KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Monday that he has “impeccable” intelligence that a financier of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), interested in reinstating an economic citizenship programme here, will fund a no-confidence motion against his 14-month old Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration.
“Two weeks ago, the NDP leadership went to Antigua … for a meeting with a set of financiers where this promise was again held out as the basis for them, on an on-going condition, to finance the NDP to bring down the legitimate government of this country,” he said at a press briefing.
“I want to say to the people of this country that the intelligence I have on this is impeccable,” added Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security.
“I am telling you and they will want to know how De Comrade knows. But you see, I’ve told them already, for years now, I have somebody at their table. The question is, who?” Gonsalves said in response to a reporter’s question about whether he was anticipating a no-confidence motion in light of the one brought against the Kamla Persad Bissessar government in Trinidad and Tobago recently.
He said some of the NDP’s financiers for the 2010 election were also at the meeting. “And again, the promise of economic citizenship was held out as the carrot for the continued support,” he said.
“There is a certain desperation because one individual of this group was even discussing the issue of monitoring conversations of the Prime Minister and others,” Gonsalves said, adding that he was leaving it “to your imagination as to how I could be monitored”.
“I, myself, do not know any legitimate way in which I could be monitored. But I could be educated. I am not making any aspersions that anyone intends to do anything which is illegal but I would like to be advised how this will be done,” he said.
The ULP government, which was returned to office in December 2010 for a third consecutive term, has a one-seat majority in the 15-member Parliament.
“The NDP promised their financiers that they will bring a motion of no-confidence in the government. They intend to file it sometime soon. Of course, you can always bring a vote of no confidence. But the question is this: is it no confidence in the government or no confidence in the leadership of [Opposition Leader] Arnhim Eustace,” Gonsalves said.
He said that the NDP has its problems and asked that he be not brought into them.
“Because if you bring me in your problems, if you force me to get involved, push me to get involved, I would, of necessity, get involved; because we are involved in a competitive political system,” said Gonsalves, whose government last week suffered the embarrassment of having “a substantial number” of its telephone lines disconnected for non-payment.
Gonsalves said the firm the NDP leadership reportedly met with in Antigua hires a company to manage elections for political parties. “We saw that experience in 2010 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And what is promised is economic citizenship. That is happening, too, in other places in this region where you don’t have economic citizenship.” Gonsalves said.
But Gonsalves, whose ULP repealed the economic and honorary citizenship laws here after coming to office in 2001, restated his administration’s opposition to such a policy — advocated by the NDP — and said such a programme would not be reinstated here for as long as he is Prime Minister.
“As far as this government is concerned, there is one class of citizenship; citizenship. And you can acquire that citizenship in the well established ways: by birth, by descent, through marriage or through one of the ways of naturalisation.”
Gonsalves said that his administration considers citizenship the highest office in the land and not a commodity to be part of a transaction. “This government stands and I personally stand unequivocally in opposition to the sale of our citizenship,” he said.
He said that when the OECS economic union was crafted and freedom of movement was discussed he was mindful that St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica have economic citizenship programmes.
“And we made it plain that we would not, at our borders, accept economic citizenship from those countries as the same as the citizenship of a Kittitian or a Dominican acquired in one of the normal ways.”
He said he was fortified that Prime Minister Tillman Thomas of Grenada felt as strongly as he did about the issue.
In February 2010, as the NDP said there was “nothing strange” about economic citizenship, Gonsalves called on the nation’s youth to take a position on the issue, saying it would be a hot button topic in the election that year.
“You can get money from it but you can face a lot of [suffering]. The problem with selling your passport is that it devalues it,” Gonsalves said then.