Soon after the Allan Louisy administration replaced that of John Compton I sought the counsel of the almost attorney-general-for-life and a long-time friend, Parry Husbands. I needed to know the options of a citizen concerned about the outcome of a coroner’s inquest. Parry advised that if said citizen was in possession of new and compelling evidence it might be possible, with the all-important cooperation of the attorney general of course, to have the suspect inquest reopened. The one I had in mind involved—wait for it!—two trigger-happy cops. The year was 1979!
Parry’s replacement at the AG’s office assured me he shared my concern for the sorry state of the local justice system. Alas, his discomfort was not nearly so severe as to distract him from his regular activities. Despite his expressed contrary sentiments, the AG chose to remain faithful to Luke’s “let the dead bury their dead.”
As for my earlier fellow seekers after justice, they too had undergone a sea change once their party was in office. “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 that the casualty of the latest “death by misadventure” had kept himself alive from the proceeds of grass disposal—albeit not the variety usually associated 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.” Believe it or not, what returned Parry to life, in my head, at any rate, was the Kenny Anthony government’s Citizenship By Investment project—already signed, sealed and irreversibly delivered, whatever else to the contrary you may have read or heard. 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 bought by foreigners with whom we have nothing in common, who quite possibly secretly despise us, if only because we had given them the impression that we had learned no lessons from our slave history.
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 had 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 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 to him 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 did as advised and 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.”
Did the quoted words make you blink, dear reader? 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.”
Lewis-Andrew & Company assured us via their report 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 manicured front doors. Our survival now depends on more than just our natural beauty, our warmth and our advertised bonhomie, according to Lewis. 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 up the sell, Lewis-Andrew offered the notion that citizenship should no longer be seen as strictly national. Moreover, the majority of rich folk were 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.” For which Saint Lucia was universally famous.
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 arrive finally at the heart of the program: “Due Diligence and Verification of Policies.” When it comes to the global residence and citizenship program, the Lewis 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.” Once again the fly in the ointment was ignorance: “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 What is the joker’s name that chose Vaughan Lewis for the job of preparing the Citizenship by Investment Report? It’s a safe bet the culprit was “The Cabinet.” But that leads to another obvious question: Why, when due diligence has been acknowledged as the very heart of the Citizenship by Investment Program, did the current prime minister allow his Cabinet to assign Lewis the all-important job, bearing in mind his history according to the prime minister’s published book At the Rainbow’s Edge?
This is what the book, now accessible on the internet, says 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 laughingstock 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 brothers and sisters 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 not Lewis but 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 that had gone out of his way to declare the emperor naked appears hell-bent on convincing us he’s Gucci-clad from top to toe. Obviously the prime expects Saint Lucians to embrace 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 Citizenship by Investment report next week!
The preceding was first published in STAR of November 7, 2015