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Battle of Wits at Parliament House

AT this week’s sitting of the house of Parliament on Tuesday 26th March, Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, proposed a number of changes to the legislation which governs the Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP). The first address by the Opposition was presented by Ernest Hilaire, parliamentary representative for Castries South, who adamantly challenged the Prime Minister to provide justification for the proposed amendments which he stated, had not been provided before. Hilaire signified that he was convinced that the changes would grant citizens by investment more rights than the average St. Lucian.

Hilaire affirmed that the Act of the CIP was tainted in the sense that it gave too many discretionary powers to the board of the CIP (which he claimed was politicised), which could be used as a tool for prejudice. Hilaire also questioned the whereabouts of the CIP funds, and proclaimed that the present administration had miss-managed funds, lost millions of dollars, and had managed the country in a way which suggested corruption. Dominic Fedee, Minister for Tourism, Information and Broadcasting, asserted that Hilaire was deliberately misleading the House. A laconic and somewhat fatigued-looking Kenny Anthony was present in the House. The passion and intensity which he had demonstrated in former years seemed absent now.

The Prime Minister dismissed Hilaire’s allegations as old tactics devised to discredit the government. Every St. Lucian government for the past few decades has been accused of corruption by members of the Opposition; and yet very few, if any, have suffered any serious legal consequences. The Prime Minister went on to present in his defence, reasons for the proposed changes. The Prime Minister extended gratitude to Hilaire for voicing his concerns on the subject.

One thing remained clear between Hilaire and Chastanet; it was either the confusion or supposed confusion, between the rights of the grandchildren of citizens by investment who are produced abroad by non-citizens, and the grandchildren of born-St. Lucians who were produced overseas by non St. Lucians. Hilaire insisted that the latter had more rights than the former. A considerable amount of time was spent in order to bring about clarity on the matter. In the end, this clarity never materialized. This was the sitting of the House of Parliament which Hilaire said in the beginning was a waste of time. There was talk of last year’s Christmas hams and other issues which moved members of the house to laughter at various points during the proceedings.

Moses Jean Baptiste, Parliamentary Representative for Vieux Fort North, took the opportunity in his address to commend Kenny Anthony for the contribution that he had made to St. Lucia over the years. He said that he refuses to be a member of the lot that would celebrate the achievements of the former Prime Minister only after his demise.

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