July 27, 2012
Senator Linton Lewis questions PM on granting of citizenship

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves will not say how many persons associated with the Buccament Bay Resort he granted Vincentian citizenship, and why.{{more}}

He told lawmakers on Tuesday that the rules of the House forbid them from naming, in Parliament, people not necessary to render a question intelligible.

“It follows, therefore, that … we mustn’t call people name in this House in relation to whether they are granted citizenship or not granted.”

He was responding to questions from opposition senator, Dr Linton Lewis, who asked whether any investor, officer of investor or other person associated with the resort has been granted Vincentian citizenship.

Lewis also wanted Gonsalves to say how many persons, if any, had been granted citizenship and what were the nationalities.

He wanted Gonsalves to say whether they were residents of this country, prior to becoming citizens and if not, on what basis were they eligible for citizenship and what were the factors taken into account in determining whether or not citizenship should be granted.

“I am sure that if somebody comes and … ask the question in the House that it has been stated that a building which houses British American offices is too close to the road — not set back enough — and whether Planning permission was given to do the thing, I’ll tell them I am not answering that question,” Gonsalves said.

He said the Planning authorities have discretion and will deal with such matters accordingly.

“Similarly, I am not going to talk about an individual,” he further stated.

The offices of British American Insurance are located in a building in Kingstown owned by Lewis.

Gonsalves, who has ministerial responsibility for citizenship issues, further said the law allows him to grant citizenship to persons at his discretion, without having to explain his decisions.

He said it is public knowledge that a British individual associated with the resort was granted citizenship.

Dave Ames, who began the Buccament Bay development in 2006, told SEARCHLIGHT recently that he is now a Vincentian citizen.

“Read the citizenship law. I don’t have to give an explanation in this House about an individual person,” Gonsalves said.

“What is happening now? Why do we want to enclose thing which are of a particular nature and you want to play politics with it.”

He said that Honorary Citizenship Fees Regulation passed in 1997 and 1999, when Lewis’ New Democratic Party was in office, allowed people to “buy a citizenship. Pay for it up front.”

Under those laws, an individual needed only invest $100,000 to qualify for citizenship, Gonsalves said.

“So yo’ buying a passport, yo’ buying citizenship for $100,000 and a little bit of money on it for a fee. And the people who passed that, which I repealed, have the gumption to ask me about how I apply the citizenship law of this country?

“I say to them, read the citizenship law and see the authority which is vested in the minister which is responsible for immigration.

“And when people elect Ralph Gonsalves in successive elections, they have confidence and trust in me as to how citizenship is dealt with,” said Gonsalves, who has been an elected Member of Parliament for 18 years and is currently the longest-serving legislator.

“How is it that anything unsavoury has never been spoken about anybody in relation to citizenship?” Gonsalves said. (KXC)