Former Education Minister, Senator Franka Bernadine has launched a scathing attack on the sale of passport programme initiated by the one-year old ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
Addressing a public meeting of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) held at Grand Roy, St. John’s last week Wednesday night, Sen. Bernadine labeled the operation of the self-styled Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programme as based on an “incestuous relationship” involving the main players.
She told the large gathering that all of the persons designed as “local agents” are associated in one way with the NNP or have family ties.
She pointed to attorney-at-law, Michelle Steele who is the wife of Foreign Affairs Minister Nickolas Steele, President of the Senate Dr. Lawrence Joseph and his wife Anande Trotman-Joseph who is also a member of the Integrity Commission, as well as Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the state-controlled Grenada Industrial Development Corporation, Leslie-Ann Seon and her husband David Holokuff who is also the chairman of the Investment Committee for CBI.
“It is called Incest, and we must not permit incest to take place (in) your country. It is called conflict of interest, and conflict of interest means that you are acting for two sets of people,” said Sen. Bernadine.
The Mitchell-led government is looking to the sale of passports to raise millions of dollars for the Treasury.
Sen. Bernadine also made some passing remarks about the recent decision taken by the administration to amend the programme to leave out the names of persons who purchase Grenadian passports.
The Public Relation Officer (PRO) of the NDC called for a hawk eye’s approach by residents on the island to monitor the CBI program.
According to Sen. Bernadine, while the program is meant to help the country financially, Grenadians have to ensure that it is set up in the right way so that the country can receive the economic benefits from it.
“We must be alert as to what is happening in our country,” she said, alluding to a previous program that was introduced by the NNP regime between 1999 and 2003.
It had to be scrapped as a number of dubious characters including imprisoned Ambassador Eric Resteiner were granted economic citizenship and Canada retaliated by imposing visa restrictions on Grenadians.
The Congress government, which ruled the island between 2008 and 2013 was exploring the possibility of having a CBI program.
Sen. Bernadine told the public meeting that the former government had hired a consultancy firm, Henley and Partners, which had set up similar programs in international countries to do the preliminary work on the scheme.
She said the NDC government was advised by the Consultants to ensure that there was limited direct political involvement in the program.