Feb 11 2019
Representative of the List for the APNU+AFC coalition Harold Lutchman is adamant that he cannot make decisions on who is on the list of candidates for the alliance but believes that the upcoming General Elections will see lists void of dual citizens.
“Following this court matter, I can say with some degree of confidence that none of the political parties will risk putting dual citizens on their list of representatives…,” Lutchman told Stabroek News yesterday when contacted.
“Why? Because the law says so and they know it. They knew about it all the time but both sides ignored the Constitution and the outcome of the court case will reinforce that they were breaking the law…so I don’t think there will be any dual citizens,” he added.
Enquiries made by Stabroek News have revealed that there are a total of seven Members of Parliament (MP) – four on the government side and three in opposition – who are dual citizens.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon, Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge and WPA Executive Dr Rupert Roopnaraine have admitted holding foreign passports. The AFC’s Dominic Gaskin was born in the United Kingdom and moved back here to the home of his parents.
On the Opposition’s side, Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, Odinga Lumumba and Adrian Anamayah hold foreign passports.
Lutchman, who was selected as Representative of the List for the APNU+AFC alliance in 2015, says that while he holds that position, it is merely for documentation purposes as it is the leaders that make decisions on who are on or off the list. As such, he has no authority to say or determine the fates of those persons, he said.
“A lot of people see me as Representative of the List and they believe that I hold all these powers. I do not. I am like a post office; if the party wants someone on or off the list or someone else in Parliament, they make their decisions and come to me for my signature. That is all. They do not have to get my consent. That was never my responsibility. That is for the party and the leaders and so on,” he said.
The issue of MPs holding dual citizenship came under the spotlight following the passage of a no-confidence motion against the government on December 21st. Then government MP Charrandass Persaud voted with the Opposition PPP/C to trigger the fall of the government.
Subsequently, a court action was filed challenging the validity of Persaud’s vote given the fact that he holds dual citizenship. The court action by Compton Reid challenged the validity of Persaud’s election as a MP due to him holding a Canadian passport. The court subsequently affirmed that anyone who holds dual citizenship cannot be an MP. The matter raised questions about parliamentarians on both sides of the House with the same status.
But it is not the first time the issue was brought to the fore as since 2011, persons had urged that the matter be urgently addressed.
In 2011, before Nomination Day, commentator Christopher Ram wrote to the then Chief Election Officer Gocool Boodoo to highlight this very issue and he cited Article 155 of the Constitution.
“I am assuming that the Leader of each Party’s List of Candidates for the national elections as well as you in your capacity as Chief Election Officer are not unaware of the clear import and intent of these provisions and in particular Article 155 (1). It is my view that there is a serious obligation on your part to verify that the eligibility requirements are satisfied. You should be aware too that while there might have been breaches in the past, this cannot justify a continuation of an unconstitutional violation in such an important matter,” Ram had said.
Another attorney, Rafiq Khan, in a letter published in this newspaper in April 2015, had made it clear that he was not going to be voting given that the respective lists were replete with persons who hold citizenship in other countries.
“Yet I regret that I will not be exercising that right or duty come May 11, 2015. My reason has nothing to do with the ability or inability of any of the contestants to properly govern the country. My reason is based purely on a matter of principle as I perceive it. I refuse to be an accomplice to or complicit in the perpetuation of what I regard as a constitutional illegality in this country,” he wrote.
He cited cases in Trinidad and Jamaica where the court upheld the Constitution, saying that persons holding dual citizenship were disqualified from sitting in the legislative arm.
“For too long many of our laws have been honoured in the breach. It is particularly egregious when persons who, smugly holding aloft in their faith, are going to swear to uphold the Constitution and the laws of Guyana, are themselves in blatant breach of the Constitution. That is hypocrisy,” he said.
Following the 2015 elections, Lutchman was asked by this newspaper about persons with dual citizenship and if the matter would be addressed before parliamentarians were chosen.
His answer then was the same as now- that he has no authority to take any action as it relates to parliamentarians with dual citizenship.
“That is for the authorities including the president to take action,” Lutchman had said. “I don’t have that sort of constitutional authority,” he had said while adding that he does not know which of the potential MPs on the alliance’s list have dual citizenship.
He still does not know the citizenship status of any of the persons on the list and who are serving in parliament as he only recently, through the media, became aware.
He would not pronounce on if they should be made to give up their current portfolios as he believes it is not for him to decide.
“This is something the proposed parties should address. I don’t have a specific position,” he said.
An attorney himself, Lutchman would not comment on Reid’s court matter or Chief Justice Roxane George’s recent ruling saying that he did not hear for himself what she said, has not seen her written report and that the matter is currently being appealed.
“The matter is on appeal and a lot of issues is to be settled including that one, that is a pronouncement made that, I am not sure she made that statement. I am yet to see her report. When the matter is settled at the highest level as the parties have declared, then I will say something,” he said.