WITH Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine’s resignation from the Parliament, his party – the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) has identified a replacement but is awaiting confirmation from President David Granger.
Dr. Roopnaraine, and former Public Service and Education Minister, tendered his resignation recently in keeping with the pronouncements of High Court and Court of Appeal that it is unconstitutional for a person who swore allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state to be a Member of Parliament. Dr. Roopnaraine is a Guyanese with British citizenship.
On Friday, sources told Guyana Chronicle that a nominee was selected from among the three WPA members – Desmond Trotman, Rishi Thakur and Tabitha Sarabo-Halley – listed on the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) top up list.
According to the sources, there seems to be a strong lobby among WPA members for Sarabo-Halley to replace Dr. Roopnaraine. One source said “if it’s Tabitha it would send a strong signal to the country that WPA is prepared to lead the way in investing in a new generation of leaders.”
The source added “we feel strongly that it is time to begin the transition. It is time we move beyond the rhetoric about youth leadership and embrace it as a matter of policy.”
On the Government side of the House, Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs; Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin; and Minister of State Joseph Harmon are the remaining Members of Parliament with dual citizenship status while on the Opposition benches, the dual citizens are Chief Whip Gail Teixeira, Adrian Anamayah and Odinga Lumumba. While these MPs committed to resigning from the Parliament, Guyana Chronicle was unable to confirm whether they did. Calls to their phones went unanswered. When contacted, the Parliament Office indicated that the Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland will make a statement on the issue when the National Assembly meets later this month.
In the case of the Government dual citizen MPs, letters of resignation were submitted to President David Granger on April 1. However, for their resignation to be effective, they would need to submit resignation letters to the Speaker or his deputy.
Article 156 (1) (A) of the Constitution states that “a member of the National Assembly shall vacate his or her seat therein – if he or she resigns it by writing under his or her own hand addressed to the Speaker or, if the Office of the Speaker is vacant or the Speaker is absent from Guyana, to the Deputy Speaker.” Another section of the Article stipulates that a MP ceases to be a member of the National Assembly if he or she declares in writing to the Speaker or to the Representative of the List from which his or her name was extracted that he or she will not support the List from which his or her name was extracted. Once a resignation letter is submitted to the Speaker, by virtue of Article 156 (4), he will declare the seat of the Member of the National Assembly vacant.
The pronouncements of the courts have initiated discussions on the need to amend the constitution to allow for dual citizens to be MPs. The Alliance for Change (AFC) had indicated that it will make representation in the National Assembly for the Constitution to be amended.
According to Leader of the AFC, Raphael Trotman the constitutional provision is an archaic law. “This Article in the Constitution is doing Guyana a disservice and therefore it needs to be amended,” Trotman said during a recent press conference.
Weighing in on the issue during a recent interview, U.S Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch said that there are models that can guide Guyana if or when it decides to consult on the issue of dual citizenship.
“That would be a decision for Guyanese to make which way they want to go but certainly it is an area that might want to be explored here because it wasn’t explored before.
“So I think it might be something to increase the conversation about in terms of constitutional reform. I know that there are models out there where citizens with dual citizenship can partake in a government political process even in an elected way as well as models where they can’t. I think that would be up to the people of Guyana to decide,” Ambassador Lynch said.
According to her, there should be a healthy debate on whether dual citizens should be allowed to sit in the Parliament.