The case filed by the APNU/AFC challenging the appointment of Oneidge Walrond as Ministry of Tourism, Industry, and Commerce comes up for Case Management Conference (CMC) on Thursday, December 10, 2020, before Chief Justice Roxane George at the Demerara High Court.
Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones, who filed the matter, is asking the court to declare Walrond and illegal minister and Member of Parliament on the basis that she was a citizen of the United States of America when she took the oath of office.
The Coalition is also seeking an Order directing Speaker of the National Assembly Manzoor Nadir to prevent Walrond from sitting in and or participating in the business of the National Assembly of the Twelfth Parliament of Guyana. Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, Nadir, and Minister Walrond have been listed as Respondents.
The APNU/AFC is contending that Walrond’s presence in the House is in flagrant violation of the Constitution of Guyana because she was a citizen of the United State of America at the time she was sworn in as a Member of Parliament. Specifically, in violation of Articles 103 (3), 105, and 155 (1).
According to Article 103 (3), “Not more than four Ministers and two Parliamentary Secretaries shall be appointed by the President from among persons who are qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly.”
Article 105 reads, “A Minister who was not an elected member of the Assembly at the time of his appointment shall (unless he becomes such a member) be a member of the Assembly by virtue of holding the office of Minister but shall not vote in the Assembly.”
Article 155 (1) states that: “No person shall be qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly who (a) is by virtue of his or own act, under acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or allegiance to a foreign state power of state.”
According to the Coalition, the facts are clear and indisputable that at the time she was sworn in as Minister on August 5, 2020, and as a Member of Parliament on September 1, 2020, she was a dual citizen. This makes her ineligible to be a member of the National Assembly, and therefore she is not eligible to be appointed as a Minister of Government.
The AFC/AFC Coalition says it will accept nothing less than her immediate resignation. It had threatened to institute fraud charges against her and Speaker of the National Assembly. Minister Walrond has insisted that she gave up her US citizenship before becoming an MP.
In a press release on the matter, Walrond said that as an Attorney-at-Law and being mindful of her status as a US Citizen, she sought the counsel of other attorneys on whether the sections of the Constitution prohibiting elected members from being dual citizens applied to her as a technocrat minister.
“Despite advice that this provision did not extend to technocrats, out of an abundance of caution, I decided to renounce my citizenship to put the matter beyond all doubt and avoid any distraction to the good work of the government,” she said.
According to the Tourism Minister, on August 18, 2020, she wrote to the US Consular Office renouncing her citizenship to the United States of America with immediate effect. She said that she was informed of the administrative procedure she must comply with to obtain a Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States.
“I complied with that process by August 27, 2020. I have since received the Certificate of Loss of Nationality. I took the oath to the National Assembly on September 1, 2020. That was after I renounced my citizenship of the United States of America.”