Even though the local courts have ruled that dual citizens should not hold a seat in the National Assembly, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon insisted this morning that his presence in the House was not illegal. He categorically stated that he is there representing constituents.
At a post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Ministry of the Presidency, Minister Harmon made these and other remarks when he was asked by the media to say at what point he realised he was sitting illegally in the National Assembly by virtue of his dual citizenship status.
The Minister quickly retorted, “What kind of question is that? I am not illegally sitting; I am representing constituents. I do not sit there on my own. Members who are in the National Assembly sit there as representatives.” He continued, “You are extracted from a list…When you sit there, you represent close to 5,500 persons so you can’t just get up and say ‘I am not sitting there anymore.’ So all of those things have to be considered…These are matters have to be discussed at the level of the Government, at the level of the party, and then those decisions are made.”
In addition to this, Harmon said that he and others were only aware of the constitutional provision which stipulates that dual citizens are not supposed to hold a seat in Parliament until it was raised in the courts.
Harmon also said that while the local courts have expressed an opinion on the matter, that is, politicians cannot have dual citizenship status and still have a seat in the National Assembly, Cabinet has not made its “ruling” on the issue. Harmon also reminded the matter is one which is engaging the attention of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). He said that the final decision of that judicial body would be obeyed.
Harmon said, “This matter has engaged the attention of the High Court. It has engaged the attention of the Court of Appeal, and it is also a matter which has been appealed before the Caribbean Court of Justice…In that regard, the attorneys representing the State will advise the government with respect to the situation of members of the government [who] are dual citizens…I would say that this matter is still engaging attention and Cabinet has not made a ruling on it…It is contemplated that on April 11, 2019 when the National Assembly sits, that all the members on the Government’s side will be there.”
Yesterday at his Church Street Office, Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo accused the government of being “duplicitous” when it comes to obeying the rulings of the court. Jagdeo said that on one hand, the government had said it was not holding Cabinet meetings because it wanted to honour the ruling of the court which said that on the night the No-Confidence Motion was successfully passed, Cabinet should have ceased to exist. On the other hand however, Jagdeo pointed out that two local courts noted that the Constitution explicitly states that dual citizens should not hold a seat in the National Assembly, yet they are brazenly moving to do so on April 11.
In addressing these remarks, the Minister of State said, “Well you know the Opposition Leader has accused us of many things that he himself is guilty of but I am not sure that those labels accurately describe us as an administration. I see nothing duplicitous about it…The Court of Appeal has dealt with the matter and it is now under appeal at the other level.”
He added, “The Court of Appeal has made a determination on all of the matters that were before it…If at the level of the CCJ these matters are dealt with and they are definitely pronounced upon then certainly we will abide by what the court says.”