Anil Nandlall, the attorney who represents opposition leader People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Bharrat Jagdeo says legislators with dual citizenship may face challenges in light of the ruling handed down by the High Court on Thursday in which Acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George- Wiltshire, ruled that the motion of no confidence passed in the National Assembly is valid, paving the way for fresh regional and general elections to be held here later this year.
In her ruling the George-Wiltshire said that Charrandas Persaud – the then government back bencher, who voted with the PPP in the no confidence motion, holds both Guyana and Canadian citizenship, adding that it is unconstitutional for parliamentarians to have dual citizenship.
In response, Nandlall told Demerara Waves online that based on Persaud’s dual citizenship, all legislators would have to be replaced before the National Assembly meets again to extend the deadline by which general elections are due.
“Let us assume that we have to extend the life of Parliament for whatever reason because that is an eventuality provided for by the constitution. Because of this ruling, it means that those persons who are currently in that peculiar circumstance should not be sitting in the Parliament and that has nothing to do with elections,” he said.
Demerara Waves online quotes Nandlall as saying that as far as candidates for future general elections are concerned, Representatives of the Lists would have to ensure that dual citizens are not nominated.
“In relation to elections, leaders of the lists now will have to ensure that members – persons who are placed on those lists – comply with the constitutional provision as it relates to dual citizenship,” said Nandlall, a former Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs.
Another attorney, Sanjeev Datadin suggested that the High Court ruling would apply to current parliamentarians, who are dual citizens, instead of Charrandas Persaud who is no longer a parliamentarian. “I guess that what it will apply to is those who are in parliament now and that whoever are dual citizens… I am not sure that those who are dual citizens now can come back to Parliament when that extension vote would be taken because they wouldn’t be validly be there any longer,” Datadin said.
The Chief Justice ruled that the no-confidence motion was validly passed on December 21, 2018; that an absolute majority of the 65 seats in the National Assembly is 33, and although Persaud should have informed the House Speaker that he had decided to break ranks with the list of candidates from which he had been selected, he had not ceased being a parliamentarian.
“They have settled matters of vital national importance and hopefully now the way has been cleared for the constitutional provisions to be complied with and those provisions are that elections must be held within the timeframe stipulated by the constitution,” Nandlall said.
The Chief Justice also ruled that the President and Cabinet ought to have resigned immediately after the passage of the no-confidence motion, and the government should remain in office until elections are held and a new President is sworn in.
Attorney General Basil Williams has since given notice that he intends to appeal the ruling.
Under the Guyana Constitution elections must be held within 90 days of the motion of no confidence being passed.