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AFC wants constitution amended to permit dual citizenship MPs; APNU’s to renounce theirs

Raphael Trotman

The Alliance For Change (AFC) wants Guyana’s constitutional reform process to make a place for dual citizenship holders to allow the country to tap into the huge human resource reservoir of Guyanese who are also nationals of other countries, party leader Raphael Trotman said Wednesday.

Optimistic that the AFC would secure the support of the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Trotman said the time has come for Guyana to take “a second look” at the role the diaspora could play in the country’s affairs or “it is going to cause damage”.

“I think that they (dual nationals) have a right to be represented in the National Assembly and I am applauding the fact that my colleagues, as I read, would be making attempts to renounce their citizenship,” he told a news conference at the AFC’s headquarters, Centre for Change, Railway Embankment Road, Kitty.

The coalition-led administration has not kept its election campaign promise of constitutional reform which is the responsibility of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo who is a key figure in the AFC.

The Ministry of the Presidency earlier Wednesday announced that the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Members of Parliament (MPs) – Guyanese-Britons Carl Greenidge and Rupert Roopnaraine and Guyanese-American Joseph Harmon – would be renouncing their foreign citizenship.

President David Granger reportedly said that although he has accepted the resignations of the trio and Alliance For Change (AFC) parliamentarian – Briton-Guyanese Dominic Gaskin – their exit from the 65-seat House would not take effect until they submit their resignations to House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland.

The Guyana government has said the National Assembly would meet on April 11.

Gaskin, who was born in the United Kingdom (UK) would not be renouncing his UK citizenship. The AFC said Gaskin, six weeks ago, had indicated his intention to resign.

Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin

Trotman, who had participated in a constitutional reform process after the Herdmanston Accord, contended that Guyana needs to do as much as it could to unlock the participation of Guyanese engineers and other experts in the country’s emerging oil and gas sector.

Referring to Article 155 (1) (a) of the Constitution which states that “No person shall be qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly who is, by virtue of his or her own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state,” Trotman said “This article in the constitution is doing Guyana a disservice and, therefore, it needs to be amended.”

The issue of dual citizenship was brought to the front-burner on December 21, 2018 when then AFC member, Guyanese-Canadian Charrandass Persaud, had controversially sided with the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) to approve a no-confidence motion of 33-32.

While the Guyana Court of Appeal struck down the High Court’s decision that the motion was validly passed on the basis that it required an absolute majority of 34 votes instead of 33, it upheld the lower court’s finding that Persaud’s vote was legitimate because the proceedings were still valid and saved by another constitutional provision.

AFC DEFECTOR: Charrandass Persaud.

The AFC Leader said his party would continue to push for a revision of the constitution to allow for greater participation in Guyana’s affairs by dual citizenship holders. He sounded a note of optimism that such a change was expected to attract bipartisan support. “Let’s believe that the People’s Progressive Party itself would wish to have included in its fold persons who may have more than one passport,” said Trotman, who is also Minister of Natural Resources.

The PPP has said Guyanese-Canadian Gail Teixeira and Guyanese-American Odinga Lumumba plan to surrender their foreign citizenship. Leader of the recently-formed Liberty and Justice Party, Lenox Shuman had said he had already started the process to relinquish his Canadian citizenship.

Teixeira recently told a public forum organised by the non-governmental organisation, Reform, Inform, Sustain Educate (RISE) Guyana that the time has come for the country to “have a conversation” on the constitutional provision that bars persons, who swear allegiance to a foreign power, from being candidates or parliamentarians. She said, as it stands, the constitution is basically telling dual citizenship holders that they could invest in Guyana but never hold elected office.

PPP Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira

“That is a debate that I think, as a people, we need to have because it is OK for Gail Teixeira to resign from Parliament and renounce and maybe I’ll go back in,  maybe I won’t, but you have a generation coming down the road… those children are going to reach an age that they are going to want to get elected as MPs and when you dishonour them, there is going to be a problem so I think we have to look at this issue not only from a legal-constitutional but from a social-political aspect for the future,” she said.

Teixeira who is the Opposition PPP’s Chief Whip said of Guyana’s more than 700,000 persons, a large percentage of them are Guyanese who are also Trinidadians, Brazilians, Venezuelans, Americans, Canadians, British and other foreign citizens.