Last week in my column, I made reference to the issue of ‘Economic Citizenship’ and pointed out the dangers inherent in such a scheme, which this administration is contemplating to introduce in St. Lucia. Recent events in the general elections in St. Kitts have exposed the questionable practices that have been used in the past by the defeated former Prime Minister of that territory, Denzil Douglas.
The results of the elections in St. Kitts exposed the insidious practices that have been used in the past to maintain a stranglehold on the electoral process. I had pointed out the underhand machinations of the leaders of two territories in the region who were addicted to political power and would use undemocratic means to win elections. I had surmised purely on logical speculation, that these gentlemen would use the financial proceeds gained from Economic Citizenship to unduly influence the outcome of elections in their territories.
I had pointed out that Economic citizenship had the stench of corruption about it, because those seeking citizenship of these small islands were not ‘genuine investors’ such as the late Leon Hess or the Head of the Sandals Corporation, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, who had contributed substantially to the economic development of the Caribbean islands in which they had invested. These gentlemen did not need Economic Citizenship passports to travel around the globe, for their reputations and investments are well known internationally.
The late Leon Hess and Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart have contributed significantly not only in the economic sphere, but also the social and educational development of the countries in which they have invested. These investments are done in a transparent manner, unlike the shadowy characters carrying St. Kitts passports, that I wager are totally unknown to the citizens of that country.
I pointed out that these characters seeking Economic Citizenship were persons of questionable reputations who were trying to hide their true identities and were masquerading as ‘diplomats’ and ‘ambassadors’ of the territories from which they have obtained ‘Citizenship’ Passports’. One must question the motives and reputation of those characters, for this has prompted the imposition of restrictions and warnings by the Canadian Authorities to the islands in the region, about those bogus ‘diplomats’ and ‘ambassadors.’ This has resulted in those persons being barred from entering developed Western countries, and also punishing nationals of our English-speaking Caribbean Territories from travelling freely to these leading Western countries for economic opportunities as we did in the past. Travelling to Canada by St. Lucians was like boarding a bus to Babonneau. No visa requirements or hassles from immigration authorities.
The greatest concern of mine was that this citizenship scheme would result in the perversion and manipulation of the democratic process in our territories, because the incumbent politicians who introduced this scheme would be ‘flush with cash’, and could bring plane loads of nationals living overseas to vote during elections, and would subvert the course of democratic elections.
While I had simply ‘speculated’about this probability, recent events have confirmed my conclusions. For the former Prime Minister of St. Kitts, not realizing the bombshell that he himself would expose, revealed in his ire and intemperate statements that his election defeat was due to ‘sabotage.’ He unashamedly gave details of the repugnant methods he had used in the past to win elections. He complained that ‘the pre-arranged, pre-approved and completely agreed stops disappeared from plane schedules. Pilots at overseas airports were indicating to us that they had been denied landing rights for various places.’ Douglas must have been frantic that his game plan had been wrecked, and that explains why the Supervisor of Elections unlawfully suspended the vote count to accommodate late arrivals, after the constitutionally designated time for the closure of voting had passed. I had attributed his loss to ‘divine intervention’, because of the severe weather conditions in North America, which prevented the chartered air craft from travelling to their Caribbean destination.
This politician could not recognize the gravity of what he was disclosing to the whole world, that he was directly involved in bringing his supporters from overseas, enticed by a free joy-ride, to override the genuine wishes of Kittitians residing in St. Kitts in their general elections. Under a level playing field, the events that have unfolded in St. Kitts show that Douglas could never have legitimately won the four consecutive elections he claimed to have won in the past.
There is a diabolical dimension to the recent visit of this odious politician to address a Labour Party Conference here in St. Lucia. There evidently must have been other more important issues on the hidden agenda of Douglas and our Prime Minister, for it was soon after Douglas’ visit that our Prime Minister announced the establishment of a Commission to look into the issue of Economic Citizenship for St. Lucia. The timing is crucial for this announcement came soon after Douglas had left St. Lucia. As illustrated in St. Kitts, economic citizens would offer huge financial inducements to the political facilitators of their Citizenship Passports and these finances could be deposited in untraceable foreign bank accounts, under fictitious identifies or proxies.
Which brings me to address the whole question of who qualifies to be a ‘Citizen of St. Lucia.’ Citizenship maybe bestowed on persons who may not necessarily be born in a country, but who embrace the forms, customs, values, modes of behaviour and the character that define a people. It is not just the issuance of a large cheque that qualifies or makes one ‘citizen’ of a country, as has been practised in St. Kitts. The character of St. Lucians is that we are a peaceful, moderate, respectful, tolerant, welcoming and friendly people, who are not prone to extremism in religious or political beliefs. This manifests itself in a society based on a harmonious and tolerant social atmosphere, that is reflected in a peaceful intercourse between people of all races, state of wealth, religion or social status. There is a casual co-existence that pervades our society of persons from other parts of the world where extreme violence prevails, over differences of religious or political beliefs, or race or colour or wealth, but are relinquished of when they come to live in our beautiful and tranquil country, and absorb the forms, manners and attitude of our people. What we have here is the peaceful co-existence of races, and no religious fanaticism or extremism. It is a quality that characterizes St. Lucians. Citizenship of our country cannot be earned by the issuance of a national Economic Citizenship passport, to dubious characters with a fat cheque-book.