I am today sending to the Chief Elections Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) the following letter in connection with the list of nominations which is to be presented to him for the November 28 national elections.
Mr. Gocool Boodhoo,
Chief Elections Officer,
Guyana Elections Commission
Eligibility criteria for election to the Guyana Parliament
I am writing to remind you of the following two Articles of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana relating to the eligibility for election to the National Assembly.
1. Article 53 – Qualifications for election as members states as follows:
‘Subject to Article 155 (which relates to allegiance, insanity, and other matters) a person shall be qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly if and shall not be so qualified unless he:
a) is a citizen of Guyana of the age of 18 or upwards; and
b) is able to speak, and unless incapacitated by blindness or other physical cause, to read the English language with a degree of proficiency sufficient to enable him to take an active part in the proceedings of the Assembly.’
2. Article 155 (1) of the Constitution states:
‘No person shall be qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly who is, by virtue of his own act, under any allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.’
I am assuming that the Leader of each Party’s List of candidates for the national elections as well as you in your capacity as Chief Elections Officer are not unaware of the clear import and intent of these provisions and in particular Article 155 (1). It is my view that there is a serious obligation on your part to verify that the eligibility requirements are satisfied. You should be aware too that while there might have been breaches in the past, this cannot justify a continuation of an unconstitutional violation in such an important matter.
Finally, Sir, I consider it your duty to ensure that the elections are held in accordance with all laws and so thus prevent any challenge arising from the election to the National Assembly of any person who does not satisfy these eligibility criteria.
This is more than an academic matter. The constitutional provisions are intended to ensure that our legislators are loyal to Guyana and Guyana alone. A similar situation arose in Jamaica recently where politician Mr Daryl Vaz gave up his naturalized US citizenship in order to continue in Jamaican politics. That those who seek to make laws for the citizens of any country must be willing to submit themselves to those very laws at all times is almost superfluous to state.
The permissiveness that characterised previous parliaments has led us into the present state of non-governance and lawlessness. We must not allow the same mistakes again. The time to start holding our next batch of parliamentary representatives to account begins now.