June 5, 2015
Dr Gonsalves questions terms of honorary citizenship

The declaration by Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace that immediately upon assuming office, a New Democratic Party (NDP) administration will make all Garifuna in the diaspora honorary citizens of St Vincent and the Grenadines, has come under strong questioning by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.{{more}}

During a press conference on Tuesday, Gonsalves questioned what are the terms of the offer of honorary citizenship.

“Just a piece of paper saying I declare you to be an honorary citizen?” Gonsalves asked.

“Since you wouldn’t be able to look at somebody and say whether they are Garifuna, is it going to be done by DNA? When you give them honorary citizenship, our Garifuna brothers and sisters, are they coming out from Belize, from Nicaragua, from Honduras, from Guatemala. They’re coming out from those countries for jobs in St Vincent? They’re coming for houses?”

The Prime Minister stated that his only knowledge of ‘honorary citizenship’ is mention in a law passed in 1996 by the former NDP administration and was otherwise known as economic citizenship. While the law was repealed in 2001, Gonsalves added that candidates for economic citizenship were required to pay US$55,000, with US$5,000 for each dependent.

Gonsalves, who is Minister with responsibility for Immigration, also questioned whether Garifunas who are made honorary citizens would receive passports or be subject to the terms laid out in the 1996 law.

“Are we going to put the restrictions which you had for honorary citizenship in 1996? That the applicant must be a person who has no record of any serious crime, that the applicant must be a person free from any infectious disease? I could only go on what they had for the honorary citizenship. The only difference is you don’t pay any money because you are a Garifuna.”

Furthermore he noted that under the old law, honorary citizens were not allowed to vote. The Prime Minister questioned whether Garifuna given honorary citizenship, under the NDP, will be able to vote.

“We’re going to give Garifuna the right to vote, but Vincentians living overseas don’t have the right to vote?” he questioned.

Gonsalves noted that any Garifuna living overseas who is a descendant of a Garifuna individual living here can get citizenship on the basis of being a descendant.

He also spoke of the various ways that persons can gain citizenship to St Vincent and the Grenadines. These include right by birth, naturalization or permanent residence and marriage.(BK)