Tourism Minister renounced US citizenship before becoming MP
Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister Oneidge Walrond made it pellucid on Saturday that she renounced her United States (US) Citizenship prior to taking the Oath of Office as a Member of Parliament (MP).
On Saturday, Walrond explained that she renounced her citizenship and received a Certificate of Loss of Nationality, before she took the oath of the National Assembly on September 1, 2020.
“I wrote to the US Consular Office on August 18, 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,” Minister Walrond said, as the Opposition – APNU/AFC- continues to peddle the narrative that she is a dual citizen.
In fact, Walrond revealed that she received legal advice that as a Technocrat Minister, Article 155 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana would not exclude her from being an MP while also being a dual citizen, since this provision speaks to the qualification of an MP for “election” to the National Assembly.
Walrond was never on the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) candidates’ list, but rather was appointed as a Technocrat Minister. However, the Minister noted that she still took the step to resign “out of an abundance of caution.”
“On August 5, I was invited by His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali to serve in his Cabinet. I accepted because I consider the opportunity to serve my people and my country at this capacity as both an honour and privilege. As an Attorney-at-Law and being mindful of my (then) status as a US Citizen, I sought the counsel of other attorneys on whether the sections of the Constitution prohibiting elected members from being dual citizens applied to me as a Technocrat Minister.”
“Despite advice that this provision did not extend to technocrats, out of an abundance of caution, I decided to renounce my citizenship to put the matter beyond all doubt and avoid any distraction to the good work of the Government,” the Tourism Minister, who is a former Magistrate, explained.
Even though Walrond has given up her citizenship, the Opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has insisted that she must take the further step of resigning.
During the press conference, APNU’s MP Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde pointed to Articles 103 (3) and 155 (1), to support his contention that Walrond should resign. According to Forde, the Opposition will consider instituting legal proceedings.
Article 103 (3) of the Constitution of Guyana states that the President is allowed to appoint “not more than four Ministers and two Parliamentary Secretaries shall be appointed by the President from among persons who are qualified to be elected as member of the National Assembly.”
Article 155 (1) of the Constitution meanwhile 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 (dual citizen).”
In an invited comment, however, Attorney General Anil Nandlall lambasted APNU/AFC for misconstruing what the Constitution says. According to Nandlall, Article 155 (1) speaks to elected MPs and not Technocrat Ministers, who have no rights to vote.
“Every time the APNU/AFC speaks about constitutional violations, they remind the world of their inglorious track record of trampling upon the Constitution for five successive years and attempting to steal the Government, between 3rd March 2020 to 2nd August 2020,” Nandlall stated.
“Now, they are desperately attempting to create a constitutional storm in a teacup. A proper construction of Article 155 of the Constitution clearly establishes that it only applies to elected members of the National Assembly, of which Minister Oneidge Walrond is not. Minister Waldron was appointed a Technocrat Minister and sits in the National Assembly by virtue of that appointment only, as an un-elected member.”
Nandlall reminded that even though the provision did not apply to her, Walrond still made a commendable decision to relinquish her citizenship prior to taking the Oath of Office as an MP. He, therefore, questioned why the Opposition was seeking to get political mileage out of a non-issue.
The issue of dual citizenship came up after December 21, 2018, when Alliance For Change (AFC) MP Charrandas Persaud voted in favour of the No-Confidence Motion, which toppled and effectively led to the booting of the former APNU/AFC coalition from Government.
The former Government used Persaud’s dual citizenship as a weapon in its arsenal seeking to overturn the No-Confidence Motion, arguing that Persaud was not qualified to be in the National Assembly and as such, his vote in favour of the motion was invalid.
In February of 2019, acting Chief Justice Roxane George had ruled on the case filed by Compton Reid over the dual citizenship of Persaud. While she ruled that the No-Confidence Motion was validly passed, Justice George reaffirmed Article 155 (1) of the Constitution – that Persaud was not eligible to be elected as an MP.
In the new dispensation of the twelfth Parliament, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Gail Teixeira and Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon, two of the several MPs who were flagged as dual citizens last year, both submitted proof that they renounced their citizenships. They have since returned to the National Assembly. (G3)