The Grenada Trade Union Council would support the holding of a referendum among the people to decide on Casino gambling in the country but warns the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government to stay away from selling of passports to earn revenue for the cash-strapped island.
Trade Union Representative in the Senate, Raymond Roberts outlined the TUC’s position on the two controversial issues in making his maiden speech in the Upper House as he contributed to the 2013 Budget of Revenue and Expenditure, which wrapped up last week at the Grenada Trade Centre.
Sen. Roberts told colleague Senators that Casino gambling “is a controversial issue and I will like to see a referendum of the people to decide the fate of casino”.
“I have encountered dozens of people since the presentation of the Throne Speech which said that Casino will be a part of Grenada’s tourism product saying to me, I support it, they see it as a good and strongly believe it can add to the revenue in the Treasury”, he said.
“Some of my trade union friends … leaders and colleagues have given it the thumbs up and I have met Christians who see no problem as long as locals are not allowed inside. There are religious leaders who have kept silent perceiving that God isn’t watching but silent could mean consent”, he added.
Some of the priests in the Catholic Church have spoken out against the casino gambling idea in their weekly sermons.
According to Sen. Roberts, the majority of trade union leaders in the country believe that Grenada should have casino but more along the likes of the Bahamas scenario.
The legislation in The Bahamas prevents locals from taking part in the activities at the casino.
Regarding the country’s Citizenship by Investment Programme, Sen. Roberts’s words were less sympathetic to the New National Party (NNP) administration whose records remain “stained” with the previous Citizenship programme, which previously existed.
Sen. Roberts charged that the previous programme that was implemented by the previous Mitchell government resulted in Canada imposing visa restrictions on Grenadians.
Former Tourism Minister, Senator Brenda Hood, quickly denied this and the statement had to be withdrawn.
The withdrawal of the allegation only fueled the trade unionist distaste for the programme and in particular the people chosen to head the planning process for its re-introduction.
“OK I withdraw it, but all I will say, the Trade Union Council totally oppose Citizenship by Investment. Totally oppose it. We think that it does not do any good for the Grenadian people. We think it has the potential to force the British now to do a similar thing as what Canada has done. We are totally opposed, we have no support for Citizenship by Investment.
“More important, we somewhat are not confident in the people who have been authorised to lead this thing. Character is important, character doesn’t’ come through forgiveness, character is years of service, tested service and we are not confident with the people who have been chosen to head this thing. We think it’s (a) disaster and we want to urge the government to stay away from that.”
The TUC representative in the Senate warned that a similar incident like the Boston Marathon bombing could happen if a terrorist slips through the crack.
“There is nothing good in that for Grenada”, said Sen. Roberts who served for many years on the executive of the Public Workers Union (PWU).
Legislation to establish the Citizenship by Investment Programme is expected to be tabled in Parliament within two months.
Cabinet has appointed a Committee led by new Attorney General, Cajeton Hood to receive and determine applications under this programme, which the administration is hoping to raise some $27 millions from the scheme.
Sen. Roberts also told the Senate session that the TUC is opposed to the implementation of the Alien Land Holding Act.
He described the plan as “self-serving” and cannot see the merit in it.
“We think again that is bad news for the Grenadian people and if that is the pillar of the new economy, God help this country”, he remarked.
The Mitchell-led NNP administration is looking at the three controversial programmes as additional revenue streams in order to help stimulate growth in the cash-strapped island.