By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
After decades of functioning as a parliamentarian in conflict with Guyana’s supreme law, Opposition Chief Whip and former Minister, Gail Teixeira, is now set to renounce her Canadian citizenship.
This was announced yesterday by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
Jagdeo told the media that he had a telephone conversation with Teixeira—just prior to the press conference—during which she told him that she is prepared to give up her citizenship. “I did not ask her, she offered.”
Teixeira’s intended move comes on the heels of Thursday’s ruling by Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire that politicians who are holders of dual citizenship cannot be elected to the National Assembly.
Justice George-Wiltshire’s ruling is in keeping with the Constitutional provision which clearly prohibits dual citizens functioning as parliamentarians.
Article 155 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.”
Justice George-Wiltshire’s ruling has serious implications for many dual citizen politicians sitting on both sides of the National Assembly.
During an earlier press conference, Jagdeo had told the media that there might have been one or two other parliamentarians on the People’s Progressive Party/Civic benches who hold dual citizenship.
Yesterday he still could not say, definitively, the number of persons on the opposition benches holding dual citizenship. But this newspaper understands that Odinga Lumumba and Adrian Anamyah are dual citizens as well.
Nevertheless, Jagdeo was quick to point out yesterday that the government benches have more persons who are dual citizens.
He said that he knows for sure that Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, who sometimes acts as Prime Minister, holds dual citizenship. He said that the same is true about Minister of State, Joseph Harmon. “Those two I am sure of, but I am hearing about Rupert Roopnaraine and some others.”
This newspaper understands that Harmon is a citizen of the United States while Greenidge is a citizen of the United Kingdom where he worked and lived for many years.
Neither Harmon nor Greenidge announced what would be their next move even as they continue to function as Ministers of Government.
In fact, Harmon was asked about this before when he hosted a post-Cabinet press briefing earlier this year. He told the media that the government will
address the implications of sitting parliamentarians holding dual citizenship after Justice George-Wiltshire’s ruling.
Harmon, who also holds a US passport, told the media that “until the court has made its ruling, at which time I believe the Party of which I am a member, the partnership of which I am a member and the coalition of which I am a member, will make definitive statements on the matter.”
The Minister declined to comment on whether he will relinquish his own US citizenship.
The Alliance For Change (AFC) no longer has the problem of having to deal with MPs who are holders of dual citizenship.
Defector, Charrandass Persaud, the MP who voted against his own government, was one AFC parliamentarian who had dual citizenship. This was reportedly unknown to other members of the party.
At a press conference earlier this year, AFC disclosed that Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin was born in the United Kingdom but is a citizen of Guyana by descent.
The issue of renouncing citizenship does not apply to Guyanese who were born in another country because that person would not have had to swear allegiance to another country.
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