News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. Jan. 17, 2017: On January 1, 2017, CBS 60 Minutes aired a program which reviewed the sale of passports (now referred to as “Citizenship by Investment” or CBI) by several Caribbean islands, to include Dominica. With regard to Dominica the report also featured the fact that several of our island’s diplomats have been arrested or are persons of ill repute. Those are facts which were known on island and among its Diaspora before CBS 60 Minutes ran its program.
The leader of the United Workers Party Lennox Linton was featured in the CBS program. What he said was nothing new. Shortly thereafter calls were made by Government partisans to execute Linton and that he was a traitor who had committed an act of terrorism. Such incendiary calls are condemned here and are beneath contempt. Those calls are regrettable, irresponsible, disturb the social peace and are most unworthy in any country which favors the principles of democracy.
However, the calls to rectify, investigate, evaluate, suspend and/or reform the passport sales scheme are nothing new. A wide cross section of Dominicans over time has expressed displeasure over the manner in which the program of conferring citizenship on non-Dominicans has been run. Indeed, the manner of operations of that program by the United Workers Party was a major issue in the 2000 election to the point that Prime Minister Rosie Douglas suspended it during his short term of office. His action was inspired in part by the imposition of visa restrictions on Dominica by the Canadian government. Some of us have even engaged time and effort to recommend or propose ways in which accountability and transparency could be enhanced and the social impact made more manifest in the lives of our people.
The above considered, and legitimate fears of terrorists or criminals using Dominican citizenship or diplomatic passports as a cover, it was only a matter of time that a major media operation such as CBS 60 Minutes would focus on Dominica. No amount of character assassination, threats of execution or victimization of government critics will cause this issue to go away.
CBS, Steve Kroft, Lennox Linton etc., are not charged with the governance of diplomatic appointments, or the CBI program. Dominica’s government must now account to its people and cease the distraction and hiding behind unelected and self-appointed spokespersons, some of whom disguise themselves under false names.
To assure our citizens and the international community that all is well, I make this call for what is the responsible course of action; to Restore Confidence in the Governance of Our Affairs as a Law Abiding, Democratic and Sovereign Nation; I challenge all patriotic and sincere Dominicans to now join with me to ask for the following:
- The passage of a Foreign Service Act in parliament, without delay to govern the appointment of diplomats and others in our diplomatic service;
- Appointment of a Commission of Inquiry, presided over by a distinguished Caribbean jurist to fully and comprehensively audit and investigate the CBI program and diplomatic appointments in controversy and report its findings to the Dominican public. The terms of reference would include:
a). Numbers of passports issued under the program from inception;
b). The names of all passport agents and full disclosure of their contracts of service;
c). A complete audit of all monies earned under the current administration from the passport/CBI program and the appointment of diplomats;
d). The location of all monies earned in the past where banked and the manner of expenditure of said monies;
e) An audit of all diplomatic positions granted, public disclosure of the names of all persons given diplomatic passports, and whether any monies were paid to the government or its agents/assigns for such diplomatic passports or positions. Full disclosure is also to be provided to the Dominican public as to the actual benefit to the country provided by such diplomats.
f). Government officers, ministers and agents to be summoned and made to give testimony under oath as is normative in democracies. (For those of you who live in the US, UK, or Canada that is how it is done. Do not apply a double standard to your country);
g). That the parliamentary opposition be granted a member on the five person commission which should include a member of the Government of Dominica, a local non-partisan professional and a qualified forensic auditor from a Commonwealth country or the US;
h). The Commission of Inquiry should be held in public, and in camera, in the parliament of Dominica.
If all is well in the manner in which passports are now being sold or diplomats appointed, then the Government of Dominica should have no problem in acceding to this demand. Indeed, such a Commission of Inquiry is part of our democratic tradition and would restore confidence in the citizenry that the public interest is being well served. To dismiss this justified demand will only further undermine the credibility of Dominica’s diplomatic corps and the manner in which the CBI program is currently run.
I call all well intended Dominicans to join me in this call for good governance, and governance in the public interest. In a democracy, the government is our servant not our master. Dominicans have an absolute right to request an investigation into the conduct of those who are their public servants and swore an oath to uphold the Dominica constitution. It is now high time that ordinary Dominicans at home and abroad stand in defense of the country and ask the Government to responsibly and publicly account for its actions. The world is watching.
As a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) which has a visa free entry protocol, our island has a duty to protect the national security interests of our fellow CARICOM members. As a member of the United Nations and Organization of American States we must follow best diplomatic practices and cannot, must not, be seen as an outlaw nation with lawless representatives from some rogues gallery. To act now, and support this call for a Commission of Inquiry, is to secure our reputation among the community of nations as a responsible people and so enhance our national pride and self-respect.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Attorney-at-Law Gabriel J. Christian is the Founder and Principal of the Law Firm of Gabriel J. Christian & Associates, LLC; a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center, he is admitted to practice law at the State of Maryland, District of Columbia, and the U.S. Supreme Court Bars; and he is a former Judicial Commissioner of Maryland Court of Appeals. He is author and co-author of several books; and as a native of Dominica, he is a co-Founder of the Dominica Academy of Arts and Sciences. This article was reprinted with permission from The Ward Post