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Dual citizen gov’t ministers unlikely to be removed – Attorney General

Attorney General Basil Williams

Guyana’s Attorney General Basil Williams on Wednesday suggested that the four government ministers, who are dual citizens, would not be removed from the National Assembly.

He referred to several references by Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire in her decision on the no-confidence motion that dual citizen parliamentarians could only be removed from the House by an elections petition. The 28-days window within which to file an elections petition after the 2015 general and regional elections have long gone.

“That appears to be the effect of the decision but we would look at it more in-depth,” he said, when asked whether the dual citizen parliamentarians would remain. He noted that the Chief Justice has said the parliamentarians could voluntarily vacate their seats in keeping with Guyana’s constitution.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge

The Attorney General recalled that the Chief Justice said in her decision on January 31 that “if you have dual citizenship you are in breach of Article 155” of Guyana’s constitution but under Article 156 (1)(b) “you have a discretion to vacate the office but she always adds that if anyone is going to challenge the validity of the member to remain in the House, they could only do that by way of an election petition”.

The dual citizen government ministers are Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who is a Guyanese-American as well as Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge and Minister of Public Service, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine all of whom are British citizens.

Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said if the National Assembly has to meet again to discuss elections-related matters, his People’s Progressive Party (PPP) would replace its dual citizen parliamentarians.

They are Guyanese-Canadian Gail Teixeira, as well as Guyanese-Americans Adrian Annamayah and Odinga Lumumba.

Political commentator, Attorney-at-Law Christopher Ram has since complained to Police Commissioner, Leslie James about the presence of the several dual citizens on both the government and opposition benches. He has called on the Police Commissioner to probe whether they had falsified their declarations as candidates.

The issue stemmed from then government parliamentarian Charrandass Persaud, a Guyanese-Canadian, voting in favour of the Jagdeo-sponsored no-confidence motion securing a passage of 33 to 32 in the 65-seat National Assembly.

Public Service Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine

The Chief Justice has ruled that the motion was validly passed and that although Persaud should not have been a candidate and a member of parliament, the constitution saves all decisions he has participated in because the proceedings are still valid.

The Attorney General has since asked the Court of Appeal to grant a stay of the Chief Justice’s decision and a conservatory order to preserve the President and Cabinet in office before the 90-day period within which general elections should be held following the passage of a no-confidence motion.

The stay of the decision and the conservatory order, he has said, would be pending the hearing of appeals locally and the Caribbean Court of Justice in relation to decisions on the no-confidence motion.

The Chief Justice’s decisions have since been appealed to the Guyana Court of Appeal.