Former prime minister Tillman Thomas says until the ruling New National Party (NNP) government provides information refuting allegations made in an international television documentary regarding the sale of diplomatic passports to aid political parties in the Caribbean fund their campaigns, he will believe everything he saw in the television programme.
The Qatar-based Arabic news and current affairs satellite TV channel, Al Jazeera, in a one hour programme aired across the region last month, alleged that Caribbean countries with Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI) programmes were also selling diplomatic passports to persons who make significant financial contribution to political parties.
But Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell told reporters that the Al Jazeera television programme alleging that his NP, which won all the 15 seats in the 2018 general elections here “is totally false.
“The NNP did not receive a single cent from these people. I have asked my fundraising people and they did not even know these people,” said Mitchell.
The television station named Dominica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadine, Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada among the countries that had benefitted from the sale of foreign diplomatic passports.
Under the CBI, Caribbean countries provide citizenship to foreign investors who make a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of these islands.
“Until the government comes to the contrary, I will accept it,” Thomas said about the report during a news conference called by the main Opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) which he led for some years before retiring from politics after serving as prime minister from 2008 to 2013.
“Let the government come out and refute it,” he said, raising concerns about the CBI and calling for the repealing of certain measures to the law which was originally approved in Parliament in 2013.
Questioning the government’s move to repeal the section which made it mandatory to publish the names and address of all who received citizenship through the programme, Thomas said that members of both houses who approved the amendment to the legislation were aiding and abetting in organise crime.
“The Parliament of Grenada is aiding and abetting in organise theft, that amendment is very revealing, why will parliament aid and abet the concealing of their identities,” he said, adding that this could lead to organised theft and corruption.
“Have we heard any issue being raised by Parliamentarians, who are they representing? They are not representing the people of Grenada anymore in that particular issue,” said Thomas who believes that the government must be held collectively responsible for the negatives surrounding the sale of both diplomat and regular passports.
“When people elect you to represents them in the Parliament of the country you become a trustee and here you have these trustees, these 15 trustees are betraying the trust of the Grenadian people and that is a danger itself,” Thomas said.
The NDP’s public relations officer, Claudette Joseph said that her party was not objecting the CBI programme but is objecting to the process used for applicant to gain citizenship.
She said that the NDC was in the process of implementing a similar programme before it was voted out of office in February 2013. That programme was to be called the Grenada Individual Investor Programme.
“In fact, when we left office in 2013 we were in the process of engaging the same company that helps the Canadian Government with their programme. Canada has one of the best and most respected programmes in the world, no country can run a proper CBI programme if the officials around it are corrupt,” said Joseph.
“NDC, therefore, demands that there must be substantial changes to the CBI law now, these changes must include, making it a criminal offense punishable by long jail time to sell diplomatic passport, making it mandatory for the names, addresses, and countries of origins of all persons applying for and obtaining CBI citizenship to be published,” she said.