The Alliance For Change (AFC) on Wednesday said the party had asked expelled parliamentarian, Charrandas Persaud and other candidates whether they were foreign citizens, but Persaud never admitted to being a Canadian.
“My predecessor and the other persons that were asked have confirmed that at a point in time the party did ask about citizenship and part of that is a constitutional requirement and they all declared that they weren’t dual citizens,” AFC General Secretary Marlon Williams told a news conference.
The AFC said none of its 11 members of parliament has sworn allegiance to a foreign state and only Minister of State, Dominic Gaskin is a Briton by birth and Guyanese by descent.
With Persaud having publicly admitted that he had been contacting a number of gold dealers on behalf of clients about the sale of gold and where the payment would be uplifted, the AFC suggested that there was circumstantial evidence to link that to his vote for the no-confidence motion. In the absence of details or strength of the evidence, AFC Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan was asked whether the politicians were not attempting to save face by claiming there were improprieties. “You just have to believe the politicians. If you don’t want to believe the politicians that’s the problem. You just also have to believe the Commissioner of Police. The Commissioner of Police said that an investigation is going on,” he said.
Ramjattan, who is also Minister of Public Security, said Persaud on all his overseas travels had used his Guyana Passport but on leaving Guyana on December 22, 2018 – the day after he voted for an opposition – sponsored no-confidence motion – used his Canadian passport.
Ramjattan guardedly admitted that the Special Branch intelligence arm of the Guyana Police Force overlooked Persaud’s plans. “In relation to the Special Branch and all of that, sometimes, yes, you can have that being missed. You don’t necessarily chastise people for missing information. The Great America had two big planes landing in two big buildings in New York,” he said.
Told that he transferred his law practice and bought an airline ticket days before, Ramjattan said “now we are knowing that. I don’t know if we have to now go and check on all the parliamentarians to find out whatever it is. Probably I should but the trouble is that when you speak to Charrandas he was that kind of fella that was giving you all the right answers that it was not going to be him.”
Ramjattan also accused Opposition PPP Leader Bharrat Jagdeo who had filed the no-confidence motion in mid-November 2018 of all along knowing that he had secured Persaud’s ‘Yes’ vote from among the 33 government parliamentarians. “The deduction must be made that Bharrat Jagdeo had Charrandas in the bag for some time before they could have come with a no-confidence motion. It is inevitable that that deduction be made,” he said.
On the issue of what the implications are for other dual citizen parliamentarians such as Minister of State Joseph Harmon, an American, Minister of Public Service Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine and Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge, both Britons, the AFC Leader said separate legal proceedings would have to be brought for their removal.
“The lawyers, I think, will be in the best position to answer that. My understanding from the argument from the [Compton] Reid analysis is this: That if you were a dual citizen, there are certain implications that you would have voided or vitiated your parliamentary status from the very inception and as such that vote in the no-confidence ought not to count so it will go back to a 32-32 scenario if it does not count. If the court now rules, by virtue of all the evidence this case has brought from Reid that he [Charrandas] has dual citizenship, it will apply to him. They will probably have to bring another case against the rest to neutralise theirs but that’s what I understand from the Reid case that Charrandas is what they are getting at,” he said.
Reid, a private citizen, has asked the High Court to quash Persaud’s ‘Yes’ vote on the grounds that it was unconstitutional in the first place because he was ineligible to be a candidate and participate in the proceedings of the National Assembly and vote because he is a foreign national.
The High Court plans to rule on three related cases concerning the validity of the passage of the no-confidence motion.