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Government must be held accountable

Former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas - launched an attack against parliamentarians on Monday

Law makers in Grenada are being accused of “aiding and abetting” what has been labeled “organised theft” under the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI) and thus “posing significant threats to democratic institutions and national security.”

The attack was launched Monday by members of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) on the heels of an Al Jazeera documentary, which puts Grenada among countries in the region engaging in the illegal sale of diplomatic passports to investors who contribute money to their political campaigns.

Entitled ‘Diplomats for sale’, the Al Jazeera report highlighted the number of foreign nationals who were travelling around the world as Ambassadors of both Grenada and Dominica.

After its return to power in 2013, the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government has re-introduced another passport-selling scheme known as Citizenship By Investment (CBI) in which foreign nationals can get a Grenadian passport for US$325, 000.00.

Approximately 1-year after the CBI came into being, government legislators returned to Parliament to amend the Act to conceal the identity of persons who receive Grenadian passports under the programme.

Speaking at a press conference at NDC’s headquarters in Mt. Gay, St. George, former Prime Minister Thomas questioned the move to repeal the section of the CBI law that made it mandatory to publish the names and addresses of all who received citizenship.

He said that he will accept the information presented in the Al Jezeera report until the Mitchell-led government comes forward with information to the contrary.

“Let the government come out and refute it,” said Thomas who retired from frontline politics after serving as Prime Minister from 2008 to 2013.

He was adamant that the Mitchell administration should be held accountable for the disturbing revelations presented in the widely circulated documentary surrounding the sale of diplomatic and regular Grenadian passports.

Thomas said: “The government collectively, must be held responsible because they all met in parliament and amended the law to conceal the identity of certain passport holders.

“When people elect you to represent them in the parliament of the country, you become a trustee and here you have 15 trustees betraying the trust of the Grenadian people and that is a danger itself,” he added.

Thomas also addressed the failed shrimp farm project at Victoria, St Mark that was given CBI-approved status by the NNP regime.

The foreign developer had promised that the shrimp farm project would bring with it much-needed jobs to the people of St. Mark but was never delivered in what the former Prime Minister described as “a manifestation of organised theft.”

According to Al Jazeera, investors who purchased Grenadian passports had pumped “US$18 m” into the much-talked about project dubbed the Grenada Sustainable Aqua Culture Project Ltd., under which an alleged 57 persons applied for Grenadian passports.

Thomas pointed out that the Al Jazeera report revealed that “according to the arrangement (under the CBI,) the (Keith Mitchell) government was supposed to collect US$50, 000.00 on every passport.”

“So, you do the maths,” added the former Grenadian leader, who cited need for citizens to stand up and fight against corruption in the country.

“This is something that Grenadians, irrespective of political affiliations have to stand up against,” Thomas charged.

“You cannot be selling millions of dollars worth of the state’s resources without no transparency and accountability… That (is) organised theft (and) it was aided and abetted by the Parliament of Grenada by the fact that they said, we should not reveal the names of the persons buying our passports. Wherever there is organised theft, the potential is there for organised crime,” he said.

Thomas went on: “This is a very dangerous issue bearing in mind that the passport is the property of the state and to sell the people’s property, in a sense, without accountability, that is something that we really have to address.

Claudette Joseph – questioned the move to repeal the section of the CBI that revealed the identity of foreign holders of Grenadian passports.

“We have to find a way of addressing this serious issue…that government does not reflect the values and standards of the patriotic and dedicated citizens of Grenada. We are people of morals, values and standards. What is passing here in Grenada today as good governance, it’s really a shame.

“We need to restore the good image of Grenada and we need to really come out openly and call for something to happen to bring some sanity in what we want for good governance in Grenada.

NDC Public Relations Officer (PRO), attorney-at-law, Claudette Joseph told reporters that while the party is not opposed to the CBI programme, it is objecting to the secretive manner in which applicants gain citizenship.

Joseph called for substantial changes to be made to the CBI law to “make it a criminal offence, punishable by long jail time to sell diplomatic passports.”

Additionally, she said the NDC would like to see the repealed section of the CBI returned thus “making it mandatory for the names, addresses, and countries of origins of all persons applying for and obtaining CBI citizenship to be published.”

The NDC also called for government to make it illegal for a government official to invest in a CBI approved project, as well as to prevent persons who acquired Citizenship under the CBI from being able to vote in an election, to enforce stringent due diligence for each applicant and for legislation to mandate some of the powers of the minister be removed and placed into the hands of an independent and qualified body.

Joseph noted that in 2001, Grenada lost visa free travel to Canada as a direct consequence of the then Keith Mitchell government’s insistence on pursuing a similar programme called the Economic Citizenship programme, despite warning from the Canadian government that undesirables were showing up at their shores with Grenadian passports.

The organic shrimp farm project was launched just before the 2018 elections in Victoria on the same land where the failed poultry farm was to be established at a cost of over US$6.8m.

The funds had to be repaid by taxpayers as the money was a government guaranteed loan.

Joseph expressed concern that the “country’s reputation is not only dragged into the mud once more” by the Al Jazeera documentary but that “these investors (under the failed shrimp farm project) can now very well sue our government for their monies and again our taxpayers would be made to pay.”

In February, Prime Minister Mitchell promised an inquiry into the Shrimp farm fiasco.

However, the NDC PRO noted that to date “we’ve heard absolutely nothing” from the government about the status of the investigation.

“We still do not know who the investigators are, if they have done any work at all and if so, what were their findings. This state of affairs cannot continue. Government must be more accountable to the people and that is what good governance is all about,” Joseph declared.

 

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