RETIRED judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Duke Pollard, is calling for a “clean up” of the Guyana National Assembly of Members of Parliament sitting there with dual citizenship.
Professor Pollard, who is an expert jurist in international law, made the comment during an interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Wednesday as he weighed in on the debate following the results of the No-Confidence Motion against the government.
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland is expected to pronounce on the validity of the vote of no-confidence in response to a request from the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Government for review.
The Speaker, on December 21, 2018, had declared that the motion was carried after 33 members of parliament voted in favour of the motion and 32 against, but the government has since argued that 34 constitute a majority and not 33.
LEGITIMACY TO SIT IN HOUSE
Weighing in on the issue, Professor Pollard said in resolving the issues facing the Parliament, one’s legitimacy to sit in the National Assembly must also be addressed, but not in isolation. It is alleged that 26 sitting members of the National Assembly have dual citizenship, which represents a breach of the Constitution.
Article 155 of the Constitution states: “(1) No person shall be qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly who – (a) is, by virtue of his or her own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.”
The Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Basil Williams, in outlining government’s case that the motion is null, void and of no effect, has argued that the defector, Charrandas Persaud, was in violation of Article 155 when he voted on the motion. Williams said evidence shows that Persaud held a passport and possessed the rights and obligations as a citizen of Canada which is a foreign power from nomination day of the last General and Regional Elections in 2015, including and up to the time of voting upon the motion of no-confidence.
At a press conference on Monday, the Attorney General declined to address the issue of other MPs having dual citizenship, emphasizing that issue at hand lies with Persaud. “It (Article 155) should impact, but in particular, only Charrandas’ issue is before the court,” the AG posited.Like the Attorney General, Professor Pollard also referenced Article 155.
According to him, there should be a thorough sweep of the National Assembly to rid the Parliament of all MPs with dual citizenship. “Clean up the place man, clean up the place man. All who have dual citizenship are not entitled to sit in the National Assembly, and the Constitution is very clear on this,” Professor Pollard said.
But Professor Pollard said the issue should not be dealt with in isolation. “Once you have dual citizenship, you have no rights being in the National Assembly, and if what is alleged is true, that the Opposition has 14 members and the government 12 with dual citizenship, get them out of there. Clean up the place and let us begin from scratch,” the retired CCJ judge said.
He said the High Court should be approached for a declaration to address who is eligible to sit in the National Assembly. “If you have a dual citizenship, you are not entitled, get them out!”
Professor Pollard emphasised that the Constitution must be respected by all. “This is not any kind of partisan approach; it is an approach by anyone who is committed to transparency and good governance. Get them out! Get them out! government and Opposition, all of them, clean up the place!” he urged.
The National Assembly has a total of 65 seats and with 26 MPs reportedly having dual citizenship; it would appear that only 39 members are constitutionally seated.