Tourism Minister’s appointment declared unlawful by Chief Justice

BREAKING: Oneidge Walrond's Certificate of renunciation released; more questions pops up

Chief Justice Roxane George on Thursday declared the appointment of Oneidge Walrond-Allicock as Minister of Tourism, Industry, and Commerce and Member of Parliament as unlawful after Attorney General Anil Nandlall admitted that the appointments were in breach of the Constitution of Guyana. 

Walrond, who according to Nandlall was resworn as Minister on December 01, 2020, was ordered to pay $75,000 in court costs to Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones. Jones, through Opposition-aligned lawyer Roysdale Forde moved to the High Court challenging Walrond’s appointments citing her being a citizen of the USA at the time she took the oath of office.

The APNU/AFC argued that the facts were 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. Article 155 of the Constitution bars dual citizens from sitting in the National 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 or state.”

During a virtual hearing before the Chief Justice, Nandlall admitted that the Government recognizes that Walrond’s appointments “may have collided with the Constitution.” He explained that there were some doubts about the USA laws and at what stage the relinquishment of nationality takes place. Nevertheless, the Attorney General said that the Government has rectified the Constitutional violations by having Walrond resworn as Minister on December 01, 2020. According to him, she will retake the oath as MP at the next sitting of the 12th Parliament.

When the APNU/AFC began questioning the lawfulness of Minister Walrdon’s appointment, she issued a press statement stating that she was not a citizen of the USA at the time she was sworn in as Minister and MP.  Walrond had said that on August 18, 2020, she wrote to the US Consular Office renouncing her citizenship to the United States of America with immediate effect. She added 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,” the Minister had said.

During an engagement with the media last month, Minister Walrond was asked to comment on the case challenging her appointments. She had insisted that she had done nothing illegal and had “full legal right” to sit as an MP.“I have done nothing illegal and I continue to sit in the National Assembly as a legal representative. 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,” she had noted.