Due Diligence Begins at Home . . . like Charity!

Soon after the Kenny Anthony administration replaced that of Vaughan Lewis in 1997, I sought the counsel of the almost attorney-general-for-life Parry Husbands. I needed to know the options of a citizen concerned about the outcome of an inquest.

Parry assured me that if the concerned citizen was in possession of new evidence it might be possible, with the attorney general’s cooperation, to have the suspect inquest reopened. He generously laid out for me on paper the steps I might take toward my goal. (The disturbing inquest involved—wait for it!—two trigger-happy cops.)

Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony (left), Vaughan Lewis (right)

His replacement at the AG’s office assured me he shared my concern for the sorry state of local justice (obviously, there has been scant improvement). Alas, his discomfort was not nearly serious enough to pry him away from the bigger fish in his frying pan. What we both had deemed an aberrational legal proceeding was never exhumed. Not with the AG’s expressed determination to remain faithful to Luke’s “let the dead bury their dead.”

As for my calculatedly myopic friends and others similarly afflicted, their logic was unimpeachable. “De man dead arready; nothing anyone can do will bring him back. Why you want to saddle our government with the sins of its predecessor?” It didn’t help my ambition that the casualty of the latest “death by misadventure” adventure had sustained himself from the proceeds of grass disposal—albeit not the variety synonymous now with STEP.

As I say, the long dearly departed Parry Husbands came to mind this week. And not because of the troublesome relatively recent inquests related to the 2010-11 fatal police shootings of “twelve citizens deemed to be criminals.” (Fess up, that’s precisely what you were thinking!) Believe it or not, what returned Parry to life, in my head, at any rate, was the government’s Citizenship By Investment project—already signed and sealed and irreversibly delivered, whatever else to the contrary you may have read or heard. A done deal with no chance of being undone by any new out-of-the-box proposals. The demons of desperation inspire disastrous notions in the febrile minds of unconscionable men fresh out of options, especially with the silly season upon them!

It seems to me our best brains are less interested in the possible endless consequences of permitting ourselves to be sold to foreigners with nothing in common with us—who quite possibly secretly despise us for our demonstrated belief in nothing save survival by any means—than in the imagined profits to be gained from the devilish transaction.

Unlike our protesting ancestors, millions of whom were forcibly removed from their homelands by armed strangers to be sold to other strangers like farm animals and beasts of burden, we seem not to mind at all that our elected protectors have decided—in our best interest, of course—to pimp our souls out in the names of the notorious twins Progress and Development. (Remember when the official plan was to blow the top off the now heritage site Gros Piton to accommodate the installation of cable cars and a faux Amerindian village—the twisted tourism-related vision of a nutty American entrepreneur? Thank Derek Walcott and, yes, this newspaper, that the idea never went past the “approval in principle!” stage.)

When I expressed my concerns about the Citizenship by Investment program, an irrationally exuberant “connected” lawyer acquaintance suggested I peruse the official report on the subject, prepared for the government by former prime minister Vaughan Lewis and Invest Saint Lucia’s McHale Andrew (reportedly with assistance from two or three presumably think-alike individuals, none nearly as famous as the earlier mentioned dynamic duo).

I was soon struck by the following: “Like other countries in the region, Saint Lucia has now to earn its way to prosperity and that requires vision, innovative and purposeful policy formulation, and a skillfully executed national agenda.”

Deep. But seriously, dear reader, did the line make you blink? Did it make you, er, think? It certainly stopped me. After all, was there ever a way to prosperity that did not demand vision, innovation, purposeful policies and “a skillfully executed agenda?” According to Lewis-Andrew & Company Saint Lucia’s two most important attributes are “its natural beauty and the warmth and friendliness of its people.” By their presumed educated reckoning, the two attributes were responsible for the “natural allure that underpins the offerings and promise of this island state.” (What offerings? What promise?)

Lewis-Andrew & Company assure us that all of our successful enterprises, whether in tourism or in “smart manufacturing” or agro-processing, “in some manner embrace those two attributes.”

However, the fruits of our allure were not nearly enough to keep the big bad wolf of economic disaster from our flowered front doors. Our survival now depended on more than just our natural beauty, our warmth and well-chronicled bonhomie. We needed something that would allow us to make “that transformative dent that is so much needed to spur the country’s growth and development.”

We needed to invest in the Global Residence and Citizenship Industry. As if desperate to honey the sell, Lewis-Andrew offered the notion that citizenship is no longer seen as strictly national. Moreover, reported the task force, the majority are seeking “a jurisdiction where their wealth is protected, and where it can grow; social and economic stability; security and predictability; a sustainable education system; a clean environment; an open and tolerant society; freedom, rule of law and peace.” All of which define Saint Lucia!

Still quoting from the Lewis-Andrew document: “External research and analyses of wealth intelligence and verification show that some 25 percent of all global citizens are choosing the Caribbean region as their preferred destination. While this can be attributed to the relative low investment entry levels, as compared to other available programs, this reveals the region’s potential, and one from which Saint Lucia can benefit.”

We come finally to the program’s heart: “Due Diligence and Verification of Policies.” When it comes to a global residence and citizenship program, the report observes, “the process of background and verification of the applicants is an essential part and integral element of the due diligence process. When it comes to global residence and citizenship programs this is of particular importance, for their integrity is key to public support of the program. It is worth noting that the due diligence and background verification is also critical for the overall processing of the application.”

The report takes into consideration that “at the domestic level, citizens are concerned about diluting the value of their citizenship and passport and loss of free-visa access to countries.” Then again, “Many fears and concerns stem from lack of knowledge and understanding as to how these programs operate, as well as from the absence of transparency and accountability of the processes involved.”

I couldn’t agree more—with the need for transparency, that is, and accountability—beginning with the question Who chose Vaughan Lewis for the job of preparing the Citizenship by Investment Report? I can only assume Cabinet did. But that leads to another obvious question: Why, when due diligence has been acknowledged as the very heart of the program, did the current prime minister allow the assignment to be given to the former prime minister despite his record?

In his book At the Rainbow’s Edge (it might have been more appropriately titled Who’s Who in Political Saint Lucia) this is what the prime minister wrote about Lewis: As prime minister “his management of the economy was poor by all recognized standards. What is perhaps worse is that Saint Lucia’s reputation in the world was being dragged down along with Vaughan Lewis’s reputation. It is one thing to be, like him, a laughing stock in your own country. But when you are the prime minister and you are ridiculed abroad as well, then you can take the whole nation down with you.”

In a 1997 televised address to the nation, the text of which appears in At the Rainbow’s Edge, the soon to be elected prime minister said: “The United Workers Party has tried to convince us that their party has changed. They have promoted Vaughan Lewis as the change. Time and experience have shown that the UWP has indeed changed since the advent of Vaughan Lewis but it is clearly a change for the worse.

“Never before have we seen such vindictiveness; such narrow-mindedness; such pedigreed arrogance; mauvais langue and maypwis in an election campaign. Many had hoped that the entry of Vaughan Lewis into the political arena would’ve signaled a higher level of public morality and a higher tenor of political discourse and debate. There were some who thought he would have attempted to clean the rot, cut the patronage and excise corruption. Instead of rising to his historic opportunity, Vaughan Lewis sank to the lowest common intellectual denominator.”

His own brethren had been brutal in their assessment of Lewis as leader of the United Workers Party. He had managed “the most disorganized campaign in the party’s history.” The supporters of one candidate in the 1997 general elections, according to a published UWP report, “lamented that public perception and the image of the political leader as an alcoholic may have had some serious effect on his demise.”

Ironically, it was the prime minister who sued. A court found Lewis had slandered him during a public rally. In consideration of what Lewis had said, the judge declared that “the reasonable man would know that Dr. [Kenny] Anthony taking a bribe and fraudulently diverting funds for his personal benefit are serious criminal offences and punishable with imprisonment and which would qualify as corruption and dishonesty.”

Lewis was ordered to pay the prime minister $76,000. But now the same prime minister who had gone out of his way to declare the emperor naked appears hell-bent on convincing us of the contrary. Obviously he expects Saint Lucians to accept as reliable and true the recommendations by Lewis in his Citizenship by Investment Report. But then what does it tell us, that the prime minister chose Lewis for this all-important assignment?

More on due diligence and the Citizenship by Investment report next week!

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