Attorney General Anil Nandlall admitted in Court this morning that the appointment of former Magistrate Oneige Walrond as a Cabinet Minister and Member of Parliament was in breach of Guyana’s Constitution and the government has since taken steps to correct that breach.
The APNU+AFC through Opposition Chief Whip Christopher Jones, filed the Court action over Walrond’s appointment since she was a US Citizen at the time of her swearing-in as a Member of Parliament. Walrond had initially denied that fact.
But as the case came up before the Chief Justice this morning, the Attorney General admitted that the Government was in breach of the Constitution with Walrond’s appointment and he filed his affidavits of response to that effect.
Mr. Nandlall told the Chief Justice that as part of the government correcting the breach, Walrond has since been reappointed as Tourism Minister with effect from the 1st December and she will have to be sworn in again as a Member of Parliament the next time the Assembly meets.
“The fact is that there is a recognition that the appointment was not done in compliance with the Constitution and every effort has been made since to rectify that breach”, the Attorney General said.
He admitted that the relinquishment of Walrond’s American citizenship was not completed at the time of her appointment and it is a very staged process that was followed.
Nandlall sought to get the Chief Justice not to grant declarations in the matter as he contended the government has already moved to rectify the constitutional breach.
But Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde who represented the applicant in the matter said it was important for the declarations that were sought to be granted.
“There is a state of affairs in which he (the Attorney General) is conceding that the appointment of Ms. Walrond was not in compliance with the Constitution. In those circumstances, the factual matrix presents itself a situation where the application is well grounded, it deals with circumstances of important Constitutional matters, presumably which had to be corrected by the Attorney General and His Excellency the President, and in the circumstances, there is no explanation or rational why the orders sought in the application should not be granted”, Senior Counsel Forde said.
He reminded the Court that the APNU+AFC sought to have the matter addressed privately and at the parliamentary level before eventually deciding to move to the Court.
Chief Justice Roxanne George said she also believes that the order with regard to Ms. Walrond’s appointment in breach of the Constitution must be granted in wake of the statements provided to the Court by the Attorney General.
The Chief Justice, therefore, ruled that Ms. Oneidge Walrond is not a lawful member of the National Assembly and was not lawfully appointed a Minister before December 1, 2020.
The Chief Justice awarded costs to the applicant in the sum of $75,000.
Under Guyana’s Constitution, persons who have pledged allegiance to another state are not permitted to sit in the National Assembly.
The Constitutional provision was ignored by both sides of the Parliament for several years but the issue was reignited during the Court cases in wake of the 2018 no confidence motion against the then coalition government, forcing a number of members from both sides to relinquish their parliamentary seats.