Attorney-at-law and social commentator Christopher Ram says he has lodged a formal complaint with Commissioner of Police, Leslie James, of possible violations of th
e law when it comes to parliamentarians holding dual citizenship.
Yesterday, Ram named four ministers and three Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) who he said likely made a false declaration as part of the process to be sworn in, back in 2015.
The four government officials are Minister of State, Joseph Harmon; Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge; and Minister Rupert Roopnaraine.
The MPs for the People’s Progressive Party are Adrian Anamayah, Odinga Lumumba and Gail Teixeira.
“I have today lodged with the Commissioner of Police a formal complaint of possible violations of the laws of Guyana by members of the National Assembly who hold dual citizenship.
In a constitutional action brought by a fellow citizen Mr. Compton Reid, the Honourable Chief Justice (ag.) ruled that “anyone who holds dual citizenship, that is citizenship of Guyana and of a foreign power or state, as envisaged by Article 155 (1) (a) and therefore falls in this category of disqualified person pursuant to Article 156 (1) (d) should not and cannot be a member of the National Assembly …. “, Ram explained in a statement yesterday.
Reid’s action had stemmed from an unprecedented no-confidence vote on December 21st which toppled the one-seat majority government after one of its own MPs, Charrandass Persaud, sided with the Opposition-tabled motion.
Government had challenged the validity of the motion, citing Persaud’s dual citizenship with Canada.
Immediately after the vote, the MP, who was later expelled by his party, the Alliance For Change, sought the protection of the Canadian High Commission from the precincts of the Parliament, and was within hours escorted out of the Ogle airport by a high-level diplomat.
The Chief Justice (ag), Roxane George, in a judgment, made it clear that no-one can hold the post of an MP while having another passport.
The judgment of Justice George is being appealed, with Government making it clear that it will go up to the Caribbean Court of Justice if required. In the meantime, the Opposition is insisting that the President and Cabinet resign and hold elections in 90 days, as stated by the Constitution. Government, however, wants the court to decide first.
According to Ram, while the Court was not asked, and did not rule on, the implication and consequences of the declaration made by every person on the list of candidates submitted for election to the National Assembly, in his opinion, the seven MPs have taken a false oath and therefore violated section 4 of the Statutory Declarations Act.
“I have also asked the Commissioner of Police to expand this investigation to all Members of Parliament, since reports from the media suggest other members have refused to answer questions by the media on whether they have dual citizenship. The oath, set out in a Form to the Representation of the People’s Act specifically refers to Article 155 and even the weak defence of ignorance cannot therefore mitigate against the offence. It is perhaps not without significance that taking a false oath constitutes a criminal act under the Criminal Law Offences Act.”
Ram, an accountant and critic of consecutive governments, noted that despite calls made in the past for compliance, candidates appeared to have considered themselves above the very law, which they swore to uphold.
“The consequences of such disdain and contempt for the law have now become pellucid and credit must go to the Attorney General Mr. Basil Williams S.C. and the attorneys for Mr. Reid for their strong, persuasive and ultimately successful arguments in the case. Unfortunately, despite the ruling by the Chief Justice, very senior members of the National Assembly continue to flout the law, posing a threat to the effective convening of the National Assembly and any proceedings there.”
He stressed that in the case of Greenidge, his “defiance” is a cause of considerable concern since he represents, and can jeopardise, Guyana’s interest regionally and internationally.
“Mr. Harmon’s case is equally serious, if ironic. His most recent pronouncement that there is not enough matter to warrant the convening of the National Assembly suggests that he has assumed the role of decider or communicator of whether that body can meet, even though he himself is legally barred from that body. Mr. Harmon also appears to have taken a lead role in the continuing defiance of the Government to the ruling by the Court, a defiance which threatens democracy in our country.”
The lawyer said that democracy is a wonderful but fragile concept and therefore any efforts or action to subvert it must be prevented at all cost.
“The Guyana Police Force, as the country’s principal law enforcement body has a duty to ensure that that is done. In view of the grave nature of this matter, I have therefore implored the Commissioner of Police to undertake the investigation with all convenient speed and diligence and to take such action as is necessary and appropriate to prevent the further subversion of our Country’s key democratic institutions.”
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