Har­mon’s dual cit­i­zen­ship un­der­lines gov’t hypocrisy - Nand­lall

Stabroek News - - Letters -

With at least four per­sons with dual cit­i­zen­ship hold­ing top po­si­tions in its gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing Min­is­ter of State Joseph Har­mon, for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Anil Nan­dall says the APNU+AFC coali­tion should say what it in­tends to do as it is du­plic­i­tous and hyp­o­crit­i­cal to only zoom in on Char­ran­dass Per­saud’s sta­tus.

“This is just hyp­o­crit­i­cal and du­plic­i­tous,” Nand­lall told Stabroek News yes­ter­day.

Re­fer­ring to an ar­ti­cle in yes­ter­day’s Sun­day Stabroek where Har­mon con­firmed that he holds dual cit­i­zen­ship, Nand­lall lauded the Min­is­ter for his hon­esty but said that he is one of four per­sons who sit on the front benches on gov­ern­ment’s side with dual cit­i­zen­ship.

While Har­mon has ad­mit­ted to be­ing a dual cit­i­zen, hold­ing both United States and Guyana cit­i­zen­ship, he would not de­tail if he trav­els on the for­mer coun­try’s pass­port or if he would give up that cit­i­zen­ship if called on.

The is­sue of MPs hold­ing dual cit­i­zen­ship took cen­tre stage once again fol­low­ing a 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.

Fol­low­ing the vote, Per­saud, who has Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship, so­licited the help of the Cana­dian High Com­mis­sion and his close friend Peter Ram­sa­roop to safely leave the coun­try and left us­ing that coun­try’s pass­port.

As a re­sult, a le­gal chal­lenge has been filed by a pri­vate cit­i­zen, Comp­ton Her­bert Reid, who con­tends that by virtue of his cit­i­zen­ship dis­qual­i­fy­ing him as an MP, Per­saud was not el­i­gi­ble to vote on the no-con­fi­dence mo­tion.

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.”

Nan­dall pointed out that Har­mon would have un­der­taken “in­nu­mer­able” du­ties as a gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive and par­lia­men­tar­ian, where his lat­ter role was so in­te­gral to de­ci­sion mak­ing, to re­verse them now would be “dis­as­trous”. The same can be said, ac­cord­ing to Nan­dall, of the du­ties of the high rank­ing APNU+AFC par­lia­men­tar­i­ans.

“One of the most im­por­tant func­tionar­ies in the gov­ern­ment, and the per­son who speaks for the Pres­i­dent in the Na­tional As­sem­bly is one of those per­son. At least Mr. Har­mon has the de­cency to ad­mit pub­licly,” Nand­lall said.

“Mr. Har­mon would have per­formed in­nu­mer­able im­por­tant na­tional func­tions and would have ex­e­cuted in­nu­mer­able cru­cial con­tracts and made in­nu­mer­able fun­da­men­tal ap­point­ments to pub­lic of­fices. If one is to chal­lenge all these ac­tions of Mr. Har­mon, in the same ground that they are chal­leng­ing Char­ran­dass’ ap­point­ment to the Na­tional As­sem­bly, the con­se­quences would be dis­as­trous,” he added.

He pointed out that the pro­vi­sion in the Con­sti­tu­tion which pro­hibits a per­son who swore al­le­giance to a for­eign state from be­com­ing a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, has been in the Con­sti­tu­tion, pos­si­bly, since In­de­pen­dence but ev­ery po­lit­i­cal party has “turned a blind eye” to it and there had never be­fore been any ob­jec­tions. “Of course, this in­cludes the 11th Par­lia­ment of Guyana, which have such per­sons on both sides of the po­lit­i­cal aisle,” he said.

It is only be­cause of Per­saud’s vote that gov­ern­ment has now ob­jected, Nand­lall says.

Ex­tracted

“Char­ran­dass Per­saud is one of such per­sons. His name was placed on their list by the APNU+AFC and ex­tracted from that list to sit in the Na­tional As­sem­bly by the APNU+AFC. It must be as­sumed that they knew or ought to have known of his cit­i­zen­ship of Canada and the con­sti­tu­tional im­pli­ca­tions. Af­ter the 2015 elec­tions, they have used Per­saud’s vote to pass ev­ery bud­get and ev­ery piece of leg­is­la­tion since, in­clud­ing the 2019 bud­get, which was passed in a mat­ter of days prior to the No­Con­fi­dence Mo­tion. In­deed, from all their pub­lic pro­nounce­ments prior to and dur­ing the de­bate of the No-Con­fi­dence Mo­tion, it was abun­dantly clear that they were plan­ning to use Per­saud’s vote to pass the very Mo­tion. How­ever, when Per­saud voted against them, they now want to de­nounce the va­lid­ity of that vote by re­ly­ing on that pro­vi­sion of the Con­sti­tu­tion in an at­tempt to dis­qual­ify him from be­ing a mem­ber on the ground of his dual cit­i­zen­ship,” Nan­dall as­serted.

“So, hav­ing agreed to the rules of the game, when they lose, they are re­fus­ing to ac­cept the re­sults by ques­tion­ing the very rules by which they agreed to be bound. This is not only du­plic­ity and po­lit­i­cal hypocrisy at its worst, but it de­stroys the pos­si­bil­ity of any po­lit­i­cal force, or in­deed any­one, be­ing able to gen­uinely trust and have any last­ing po­lit­i­cal re­la­tion­ship or al­liance of any type with APNU+AFC. It demon­strates their will­ing­ness to do any­thing and every­thing pos­si­ble, re­gard­less of its con­se­quences to the wel­fare of our peo­ple and the na­tional in­ter­est, to sat­isfy their thirst for po­lit­i­cal power. The hypocrisy and du­plic­ity is com­pounded by the fact that he gov­ern­ment has in its ranks more per­sons who suf­fered the same dis­abil­ity as Per­saud and they are mak­ing no dis­cern­able at­tempt to re­move those per­sons as MPs. This only adds to the vul­gar­ity,” he added.

But Nand­lall be­lieves that gov­ern­ment’s case would not hold up and if by chance it does, it would mean that all the bud­gets passed since 2015 to now and all the Bills passed, were un­law­ful. The im­pli­ca­tions and con­se­quences of this on the na­tion, he said, are both “ir­re­versible and im­mea­sur­able”.

Ob­servers have ques­tioned why gov­ern­ment would in­clude dual cit­i­zens on their list of can­di­dates, know­ing very well that it was un­law­ful to do so.

When a per­son is to be a can­di­date, she/he has to sign a statu­tory dec­la­ra­tion as pro­vided for by the Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Peo­ple Act. The dec­la­ra­tion form, which must be sub­mit­ted to the Guyana Elec­tions Com­mis­sion (GECOM), makes no di­rect ref­er­ence to dual cit­i­zen­ship. In part, can­di­dates are asked to de­clare that they are “aware of the pro­vi­sions of ar­ti­cles 53 and 155 of the con­sti­tu­tion with re­spect to the qual­i­fi­ca­tions and dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tions for elec­tion as a Mem­ber of the Na­tional As­sem­bly.”

In 2015, when this is­sue was raised, the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the APNU+AFC list, Pro­fes­sor Harold Lutch­man, was adamant that he had no author­ity to take any ac­tion in such in­stances. He has said too that he had made no in­quiry into such a mat­ter be­fore point­ing out that a prece­dent ex­isted with sev­eral MPs in the pre­vi­ous par­lia­ment hav­ing dual cit­i­zen­ship.

Not­ing that the is­sues would best be ad­dressed by the party leader, the law pro­fes­sor said, “All that I did was to sign off on the list agreed to by both par­ties.” He ad­vised per­sons with ob­jec­tions to take them to court.

Joseph Har­mon

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