Despite the commitments made by the government and the opposition, their Members of Parliament (MPs) with dual citizenship have yet to submit their resignations to the Speaker of the National Assembly in order to comply with recent rulings of the High Court and the Guyana Court of Appeal.
Seven dual citizens were occupying seats in the National Assembly although not being qualified to do so according to the constitution. Article 155 (1) (a) of the constitution states, “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.”
In addition to resigning, five of the seven are to renounce their foreign citizenship, according to announcements made by both government and the opposition.
The Speaker’s office yesterday confirmed that the parliamentarians – Carl Greenidge, who is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of State Joseph Harmon, Business Minister Dominic Gaskin and Public Service Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine from the government and Gail Teixeira, Odinga Lumumba and Adrian Anamayah from the opposition – have not submitted resignations.
Opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo had said previously that his members’ letters would be delivered by this week. “I suspect by next week they would all submit letters to the Speaker,” he had said at a press conference last Wednesday during which he said that the resignation is a simple process.
When contacted, Teixeira acknowledged that she has not submitted her letter but plans to do so this week. “Not as yet, [it] should go in this week,” she told Stabroek News.
One day after announcing that its dual citizenship ministers have resigned as parliamentarians, government said last Wednesday that the resignations would not take immediate effect as certain constitutional steps have to first be followed. This has raised questions as to whether the process is a complex one or whether this move is a delay tactic.
Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Public Relations Officer (PRO) Yolanda Warde outlined the process when contacted by Stabroek News yesterday afternoon. She said GECOM is the holder of the national candidates’ lists of the respective parties and if there is the resignation of a parliamentarian, the Speaker would write to the Chief Election Officer (CEO) informing him of the situation and indicating the need for a replacement. She said the CEO will then write to the representative of the respective list, indicating that a replacement needs to be identified.
Warde explained that when the replacement is identified, that name will be checked against the list and once it is confirmed that that name is on the list, the CEO will write the Speaker indicating who the replacement will be.
She said that the replacement parliamentarian is issued with a copy of the letter that is sent to the Speaker.
Parliament Office provided a similar outline of the process to Stabroek News yesterday.
Meanwhile, attorney and PPP/C MP Anil Nandlall when contacted, insisted that the process is a very simple one which could be completed in less than a day.
“Charrandass [Persaud] was resigned and replaced in less than 48 hours, so this impression that is being conveyed by the government that it is a complicated and protracted process for the replacement of MPs/ministers is a highly misleading one,” he stressed.
He said that once a parliamentarian submits a resignation letter, he/she “is out of the picture.” He said thereafter one would expect that that person would send a copy of his resignation to the leader of his list. The leader of the list, either through a request from the parliament or on his own volition, would be required to extract another name from that list and supply same to the parliament as a replacement for that resigned member, he added.
“But that can be done between 9 and 10 in the morning,” he said before reminding that opposition MPs who had previously resigned were swiftly replaced. “We did it and it didn’t last more than a day,” he added.
President David Granger, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP) last Wednesday, explained that while he has accepted the resignation of the four government MPs, “their resignations will not take effect immediately as there are several processes which have to be applied.”
“The Head of State made it clear that the replacement of Members of Parliament (MPs) can be done only when those MPs submit their letters of resignation to the Speaker of the National Assembly as is prescribed by the Constitution of Guyana,” the statement said, before outlining what it said was the processes regarding the removal of a member from the National Assembly in keeping with the Constitution.
In addition to Article 156 (1) (a), MoTP made reference to Article 156 (3), which says that a member of the National Assembly elected on a List shall cease to be a member of the Assembly, if:
(a) He or she declares in writing to the Speaker or to the Representative of the List from which his or her name was extracted that he or she will not support the List from which his or her name was extracted;
(b) He or she declares in writing to the Speaker or to the Representative of the List from which his or her name was extracted, his or her support for another List;
(c) The Representative of the List from which his or her name was extracted indicates in writing to the Speaker that after meaningful consultation with the Party or Parties that make up the List that the Party or Parties have lost confidence in that member and the representative of the List issues a written notice of recall to that member and forwards a copy of that notice to the Speaker.
Additionally, the MoTP statement observed, Article 156 (4) (a) says, “The Speaker shall declare the seat of a Member of the National Assembly vacant where – the Speaker receives a written declaration of the Member of the National Assembly as provided for in paragraph 3 (a) or (b); the Representative of the List issues a notice of recall as provided for in paragraph 3 (c).”
The statement said that the President reminded that the nomination of new members can be done only after the extraction of names from the National Top-Up list is approved by GECOM. In the circumstances, the quartet will remain ministers until the aforementioned processes are completed, it added.
“The President, moreover, has not approved replacements at this time,” the statement said, without making any mention as to how long the completion of the processes outlined are expected to take.
It would appear that government wants to have the four replaced before reconvening the National Assembly, which was due to meet this week. The sitting has since been postponed to a date yet to be announced.