CIVIL society organizations are being urged to speak out on issues of poor governance by the ruling St Lucia Labour Party that are impacting negatively on the island’s reputation in the regional and international community.
The call is contained in letters this week from United Workers Party political leader Allen Chastanet to several organizations on the island in which he specifically called for the resignation of Dr. Ernest Hilaire as Chairman of the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) and the revocation of the appointment of Saudi Arabian billionaire WalidJuffali as a St Lucia diplomat.
The UWP leader is also contending that a lobbying firm engaged by the Anthony government to work with the U.S Government on the issues surrounding the IMPACS matter, has also been granted an exclusive licence to market the CIP in the Middle East and Africa, on the recommendation of the CIP Board and approved by the Prime Minister.
In his letter, Chastanet recalled that last December he had raised grave concerns about the validity and circumstances surrounding the ambassadorial appointment of Juffali and “the undeniable harm it was causing to Saint Lucia’s reputation”.
He told the civil society groups: “At that time, I also warned that it could not have come at a worse time for the Citizenship by Investment Programme and invited your support in calling on the government to appoint an independent and autonomous Board representative of civil society; that annual financials of the CIP should be presented to Parliament and that legislative provision be made to permit the application of CIP funds to be used towards debt reduction or capital expenditure and not recurrent expenditure”.
Since then, Chastanet said, Dr.Juffali’s diplomatic immunity has been rejected by the British High Court and his ex-wife was seeking a judicial review of his appointment in the Saint Lucian Courts, bringing a suit against the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General.
“This untenable situation continues to wreak havoc on Saint Lucia’s reputation on the international and diplomatic stages”, Chastanet wrote. “In light of these latest developments, we ask again, why is the government hell-bent on continuing to protect Dr.Juffali to the detriment of Saint Lucia’s reputation?”
He noted that Dr.Hilaire has since been declared as the St. Lucia Labour Party’s candidate for Castries South for the next general elections while he remained Chairman of the CIP. “It is now beyond doubt or speculation that the Labour Party is in control of the programme and as such it loses all credibility of being independent and free from political interference. This should be unacceptable to all right thinking Saint Lucians who care about their country and its international reputation”.
Chastanet said that the Anthony government had recently announced that it had engaged a lobbying firm to work with the U.S Government on the issues surrounding the IMPACS matter, and added: “We now know that the marketing company granted an exclusive licence to market the CIP in the Middle East and Africa,….., Arton Capital, not only proposed the hiring of the Washington lobbying firm to the government, but is also meeting the costs to the tune of US$150,000.
“It is concerning to the United Workers Party, and it should be to all Saint Lucians, that in his announcement of the appointment of the lobbying firm the Prime Minister did not mention this arrangement with Arton Capital. The question must be asked: Why did the Prime Minister fail and or refused to advise the Saintt. Lucian public of Arton Capital’s generosity.
“The United Workers Party notes that Dr. Ernest Hilaire and the Prime Minister chose to announce the launch of the CIP at an event in Monaco organised and sponsored by Arton Capital, one of the applicants for an exclusive marketing contract under the programme.
The Prime Minister would have us believe that Arton Capital’s generosity is an attempt to restore the damage to the country’s reputation resulting from the IMPACS Report and the effect it could have on American investors. The fact of the matter is that the events and the timing of the events that I have referred to raise serious questions and cast serious clouds over the awarding of the contract, and further damaging Saint Lucia’s international reputation”.
Chastanet said it was clear that the government, and or the Prime Minister and or Dr.Hilaire must take responsibility for the difficulties facing Saint Lucia at this time.
He said it was the refusal of the Prime Minister to leave the IMPACS report to the Judiciary that had compromised the speedy conclusion of due process.
“It was Dr.Hilaire’s involvement in the injudicious appointment of Dr.Juffali as a diplomat and the Prime Minister’s refusal to waive his immunity that has tarnished our international reputation.”
He called for the support of civil society groups in asking firstly, for Dr.Hilaire’s immediate resignation as Chairman of the CIP. Secondly, that the Arton Capital contract should be revoked in the interest of transparency or at the very least suspended and that the process for appointing marketing agents for the CIP be reopened. Thirdly, that the government revoke the appointment of Dr.Juffali as a Saint Lucia diplomat in relation only to his ex-wife’s claim against him.