Trade Union representative in the Senate, Rae Roberts has delivered a stinging blow to the ruling New National Party government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell accusing the one-year-old administration of once more dealing in the dark of night.
In his contribution to the debate on the Grenada Citizenship by Investment (Amendment), Act 2014, Sen. Roberts made it clear that he is opposed to the amendment which seeks to block the publishing of the identity of people granted citizenship under the programme.
He feared that change in the legislation would legitimise “government doing business in the dark of the night.”
“Business in the dead dark of the night with all sorts of characters, the good, the bad and the evil – that’s what it is, business in the night,” he told the Senate.
He also said that the passage of the amendment marks a day of great shame as the government will use its overwhelming majority to deny Grenadians of information to know who are granted citizenship under the programme.
Roberts touched on the utterances of Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Dr Mitchell who indicated that the original Bill which allowed the publishing of relevant details for persons granted citizenship was a mistake, noting that the change pulls away transparency from the programme, and is now a clear indication that the PM wants to do business in the dark.
The trade union representative believes that Prime Minister Mitchell’s utterances and the amendment now made in the Senate deny the Grenadian people “the wisdom of knowledge” and the opportunity to scrutinise people granted citizenship under the CBI.
The retired public officer said that the NNP campaigned during the February 2013 general elections on transparency and openness but now it is “back to business as usual as was in the last 13 years.
He foresees implications from the CBI programme for Grenada such as “further visa restrictions, credibility problems and that the island will suffer immensely as it undoubtedly did in the previous 13 years under the NNP.”
Roberts believes that only “tyrants” will pass such legislation with questionable appointments of a number of persons to serve the CBI.
“We in the Labour Movement strongly object to the Chairman of CBI and his spouse as an Agent. They are very good people – but you can’t have the Chairman and his Spouse involved in such business transaction,” he said.
This is obvious reference to attorney-at-law, Leslie-Ann Seon who is the Chairperson of the Grenada Industrial Development Corporation and her accountant husband who is in charge of the CBI investment committee.
“People of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique – here is the question – if you are applying for a passport through an agent and you badly want it, most definitely you will give the business to the Chairman’s spouse. The perception is she can relate to him at anytime.
Sen. Roberts called on the Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GCIC) to stop remaining silent on the issue since “corruption has many features and the State and our leader ought to be challenged.”
The private sector representative in the Senate Christopher De Allie, considered to be a strong supporter of the ruling party, has often remained silent on controversial issues like CBI.
Senate sources told THE NEW TODAY newspaper that De Allie is usually critical in private but would not make any public pronouncements on these issues.
Roberts charged that the amendment to the CBI legislation is not good for Grenada and was convinced that the Mitchell regime does not want quality investors to come to Grenada to do business and create opportunities for citizens because he would publicise all the relevant information.
The trade unionist called for a divisional vote but his request was seemingly ignored by Senate President, Lawrence Joseph, a former government minister with a previous NNP regime.
In defense of the Bill, Parliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Ministry with responsibility for Information, Winston Garraway, accused Sen. Roberts of using his hatred for one individual, Dr Mitchell, to create divide on something that was good for Grenada.
Last month, government amended the Bill deleting one of the requirements – the names, addresses and nationalities of the applicants for passports and any dependents included in the applications.
Prime Minister Mitchell told the local media that there is no need to expose every name to the public.
He said there was an error in the drafting of the Bill as no other country publishes the identity of applicants for citizenship and as such, government was advised that this could be a serious hindrance to the programme.
Dr Mitchell said Government will do its own checks to protect the country and “there is no need to expose every single name out in the public. We thought it unwise to do so.”