“I wouldn’t allow anyone to rush me” – Clerk of National Assembly
In the face of an ultimatum by the APNU/AFC Opposition, Clerk of the National Assembly, Sherlock Isaacs, has said he would not be rushed by anyone regarding Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister Oneidge Walrond’s renunciation of her American citizenship, as he awaits legal advice on the matter.
According to Isaacs, he dispatched a letter to his lawyer on Monday for legal advice on this issue. The Clerk noted that while he requested that the matter be dealt with expeditiously, there was no deadline given to the lawyer, hence there is no telling when the lawyer would respond.
After concerns were raised over her appointment as a Government Member of the Assembly, sitting as a technocrat minister, Walrond last month had 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.
Despite this, however, the APNU/AFC Opposition has been calling for Minister Walrond’s resignation, claiming that she violated the Constitution, which prohibits persons holding dual citizenship from sitting in the National Assembly.
In fact, the Coalition wrote Parliament on Tuesday, issuing an ultimatum that the Clerk make public the release of Walrond’s Certification of Renunciation of US Citizenship within 24 hours or legal action would be taken. The Opposition is insisting that the information released by the Minister indicates that she is not qualified to be appointed a member of the National Assembly, consequently representing a breach of the Constitution of Guyana.
However, Isaacs has told Guyana Times that he received the letter from Opposition MP Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde only on Thursday, requesting that the Certificate be made public and sent to the Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon.
According to the Clerk of the National Assembly, while he has released the renunciation certificates of other Members of Parliament, this particular case is not as straightforward as it seems.
“I wouldn’t allow anybody or anyone to rush me into this, because I know what would be the next step. So, I’m being careful, and when I receive the legal advice, then I will make it public and send it to the Leader of the Opposition,” Isaacs posited.
Minister Walrond was never on the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) candidates’ list, but rather was appointed as a Technocrat Minister. However, the Minister noted that she still took the step of renouncing her second citizenship “out of an abundance of caution.”
She explained in a statement on October 25 that after she was invited by President Dr Irfaan Ali to serve in his Cabinet on August 5 – the same day she was sworn in as a Minister – she sought legal advice and was told 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.
“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.
Walrond went on to say that she wrote to the US Consular Office on August 18, renouncing her citizenship of the United States of America with immediate effect, and was informed of the administrative procedure that she must comply with in order to obtain a Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States.
She added that she complied with that process by August 27, and have since received her Certificate.
However, even as the Coalition Opposition continues to peddle the narrative that Walrond is a dual citizen, a United States (US) Embassy official in Georgetown has since disclosed that according to the Immigration and Naturalization Act, Section 349, Minister Walrond lost her American citizenship when she appeared before a consular officer to take her Oath of Renunciation.
US Embassy spokeswoman Violeta Talandis told this newspaper on Tuesday that loss of citizenship occurs when an American citizen takes the Oath of Renunciation before a consular officer, not when the Loss of Nationality Certificate is issued.
“When they appear before the consular officer (loss of citizenship occurs). It’s under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, Section 349, Section 5 (a),” Talandis explained to this publication.
The United States’ Immigration and Naturalization Act, Section 349 (a)(5), states that “a person who is a national of the United States, whether by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily…making a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign state, in such form as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State.”