AFC position on dual citizenship not grounded in self-interest 

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Dear Editor,

THE Alliance For Change has taken note of the many comments and positions expressed and taken since, in answer to a question posed, I ventured the Party’s position on dual citizens being exempted from the National Assembly as a “disservice to Guyana”. At the outset, we can say that we are very grateful for all the views expressed and for the fact that there is an ongoing discussion, which will shape future decisions.

As the discussion progresses, I wish to clarify a few matters for the record. Firstly, the AFC’s views on Diaspora representation did not arise suddenly following the events of December 2018, but rather, were born out of a belief that our Guyana, the country most affected by the “brain drain” with approximately 86% of our skilled citizens living and working outside of Guyana, cannot achieve sustained growth until, and unless, we meaningfully harness the potential of the Diaspora in every respect. Guyana’s future development cannot be hinged on the 14% of those of us remaining. Even with our best effort to train and equip our youth, the numbers will still be insufficient to take hold of the wave of opportunity that is bearing down on us. Nonetheless, there is merit in the argument that more needs to be done in terms of youth empowerment.

Further, it is somewhat disingenuous to recognise and seek out the Diaspora’s skills, receive the bounty of their resources through remittances and barrels, and then slam the door shut on the aspect of decision-making at the level of the National Assembly because they have taken a second nationality. I posit that most Guyanese who left didn’t do so because they were unpatriotic, but rather, felt compelled to, for economic or security reasons mostly, and shouldn’t be victimised for this. Indeed, every one of us has a close relative living abroad, and would hardly consider him or her unpatriotic or incapable to serve Guyana faithfully if called upon.

In consideration of this belief, when the AFC conducted its listening tour just prior to its 2005 launch, it determined that it would incorporate its position on Diaspora involvement in its 2006 Manifesto and this position was strengthened in 2011. In 2006,  we boldly stated that we would “implement a Diaspora policy that encourages investment, harness their talents and expertise and makes re-migration easy and move towards Diaspora representation in the National Assembly”. Likewise, in 2011, we went further, and included in our ‘Action Plan’ (Manifesto) the following as one of our primary objectives:
“Pursue Diaspora representation in the National Assembly and explore the reintroduction of Diasporal voting at General Elections”.

Further, the AFC has, since its formation, and quite deliberately in furtherance of our position, placed members of the Diaspora on its lists of candidates for General and Regional elections.

The second matter to clarify is that the Party’s position should be clear to one and all that our position is not grounded in self-interest. The one member of the AFC’s executive, who is marginally affected by the ruling of the High Court, was born out of Guyana and has not sworn allegiance to any foreign state or power in the strict sense. Nevertheless, out of respect for the Constitution, the member has chosen to resign from the National Assembly and the Party has accepted his resignation. That notwithstanding, we will continue to push for the full inclusion of members of the Diaspora in all areas of our national development.
Lastly, a cursory glance at the composition of many of the Parliaments of other countries where Guyanese reside in abundance are comprised of dual citizens; some with even West Indian and Guyanese origins — a recognition perhaps of the fact that the world has changed and that a person’s citizenship or nationality should be no indicator of their competence, patriotism and their possible involvement in politics.

Sincerely,
Raphael Trotman
Leader,
Alliance For Change