Country’s passports, citizenship not for sale: PM

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has announced that his administration will not permit the sale of passports as an inducement to get foreigners to invest in the country.

A number of Eastern Caribbean countries had embarked on the citizenship scheme as a means of luring foreign investment to their countries.

Last Friday in Parliament, Dr. Gonsalves called on the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) to state its position on the subject, saying that the party has promised its financers to re-enact laws that would allow for the resumption of the scheme, which ended in 2001 when the Unity Labour Party (ULP) came to office.

Gonsalves said the NDP skirted the issue when it came up during the Constitution Referendum campaign last year.

“They never answered it. The Leader of the Opposition (Arnhim Eustace) ducked it and danced,” he told legislators, noting that while the scheme has ended, his government is bombarded with offers for its resumption.

“I tell you, they are at us all the time – these people who want to sell the passports. There is a company, they say they are marketing the facilitated migration of 3,500 persons representing EC$850 million (US$313.8 million),” Gonsalves told Parliament.

“When you see those monies, you know they just want to turn poor people’s head. But they can’t turn my head. Money doesn’t turn this man’s head,” Gonsalves said as he read a letter, dated December 14, 2009, from a company seeking a meeting with him to discuss the sale of passports.

“I would be pleased to assist you in establishing such a program for St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in promoting this program worldwide through my international network,” the letter stated.

Gonsalves did not name the letter writer or the company, but said the writer requested a meeting to discuss the subject.

In his response to the letter, Gonsalves made it clear that the sale of Vincentian citizenship and passports is not a part of the policy or practice of his administration.

“Please be advised that my government has absolutely no interest in selling my country’s passport or citizenship,” Gonzales wrote on January 11.

“The highest office in our land is that of citizen, and it is not for sale. Similarly, our passport is sacrosanct and is not a tradable commodity…

“Other countries may choose to sell their passport or citizenship but not St. Vincent and the Grenadines, under my administration,” Gonsalves wrote, denying a request for a meeting.

“They come to us all the time. And the only way to withstand them is that kind of a letter and that kind of a position.

“That is what (the opposition) wants to bring this country back to? Never!” Gonsalves told Parliament.

Opposition legislators stayed away from the session of Parliament and joined supporters outside the building, highlighting “major issues confronting the nation”.

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