Online Forums RaceandHistory.Com Trinicenter Home

Too late to turn back, Gypsy

November 30, 2000

Winston “Gypsy” Peters, the UNC candidate for Ortoire/ Mayaro, was yesterday questioned on allegations of voter padding and swearing to a false declaration. He was accompanied to the station by attorney Subhas Panday, brother of Prime Minister Basdeo Panday and former House Speaker Occah Seapaul.

Police questioned him about his application to be a registered voter in the Ortoire/Mayaro constituency. He did not give a written statement.

The EBC rejected Gypsy’s application for registration in the constituency.

Gypsy said the police also questioned him on allegations that he had made a false declaration when completing his nomination papers to be a representative in Parliament.

November 23, 2000

UNC candidates Bill Chaitan and Winston “Gypsy” Peters were talking about giving up their foreign citizenship yesterday.

But it is too late for them to turn back now, say legal experts.

Both men made false declarations when they signed the nomination forms—although they say they did not do so knowingly.

Chaitan, a geophysicist, contesting the Pointe-a-Pierre seat, is a citizen of Canada while calypsonian Peters (Ortoire/Mayaro) is a citizen of the US.

Form 39 of the Representation of the People’s Act requires all candidates to declare that he is not, “by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state”.

The penalty for a making a declaration—which the person knows or believes to be false—is a fine of $7,000 and imprisonment for six months.

One leading lawyer said Chaitan and Peters were just plain ineligible. “Their ineligibility was on nomination day. For that there is no cure.”

So, renouncing their foreign citizenship is in vain.

Peters said he did not think he was doing anything illegal and he still did not understand a law that deprived him of his rights. (See our 'General' section for more)

EBC sources said yesterday that the Commission could not act on the information that the two candidates were ineligible. Somebody has to go to court and seek a declaration that the nomination is invalid, they said.

The PNM said yesterday it was prepared to do this. In fact, the party is bracing itself to mount a major legal challenge.

The PNM dumped Ralph Heera as a candidate for Caroni Central on the basis of an opinion from the EBC on dual citizens contesting the election.

The Chief State Counsel in the Opposition Office, Alvin Pascal, wrote to the EBC yesterday asking whether there were persons holding dual citizenshipwho filed nomination papers and whether that rendered their nomination invalid.

The EBC has written back a letter which essentially states that once the Returning Officer accepts the nomination, the candidates are properly nominated.

The PNM plans to take the issue further today and write a letter seeking to have the EBC rule on the nominations.

Candidates cannot be replaced after Nomination Day, which was on Monday.

• You are an American citizen

• You signed a false declaration

• You could go to jail

Right of belonging By: Express Editorial Nov 23, 2000
Right of belonging in Jail By: A. H. Hotep Nov 23-25, 2000
Legitimacy or power? By: Denis Solomon Nov 26, 2000
Illegitimacy or powerless? By: A. H. Hotep Nov 26, 2000

Gypsy’s ship sinks

Trinidad Express Broke this story
November 22, 2000
By Ria Taitt

UNC candidates Winston “Gypsy” Peters and Bill Chaitan are not eligible to become members of the House of Representatives.

Peters (Ortoire/Mayaro) and Chaitan (Pointe-a-Pierre) confirmed to the Daily Express yesterday that they hold dual citizenship.

They were born in T&T but Chaitan, a geophysicist, is also a citizen of Canada while Peters, a calypsonian, is a citizen of the United States.

But according to 48 (1) of the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, no person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives who (a) is a citizen of a country other than Trinidad and Tobago having become such a citizen voluntarily, or is under a declaration of allegiance to such a country.

Three leading lawyers confirmed yesterday that this provision means that both men will not be able to sit in Parliament.

Both Ortoire/Mayaro and Pointe-a-Pierre seats are crucial to a UNC victory.

The legal experts pointed out that there is a class of dual citizen who can run for public office. They are people who were born overseas but who became Trinidad and Tobago citizens.

The key word in Section 48 (a) is “voluntarily”.

Someone who is born a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago but who voluntarily declares allegiance to another state is disqualified.

The only possible option under T&T law is for Gypsy and Chaitan to renounce their American and Canadian citizenship before polling day on December 11.

The PNM had screened and selected Ralph Heera for the Caroni Central seat but he was bypassed after the party discovered he held dual citizenship.

Dual citizenship was first allowed for a limited class of persons in 1980.

This enabled the children of Trinidad and Tobago nationals born overseas to hold citizenship in the country of their birth as well as in this country. (Before the provision, they had to make a choice once they reached the age of majority).

But it was in 1988 that the Citizenship Act was amended to allow a citizen by birth to voluntarily acquire another citizenship without losing Trinidad and Tobago citizenship. It also enabled former citizens who voluntarily acquired foreign citizenship to apply via a “certificate of restoration” to have their Trinidad and Tobago citizenship restored.

Chaitan, who is a distant cousin to Oma Panday, and who replaced disgraced Minister Dhanraj Singh, said yesterday that he used the amendment to regain this Trinidad and Tobago citizenship in 1988.

The Citizenship Act was further amended in October this year but none of the amendments removes the impediments which exist in Section 48 (a) of the Constitution.

One of the lawyers consulted for this story said of Peters and Chaitan, “While dual citizenship is allowed, it appears they have been caught by the Constitution”.

Back to stealing elections

Back / Home