Minister of State Joseph Harmon today announced that the National Assembly will be reconvened on April 11th.
During a post-Cabinet press briefing earlier today, Harmon also said that all government Members of Parliament (MPs) with be in attendance.
The National Assembly has not met since January 3rd in wake of the no-confidence vote against government, which is currently being appealed at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). The opposition PPP/C has said it would not be attending any sitting of the National Assembly until after the CCJ rules.
Harmon was today asked about government MPs with dual citizenship, which includes him, in light of the finding by both the High Court and Court of Appeal that former government MP Charrandass Persaud was not eligible to be elected to the National Assembly due to his having Canadian citizenship.
According to Article 155 (1) (a) of the Constitution, “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.”
As a result of the findings by both courts, opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo has declared that the PPP/C MPs who are dual citizens would give up their foreign citizenship and he has criticised the APNU+AFC administration for not adopting a similar position, although it has said it is abiding by the rulings of the courts.
However, Harmon said dual citizenship is still being looked at and that Cabinet has not yet made a decision on the way forward.
Harmon, who is a United States citizen, is among four government MPs who hold dual citizenship. The others are Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Public Service Dr Rupert Roopnaraine and Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin, who all hold British citizenship.
Greenidge on Thursday noted that the pronouncements of both the Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal are the subject of public debate and are being considered by lawyers. “Not all aspects of all the decisions are either clear or do they find agreement in all quarters, so I am not in a position to say more than that at this point in time,” he said.
Asked if he will be in Parliament if it reconvenes in two weeks, he said that he will deal with that issue when that time comes. “Nothing happens with me…I am not going to say anything about that now. It’s something I am getting advice on and as regards the attendance you will know either on the day or close to the date,” he added.
The minister said that while those who are not so well informed are focusing on dual citizenship, the legislation and the point on which the lawyers are concentrating on has to do with the ones who have sworn allegiance to a foreign state. He said that the question of what constitutes swearing allegiance arises.
“There are lots of dimensions that are unclear,” he stressed, before adding that one of the terrible things about Guyana is that there are people who just “jump on the bandwagon” without stopping to look at all of the elements of the issue.
He said that on the one hand it is being argued that as a dual citizen a person has no right in the National Assembly and, therefore, cannot vote but on the other hand a dual citizen who has not only entered the Assembly but has voted would have a vote upheld, although the vote was cast unconstitutionally. “That is a contradiction in law. Either the vote should not be counted or it should and it can’t be that Charrandass’s vote counts but mine doesn’t. How can that be? Or because he is a non-citizen but mine can’t be counted in future. So there are contradictions in there that needs sorting out,” he said.
The issue of MPs holding dual citizenship took centre stage once again following the vote by Persaud, then an APNU+AFC parliamentarian, which resulted in the opposition PPP/C’s no-confidence motion against government being declared passed on December 21st on a vote of 33 to 32.