The chef at the Official Residence of the Prime Minister, and the best friend of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves’ first daughter are among the persons who have applied for Vincentian citizenship.
Gonsalves, who has ministerial responsibilities for granting citizenship to non-nationals, made the disclosure at a press conference on Tuesday.
During the press conference, Gonsalves denied that former Iranian national Hossein Zeidi, 49, whose activities are being closely monitored by the United States Department of Treasury, has Vincentian citizenship, contrary to a statement by that US department.
Gonsalves, however, did not disclose the nationality of the chef and his daughter’s friend, nor whether they had been granted Vincentian citizenship.
In outlining the process through which a non-national can become a Vincentian citizen, Gonsalves said that in many instances he will request that the candidates be interviewed.
“And I interview almost every single person who — I interview them personally before the grant of citizenship. That way, I can clear up some questions. But, by the time we reach the stage for granting the interview, it is because I am satisfied that everything is pretty much in order,” he told reporters.
“It is a small country and I like the individuals to be welcomed to citizenship by the Prime Minister. So, it’s a personal thing,” Gonsalves said.
“Of course, there are some cases where I know the individuals; I don’t need to have any interview, but even in some cases where persons may be close to me, for instance, my chef — or put it differently, the chef at the Residence of the Prime Minister, cause that’s not my chef … — he applied for citizenship. When the staff brought it for me, they said that everything was there and so on, they brought the file in, I looked at it and I put on it ‘for interview’.
“And they come back and say ‘Interview? ’He is the chef at the Residence.’ I said, ‘Yea, yea, yea. I want him to come for an interview.’
“The evening before, he gave me my meal, he said, ‘Prime Minister, you know I have an interview with you tomorrow for my citizenship.’ I said, ‘Yes, I am looking forward to it; these interviews are not always easy, you know.’
“He came and I interview him,” Gonsalves said laughing.
“My first daughter’s best friend who comes to the house all the time and sleep there, both at the Residence of the Prime Minister and my own personal residence in Gorse, and she came and she said, ‘Good morning, Uncle Ralph.’ I said, ‘Who are you speaking to about ‘Uncle Ralph’? And she saw my face and she said, “Good morning, Prime Minister.’ Then I had the discussion on that basis,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, said that in some instances, the Special Branch, the intelligence unit of the Police Force, will be asked to file a report on the candidate.
“There are some particular occasions, where, given the nature of the application, when I see the report from the Special Branch, I will ask the financial intelligences services to provide me with a report, and then I will give consideration.
“I take the matter of my authority under the law very seriously. And I don’t review application for citizenship when I am hurried,” Gonsalves said.
Under the law, individuals become Vincentians through birth, descent, marriage to a Vincentian, naturalisation, and under a provision where someone has had a connection to the country for five years and has made a significant economic, social or cultural development to the country and is of sound character, understand what it means to be a citizen, and can write and speak the English language with a certain level of proficiency.
Gonsalves remains opposed to citizenship by investment (economic citizenship), and has maintained that persons, such as UK-brown hotelier Dave Ames, who have ben granted citizenship after investing substantially in the country, are not economic citizens.