Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves on Tuesday spoke strongly against the opposition New Democratic Party’s (NDP) proposal to grant honorary citizenship to Garifunas, descendants of indigenous Vincentians who consider St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) their ancestral home.
Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace announced at a town hall meeting in New York on Sunday that his party will make such a declaration if it wins the next general election, constitutionally due by next March.
“This I have given much thought to, and that is just the first step. Over time, in consultation with our brothers and sisters, we can refine our programme to bring them ever closer to St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Eustace said.
Gonsalves, speaking at a press conference, noted that Eustace does not attend celebration in honour of this country’s National Hero, Garifuna chief Joseph Chatoyer, who was killed in 1975 while battling British occupation.
The Prime Minister also noted that it was his Unity Labour Party administration that declared March 14 as National Hero’s Day, established Garifuna Radio in North Windward, and has strengthened the historical connection with the Garifuna people all over the world.
“Now, it’s an entirely different thing, however, if you want to tell me that wherever Garifuna is born that they must get citizenship of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“I do not support that. I do not support that and Arnhim Eustace would not support that either, so he put the adjectival ‘honorary’ in front of it,” said Gonsalves, who has ministerial powers to grant citizenship.
He said the only thing known to SVG as honorary citizenship was under the law passed in 1996 by the then NDP administration to set up what is otherwise known as an economic citizenship programme.
The ULP repealed the law when it came to office in 2001.
Gonsalves noted that the law gave an honorary citizen a passport and permanent residency in SVG.
“Will he also have a right to work? I want the people in East Kingstown to hear this,” Gonsalves said, refereeing to the constituency that Eustace represents in parliament.
“When you give them honorary citizenship, our Garifuna brothers and sisters, are they coming out from Belize, from Nicaragua, from Honduras from Guatemala, they are coming out of those countries for jobs in St. Vincent?” Gonsalves said.
“They are coming for your houses? I want to know what this involves. If you are going to be an honorary citizen, the only thing I have to judge on is what you called honorary citizen before, and the only distinction there, the only thing you had to pay money,” he said.
Under the NDP’s honorary citizenship programmes, an applicant had to pay a US$55,000 application fee and US$5,000 for each dependent.
“But what are they going to have? Just a piece of people saying ‘I declare you to be an honorary citizen?’ You giving them a passport? Because for sure, you have more Garifunas who are not Vincentians outside than the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a whole,” said Gonsalves, who estimates the Garifuna population to be 800,000.
He accused the NDP of opposing freedom of movement within CARICOM but proposing honorary citizenship for Garifunas.
“By all means, let us strengthen the historical and cultural ties, which we have been doing and if you have a Garifuna overseas who is the descendant of a Garifuna here, you get citizenship by descent and there is a process for that,” Gonsalves said as he again questioned the proposal.
“What does this involve? A passport? I need to know, the country needs to know. … Let’s have serious people making serious proposals,” he said.
“The unintended effect of this proposal here by Mr. Eustace is to make people in this country get very upset as we seek to do more and more things to make the joinder between people of Garifuna descent all over the world, because this is their spiritual home,” he said.
He suggested that if the media conduct a poll in Kingstown it would show that most people do not understand what Eustace means by honorary citizenship.
Gonsalves noted that under the old law, honorary citizens did not have the right to vote.
“Do they want to give honorary citizens the right to vote now? You going give Garifuna the right to vote, but Vincentians who overseas don’t have the right to vote? You going put Garifunas above them who ain’t born in St. Vincent and who are not descended directly?
“So he has to tell us if his proposal involves giving them a passport, giving them the right to work here, giving them the right of permanent residence,” Gonsalves said.
This thing really have the PM ‘stunted’, he couldn’t even do his usual ‘rush/cuss-frence’ yesterday with intent to grab the headlines and keep what was said out of the various media.
He had told them himself 14 years ago that he was giving them a homeland then did nothing.
I think it is a stroke of genius on the part of Eustace, thats what has annoyed Gonsalves, that this is a much greater stroke of genius than of Gonsalves losing us the bank, remember he told it was a stroke of genius on his part, but what he told about the bank was grossly untrue.
Strange of you to ask if Mr Eaustace ever attended National Heroes Day ceremony.How many Independence parade did you attend before you became prime minister of this country?
petergriffin, the answer is probably never did, but he did go to those nasty political MNU meetings, will that count?
He was never a member of Rotary or Lions or any of those social things that bring help and goodness to our society, but he did go to those nasty political MNU meetings, will that count?
The PM claims that the Garifuna people will flood SVG and take away Vincentians job but he brought Cubans here to take away jobs like driving a truck and other menial jobs from vincentians so what is the difference?Take the beam out of your eyes first Mr PM.Stop looking at we vincentians as fools and stop feeding us those crap hoping that we will re-elected your dynasty.
He has even made some Cubens citizens, and they have nothing to do with SVG.
One who is now a citizen is the Cuban Engineer at the Argyle airport, so don’t say no he didn’t, because he did.
He also gave a bunch of people from Harlequin citizenship.
Dave Ames and his family, Dave Mann and his family, so don’t say no he didn’t, because he did.
When he wants to give away citizenships it comes like candy.
I was in Sandy Bay yesterday and spoke with a lot of people, the general concensus is that they welcome the Garifina move by Eustace and it has prompted almost everyone I spoke with to vote NDP.
This move by Eustace may well make the ULP unelectable for at least a hundred years, that spells the destruction of the comrades family dynasty.
Of course he is annoyed, he knows this is the end of the the three stooges, Camillo, Francis, and himself.
Seven hundred thousand people granted citizenship at once history is in the making. Of a population of under one hundred and twenty thousand people who everyday PETER said is crying for state of emergency how is st.Vincent gonna provide for one million people. The opposition promise 500 jobs in a year so I guess those jobs will go to our gardens brothers and sisters. Once again Mr Eustace pull the plug on him self.
bigd, is that an abreviation for big head?
Just to let you know that we know you are a very sill boy. What you wrote above is obviously what you were told to write, because it is based on utter rubbish.
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