KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — How did Buccament Bay Resort investor Dave Ames become a Vincentian citizen?
That is the question that many other Vincentians, including opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace is asking after Ames announced in an interview with Searchlight newspaper last week that he is now a citizen of this country.
The announcement has triggered questions about the seriousness with which Vincentians should take their Unity Labour Party (ULP) government’s pronouncement that it is opposed to economic citizenship, which Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has described as the selling of passports.
The ULP rescinded the nation’s economic citizenship provisions shortly after coming to office in 2001 and has repeatedly criticised the opposition New Democratic Party for its support for such a programme.
Gonsalves has even said that his government does not consider holders of economic citizenship from other Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States nations in the same way it views other nationals from these countries who acquired citizenship through, birth, marriage, descent, or naturalisation.
“Well, if Vincentians want that (economic citizenship programme), 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 on March 12 in his latest pronouncement on the matter.
“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 two weeks after the NDP met with interest in that OECS nation.
But Eustace noted on Monday that Ames is now a Vincentian, six years after his company began purchasing land for the Buccament Bay Resort.
“Well, Mr. Ames get his passport. Now, he calls himself a local businessman because he is a citizen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. So I don’t know what the difference is.
“We were condemned because we said if people invest we have to consider that (economic citizenship). So what’s wrong with it now? How come all of a sudden it’s okay? And how many people do we know who got this kind of arrangement in the last 10 years who have invested in this country and may have been given citizenship? We don’t know. There may be many, many who we don’t know about.
“So I am not holding any basket to carry water. The reality is that we have to attract foreign investment in St. Vincent and the Grenadines …” Eustace said.
While, according to Searchlight, Ames disclosed that he is now a Vincentian citizen and indicated that he has taken legal action against the persons responsible for rumours about him, his family, and his investments, in an effort to get back at him, the newspaper did not say whether Ames explained the grounds on which he became a Vincentian citizen.
Several Internet website have been dedicated to publishing information about Ames alleged investments.
In the March 12 press conference, Gonsalves said, “When you start to sell your citizenship, you will sell anything”.
Selling citizenship, he further said, “undermines the integrity” of the very citizenship and other countries will look at St. Vincent and the Grenadines “with jaundiced eyes if you go about selling your citizenship”.
He said he was “glad” that the NDP had “reconfirmed yet again that they want to sell the passport”.
In an earlier press conference on March 5, Gonsalves said: “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.