set April 11 for the reconvening of the sitting of the National Assembly and Ram had contended that the action by the Government to return with dual citizens to Parliament (as communicated by former Minister of State Joseph Harmon) was “disgraceful, unbelievable (and) contemptuous”.
In addition, Working People’s Alliance (WPA) Executive, Dr David Hinds noted that, in the interest of “political morality”, dual citizens in the National Assembly should make a choice between renouncing their dual citizenship and resigning from the House.
He had labelled as ‘politics’ the fact that the coalition Government would pick and choose which parts of the recent Court of Appeal ruling it would adhere to (that the No-confidence Motion against it was not validly passed), and which to delay acting upon (that dual citizens cannot be Members of Parliament).
“Politicians think about power and what that means for them. Political morality doesn’t figure in too much…I think political morality say’s that they should either renounce their citizenship or resign,” he had said.