Minister denies holding dual citizenship when she was sworn in

Minister denies holding dual citizenship when she was sworn in

Sunday, November 22, 2020

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister Oneidge Walrond Friday maintained her position that she was constitutionally sworn in as a parliamentarian even as the main Opposition coalition, A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) has asked the High Court to order her removal, saying that she had taken the oath of office while still an American citizen.

“My position has been and always has been that the act of renunciation is a unilateral act…The legal standard is when a citizen has done all that is within her power to renounce which is what I did on the 18th (of August) by paying my fees, quite a substantial amount of fees which is over $500,000 on the 27th of August, all of this before I swore in,” she told reporters.

The former magistrate was sworn in as a legislator on September 1, although she had signed an oath renouncing her American citizenship on September 4, 2020.

“I am convinced that I have full legal right to sit in the National Assembly and that I have done nothing illegal and I continue to sit in the Assembly as a legal representative,” she told reporters on the sidelines of the launch of Restaurant Week 2020.

The Opposition wants the High Court to declare that Walrond is not a lawful member of the National Assembly and not a lawfully appointed government minister. It is also asking the Court to issue an order to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Manzoor Nadir, to prevent her from sitting in and/or participating in the business of the National Assembly.

The court action was filed by the Opposition's chief whip, Christopher Jones, who contended that, based on documents Walrond had submitted to Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs, she was still a US citizen on September 1 when she was sworn in.

According to the Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the US states that she took an oath of renunciation on September 4 and the Certificate of Loss of Nationality was approved on September 8.

Walrond told reporters that she was maintaining that her renunciation process legally started when she informed the United States Embassy's Consular Officer and paid fees amounting to GUY$500,000 (One Guyana dollar = US$0.004 cents) and recalled being informed that there was an administrative process that she needed to follow to receive her Certificate of Loss of United States nationality.

Walrond said the fact that she received her Certificate of Loss of Nationality two days after she had been sworn in as a parliamentarian could not support the claim that she was there illegally

Guyana's Constitution prohibits dual citizens from being parliamentarians and that matter gained prominence in 2019, when the High Court and the Court of Appeal ruled that legislators with dual citizenship were not qualified to be Members of Parliament in keeping with the country's constitution.

The rulings came as the then APNU coalition government challenged the High Court ruling that the motion of no-confidence passed in the National Assembly on December 21, 2019 was valid.

In December 2018, the then Opposition People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) successful tabled the motion of no confidence that resulted in the downfall of the David Granger-led coalition government after then government back-bencher, Charrandass Persaud, who holds both Guyana and Canadian citizenship, voted with the PPP in the 65-member National Assembly.

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