Chairman of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan prefers dual citizens to resign in keeping with decisions by Guyana’s Court of Appeal that they ought not to have been there in the first place, and People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) parliamentarian Juan Edghill hopes the government will first replace its dual citizens.
The issue surfaced in December 2018 when then government parliamentarian, Guyanese-Canadian Charrandass Persaud voted for an Opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion. The High Court subsequently ruled that he ought not to have been a candidate and even a parliamentarian because the Constitution prohibits such persons who swear allegiance to a foreign power.
Opposition PPPC Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, a Guyanese-Canadian, earlier this month unambiguously stated that she would be resigning from the 65-seat National Assembly at its next sitting and would be renouncing her Canadian citizenship.
Appearing on GlobeSpan24x7’s weekly talk show/town-hall meeting, Ramjattan said while the issue would have to be discussed by the Cabinet, he believes that dual citizens on the government side should give up their seats as a mark of political goodwill and commitment to the provisions of Guyana’s Constitution.
“In my view here, logic might indeed mean they would have to resign. I don’t know what might happen but if I had my way that would be the natural course of events unless they renounce their citizenship from those countries there overseas,” he said. He added that logically, “there is a resignation mode” that would have to be operationalised.
The Guyana Court of Appeal last Friday upheld the High Court’s decision that the dual citizenship of a number of parliamentarians could have been challenged by way of an elections petition. The deadline for filing such a petition was in 2015 when the APNU+AFC won the elections.
Edghill challenged the coalition to first replace its dual citizen MPs-Guyanese-American, Joseph Harmon and Guyanese-Britons Carl Greenidge, Rupert Roopnaraine and Dominic Gaskin. The PPPC’s dual citizen MPs are Teixeira, and Guyanese-Americans Odinga Lumumba and Adrian Anamayah.
“I think the government must lead the way. Every dual citizen, who sits in Parliament, must now resign. The government should lead the way,” he said. According to Edghill, who is also Bishop of the Outreach Ministries International, the government should morally first withdraw its dual citizen MPs because the State had challenged the validity of Charrandass Persaud’s vote on, among other contentions, his dual citizenship which had invalidated his vote.
“When you were caught in a bind with Charrandass’ vote that caused your government to be toppled, one of the grounds on which you challenged that action was his dual citizenship,” Edghill added. Asked if the government does not first withdraw its dual citizens from the House, what would the PPPC do, he said his party would “never take a pattern” from the governing coalition. “I think the PPP must stand by its word and we have a moral obligation to stand by what we say,” he said.
Ramjattan, a well-known Attorney-at-law, contended that the proceedings were saved and not Persaud’s vote. He said the National Assembly would be convened between now and when the CCJ makes a final determination because the Guyana Court of Appeal by a majority of 2-1 invalidated the no-confidence motion because it should have been passed by an absolute majority of 34 instead of 33 votes.
“We are going to use our authority there until the CCJ [Caribbean Court of Justice] says that it is wrong,” Ramjattan said.
He reasoned that if the CCJ rules that the no-confidence motion was validly passed with 33 votes, a consequential order would also be issued for general elections to be held by a certain time and validate acts under the doctrine of necessity.