On December 21, 2018, the APNU/AFC coalition Government was defeated by a no-confidence motion moved by the Opposition, PPP/C in the National Assembly. The Government is refusing to resign and fix a date for National & Regional Elections which they are bound to do under the relevant provisions of the Constitution of Guyana.
Instead, they have decided to challenge the validity of the vote cast in favor of the motion by one of their own, Charrandas Persaud, on the grounds of his dual citizenship to Canada, and that 33 votes do not constitute the majority required to pass such a motion.
The matter is pending in the High Court. Therefore, I will refrain from commenting on the issues of law involved but will address the lack of political morality so vital to democratic politics which underlies the legal challenges. I will deal with the dual citizenship argument in this article. In another, I will address the 33 votes/majority contention.
The provision in the Constitution which prohibits a person who swore allegiance to a foreign state from becoming a Member of Parliament, has been in the Constitution, possibly, since Independence. However, over the years, every political party has deliberately turned a blind eye to it and persons with dual citizenship have always been extracted from the lists of political parties and permitted to sit in the National Assembly without objections from anyone. Of course, this includes the 11th Parliament of Guyana, which have such persons on both sides of the political aisle.
Charrandas Persaud is one such person. His name was placed on their list by the APNU+AFC and extracted from that list to sit in the National Assembly by the APNU+AFC. It must be assumed that they knew or ought to have known of his citizenship in Canada and the constitutional implications. After the 2015 elections, they have used Persaud’s vote to pass every budget and every piece of legislation since, including the 2019 budget, which was passed in a matter of days prior to the No-Confidence Motion.
Indeed, from all their public pronouncements prior to and during the debate of the No-Confidence Motion, it was abundantly clear that they were relying on Persaud’s vote to pass the very Motion. However, when Persaud voted against them, they now want to denounce the validity of that vote by relying on that provision of the Constitution in an attempt to disqualify him from being a member on the ground of his dual citizenship. So, having agreed to the rules of the game, when they lose, they are refusing to accept the results by questioning the very rules by which they agreed to be bound. This is not only duplicity and political hypocrisy at its worst, but it destroys the possibility of any political force, or anyone, being able to genuinely trust and have any lasting political relationship or alliance of any type with APNU+AFC. It demonstrates their willingness to do anything and everything possible, regardless of its consequences to the welfare of our people and the national interest, to satisfy their thirst for political power.
I must emphasise that if they succeed, it means that all the budgets passed since 2015 to now and all the Bills passed, were unlawful. The implications and consequences of this on the nation are both irreversible and immeasurable. But they seem not to care!
However, this is not a new ploy for the PNC. They have an indisputable track record of doing anything possible to keep political power. Their years of rigging elections, before 1992, their refusal to accept the results of elections certified to be free and fair, post 1992, their agreement to the use of a voter ID card for the 1997 elections and then challenging the legal validity of those elections on the ground of the use of that very ID card, all exemplify this ploy as a permanent part of their political modus operandi.
The fact that the legal challenge is being brought in the name of a citizen and not in the name of the main political architects fools no one. The Attorney General is on record boasting about his and the Government’s role in these proceedings. In any event, the legal challenge to the 1997 elections was also done by a citizen at the instance of the PNC. So this is not new either.
Fortunately, this time around I do not think they will succeed for the law is not on their side.
Mohabir Anil Nandlall,