KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Any discussion about the re-introduction of an economic citizenship programme here is the business of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who said no such programme will be introduced here as long as he is Prime Minister.
“Well, if Vincentians want that, they can have that. I know once I am Prime Minister, once the ULP is in office, nothing like that is going to take place,” Gonsalves said at a press briefing on Monday.
“… I therefore state unequivocally to Mr. Eustace, when you go to Antigua or anywhere else to hold discussions with your financiers in relations to matters which undermine our soul, our sovereignty and independence and sell our birth right of citizenship and our passport, it is my business…” Gonsalves further said.
He made the point in response to opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, whose New Democratic Party (NDP) favours such a programme.
Gonsalves said last week that NDP officials at a recent meeting in Antigua promised its financiers that they would reinstate here the economic citizenship programme that Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party abolished when it came to office in 2001.
Eustace said last week that the meeting in Antigua was not about economic citizenship and added that what the NDP discussed is not Gonsalves’ business.
Gonsalves reiterated his administration’s objection to economic citizenship, saying that Vincentian citizenship “is sacred and the passport is the outward sign of the inward grace of citizenship”.
He noted that Canada imposed visa requirements on Grenada and Dominica because of their economic citizenship programmes.
“… When you start to sell your citizenship, you will sell anything,” he said, adding that selling citizenship “undermines the integrity” of the very citizenship. Other countries, Gonsalves said, will look at St. Vincent and the Grenadines “with jaundiced eyes if you go about selling your citizenship”.
Gonsalves spoke of his government’s investments in improving the quality and security features of the nation’s passport. He further noted that this is a migrant country, where the number of persons who have migrated over the past 20 years has exceeded the natural increase in the population.
“So a passport is something of great value to our citizens. It facilitates them going places to get jobs and when they line up before the immigration, people know that this is a passport which is not sold. You carry it with dignity and pride.”
He said he was “glad” that the NDP had “reconfirmed yet again that they want to sell the passport”. Gonsalves said that citizens now know that the opposition party “is seeking to sell the soul of the country and it is part and parcel of a backward process for the re-colonisation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
“And it is amazing that … on the eve of the week when we are celebrating National Hero’s Day, when [National Hero Joseph] Chatoyer fought and died for the defence of our patrimony, the NDP they are saying that they will sell the passport, they will sell the citizenship.”
Gonsalves said that lawyers and accountants associated with the NDP support the programme because they will make money from the transactions.