Kaieteur News – Cuffy was a dual citizen. He was not born in Guyana; he was born in Ghana. But we can safely say that he is entitled to retroactive citizenship. This would make him a dual citizen and therefore ineligible to become a Minister or a member of the National Assembly.
Yet for his role in the 1763 Slave Rebellion, Cuffy or Kofi is considered as one of Guyana’s national heroes, if not its foremost national hero.
Cuffy was a lot of other things. But this is neither the time nor the place to raise those concerns about him.
Guyana once elected an alien as its President. She was an American and spent more years in Guyana than Cuffy ever did. The Constitution permitted it at the time.
Yet, when she was elected fewer than half of the population rejected her. They did not want her and made the argument that a person born in a foreign country should not be elected as President.
They went so far as to make it an item for constitutional reform. Yet they saw nothing wrong with having the country’s national hero being an alien.
After it was determined by both the Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal that persons who swear allegiance to a foreign power cannot sit in the National Assembly, four Ministers of the government agreed to step down. It is certain that one of them revoked his foreign citizenship. It is not sure whether the other three persons did.
In 2019, fourteen members of parliament in Australia resigned following a High Court ruling that another MP who failed to renounce her British citizenship was ineligible to be in the House.
Strictly speaking, there is no prohibition for a dual citizen to be a Member of Parliament. The prohibition arises if that person does any act which amounts to an oath of allegiance to a foreign state.
If someone was born in the United States for example but lives in Guyana and travels on a Guyanese passport and has done so ever since that person turned 18 years, then that person cannot be said to have taken a oath of allegiance to a foreign power. That person can be sworn in as a Member of the National Assembly.
Where the problem arises is when persons are naturalized or take an oath as an adult and still travel on a foreign passport. Unless that person renounces, he or she would not be eligible to sit in the National Assembly.
The APNU+AFC was so desperate to stay on in power that it shot itself in the foot. It challenged the validity of the vote of Charandass Persaud during the debate of the no-confidence motion. The challenge backfired when the Court ruled that dual citizens were ineligible to sit in the National Assembly
It is strange that we seem to take umbrage about an alien becoming our President but we do not seem to be worried about dual citizens working at high levels in the government. For most Guyanese, dual citizenship does not pose a threat to national security or to the national interest. In other words, they are not worried that any dual citizen working within the government would betray the nation.
If this is indeed the case, then what is the problem with working out a deal with the Opposition to change the Constitution to allow for dual citizens to be in parliament and to be Ministers?
The PPP/C has its own problems with dual citizenship which forced three of its members of parliament to resign.
The dual citizenship debate should be the subject of constitutional reform. The PNC/R should take a decision as to whether it supports dual citizens sitting in its parliament. It is hard to understand why it would see a problem with having a dual citizen in parliament when, all along, it permitted dual citizens within the Cabinet. What is the fear? What is the objection?
It is time to stop playing games. Cuffy was a dual citizen and he is Guyana’s national hero. He was not even born in Guyana. So what can be wrong about a born-Guyanese travelling on a foreign passport?
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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