MPs with dual citizenship should not sit in the National Assembly
By STABROEK STAFF | LETTERS | WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2012
My colleagues have reminded me of my letter in your publication of December 19, 2011, imploring obedience to the law disqualifying persons with dual citizenship from sitting in the National Assembly (‘The new MPs should hold only Guyanese citizenship’). This law is Article 155 (1) of the Constitution which says “No person shall be qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly who is, by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.” Having said to them I think I did my part and hope the political leaders will do theirs, I am reminded this is not enough until an answer is received or corrective action taken. So here I go again and hope this time the politicians hear and give answers or execute actions.
The disqualification law is similar to the law forbidding a naturalised Guyanese from running for the presidency, and stipulating the period of absence from the country to be eligible to run for office. The positions of president and member of parliament are the two highest political offices. I attended some of the 1998-2000 Constitutional Reform meetings and heard that the reasons for having these included were to avoid persons holding office who are not fully committed to the country or jumping ship when the going gets tough. The feeling was you cannot serve two masters at the same time. The presenters and attendees cited examples of this practice in other countries in making their case.
It is said that there are cases of MPs holding dual citizenship in all three parties. The public officials involved should come out and clear their names with proof. If they don’t then the party leaders should. The disillusioned have resigned themselves to a fate that things will get worse because the members of this corps of politicians are birds of a feather.
My colleagues are convinced we are witnessing the death of public service and political decency. They think public servants no longer serve the public, are arrogant and a law unto themselves. A recent ‘Frankly Speaking‘ column referred to this being a badly kept secret. The columnist supplied a definition for ‘honourable,‘ hinting that the ‘honourable‘ in the members of the National Assembly has waned. There is genuine concern about the growing absence of integrity which was a prerequisite for public service in the not too distant past. Honour was worn with pride because it meant everything, whether rich or poor, educated or uneducated, living in the rural areas or the towns. Persons stepped aside until their names were cleared or proof was provided in defence of their name. The pessimists rejoin that the accused are from our generation.
Editor, the bone of contention here is the law and all being subject to it, but some think they aren’t. The point is not whether the law is outmoded; it is that it exists. The MPs took an oath to uphold the constitution and should respect the law because it is on the books. Our sister Caribbean countries had to deal with a similar matter. It was handled, and the accused made answerable. With a public outcry and the help of the media the accused and enablers no longer ignored the people. There is the feeling the same can be done here. I sincerely hope this time the MPs and party leaders take the time to respond or you use your publication to have them do so.