Speaker should not permit dual citizens in National Assembly – Ram
…MPs should resign or renounce out of “political morality”– WPA executive
Despite recent court rulings that persons holding dual citizenship status should not be parliamentarians, the Guyana Government is preparing to return to the House with all 33 members, some of whom have dual citizenship.
Chartered Accountant and Attorney Christopher Ram has said he believes the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Barton Scotland, should not allow these dual citizen parliamentarians back in the House.
In an interview with Guyana Times on Friday, Ram said the action by the Government to return with dual citizens to Parliament is “disgraceful, unbelievable (and) contemptuous. It shows (utter) contempt and disregard for the Constitution by people of the stature of Carl Greenidge (Foreign Affairs Minister); (so) it’s hard to say how much lower we as a country can get,” Ram said.
The attorney argued that Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, as well as the Court of Appeal, has ruled that the Members of Parliament with dual citizenship should not be in Parliament.
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.” In this regard, the attorney pointed out, he believes the Police should be summoned to ensure the laws are upheld.
“They have committed a criminal offence, because to swear to an oath falsely is a criminal offence, and this is something maybe the Commissioner of Police (Leslie James) ought to be looking into,” Ram declared.
He pointed out that if an ordinary person breaks the law or operates in a similar manner, that person would be dealt with by the relevant authorities, and the politicians should be treated no differently.
“You (are) violating the Constitution, the most scared document of our country. It’s almost as if you don’t care; you smile and walk in. And if I were the Speaker (of Parliament), I may not have allowed them into the place; and he really ought not to,” Ram posited.
The attorney maintained that the Speaker of the National Assembly has ultimate power in the Public Buildings, and those Ministers are demonstrating gross disrespect towards him by pushing the Constitution aside for what he described as “selfish reasons.”
Despite the Court of Appeal last week upholding a January High Court ruling that it is illegal for persons holding dual citizenship status to be sitting in the National Assembly, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, on Friday said all Members of Parliament (MPs) on the Government’s side will return to the National Assembly until a final ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is handed down.
Resign or renounce
Meanwhile, during a recent town hall broadcast hosted by Globespan 24×7, 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 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).
“I think this is politics. They will accept the part that says they remain in office, because that’s power. They will ignore the other part and say, ‘We’ll wait until the CCJ rules and then we’ll decide if we renounce citizenship or not’.
“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 said.
According to David Hinds, the Constitution is clear about dual citizenship. However, he said, what some would call duplicity is actually politics.
But Economist Sase Singh, who also appeared on the talk show programme, noted that the line has to be drawn somewhere. He pointed out that dual citizens are not irreplaceable, and that the best thing may be for them to step aside and give youthful members of their electoral lists a chance.
Singh was critical of the fact that despite Guyana’s population being largely youthful, the majority of its parliamentary representatives are geriatrics.
“I know they say politics has its own morality,” Singh said. “But there is a minimum benchmark, and what I’m seeing from those who are holding this dual citizenship is a sense of duplicitousness. How can I trust someone like that, who basically says, ‘Okay, I will wait’? Can’t they express intent, to say they are commencing the process to give up their citizenship in the interim?”
The next sitting of the National Assembly has been scheduled for April 11.
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday accused the coalition Government of being duplicitous for accepting the Appeal Court’s ruling that the no-confidence motion was invalid, but not adhering to the court’s ruling that dual citizens are illegal in the National Assembly.
In the meantime, he posited that the Opposition will not be attending sittings of the National Assembly until the CCJ hands down its ruling on the vote of no-confidence.
The matter has been set for May 10.
At present, the People’s Progressive Party has three MPs who have dual citizenship. They are Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, who is a Canadian citizen; and Adrian Anamayah and Odinga Lumumba, who are both US citizens.
The lone Alliance For Change (AFC) MP who holds dual citizenship is Business Minister Dominic Gaskin. He was born in the United Kingdom to Guyanese parentage.
On the other hand, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) members who have dual citizenship are Minister of State, Joseph Harmon; Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge; and Minister of Public Service, Rupert Roopnaraine.
The issue concerning persons with dual citizenship in the National Assembly surfaced after former Government MP Charrandas Persaud voted in favour of a no-confidence motion which was tabled by the Opposition and passed in the National Assembly.
Government supporter Compton Reid has challenged the validity of the vote cast by Persaud in the National Assembly on the basis that he breached Article 155 of the Constitution, which debars MPs from having dual citizenship. It was this case that brought the issue to light, and the courts in Guyana eventually ruled that dual citizens are not permitted to sit as parliamentarians in Guyana.