A Call to Responsible Action – Response to Dominica’s CBI Program
Gabriel J. Christian, Esq.
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.
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.
It surely is with transparency and accountability on all aspects of this endeavor that CBI can be beneficial to all parties. I support this appeal to our leaders that will not only calm the anxieties of the citizens of Dominica but will also raise our nation and the program’s trustworthiness on a global front. Well done Mr Christian!
We certainly need credible government to run our affairs in a decent, transparent and accountable manner. We just do not trust this government as it appears business of the state appears to be run and managed in a secretive and non of damn your business fashion, in that these matters of CBI function as an internal matter owned and operated by a family who owns Dominicans like in the days of the Plantocracy (Slavery) system of abuse and treat the masses, slaves with contempt that they remain poor and the privileged ones get all the gains, wealth and benefit, while Dominica and Dominicans continue to live in real poverty. Dominica is deteriorating in the cesspit of political quicksand very fast. We must rise and remove the chains that hold us to blind loyalty of a fast growing repressive government.
I presume ” in camera” was an oversight.
This is a powerful, timely and crucially important article on a critical issue facing many countries in the region. Mr. Christian provides a set of responsible recommendations that, if followed, would go far in addressing many of the concerns that most people have whether they are located locally, regionally or internationally.
As Patricia Philbert comments above, transparency and accountability are two of the pillars on which all CBI programs should be built, managed and maintained. I would add two more: (1) world class responsiveness (to critiques, problems, emerging developments, etc.) and (2) hyper vigilance (alert monitoring, diligent attentiveness, proactive conscientiousness).
Following this 60 Minutes event, the Prime Minister delivered an address to the Nation The Prime Minister repudiated Linton’s description of the CBI as a mail order transaction, and gave a detailed denial to the allegation that diplomatic passports were sold by him or his Government especially to criminals on the run. In relation to the diplomatic passports the Prime Minister was clear, no sales and no criminal on the run was given any appointment or passport. (See http://www.dominicavibes.dm/news-220460/)
Mr Sam Raphael, who ran as an independent against the Government some years ago, told the Nation that the 60 Minutes program was a hit job. He added that he was interviewed by CBS’s staffers who were not interested in what he was saying because he was not eating their slosh when Linton swallowed with cool-aid. He also said or implied that Linton’s portrayal of the CBI was false. Linton and his Cabal went for Sam’s throat.
Mr Gregor Nassief, another successful and independent citizen, condemned Linton. Mr Nassief repudiated three of Linton’s many lies frontally. (http://www.dominicavibes.dm/readers-220734/)
Henley & Partners in their press release of the 12th January 2017 confirmed Linton misrepresented the true nature of CBI programs.(See http://www.dominicavibes.dm/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Press-Release-Henley-Partners-re-Caribbean-Citizenship-by-Investment-2017.pdf)
I noticed you failed to refer to these publications or mention the Prime Minister’s numerous denials and explanations over the years and in his Address. On the other hand, you swallowed Linton’s story hook line and sinker. But what I considered disingenuous on your part is the attempt to misrepresent the debate. The debate in Dominica and elsewhere is the allegation made by Linton, and repeated by 60 Minutes, that the Government and no doubt by implication the Prime Minister sold passports to criminal on the run. This is false. I note you did not repeat this allegation. Instead your dressed it up in a wedding dress when you wrote ‘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. ‘ While I could challenge the accuracy of your statement, but it is not necessary to do so now, the fact is that a couple of persons appointed Goodwill Ambassadors have had their appointments revoked by the Government because of events which have occurred after the fact, and in some cases 2 years or more afterwards. This has never been denied by the Government. What has been, and is being, denied is the allegation that the Government and Prime Minister have sold diplomatic passports to any person under the table as alleged by Linton or at all.
Further, Linton has had ample opportunity to provide the evidence of these alleged dodgy sales when interviewed by Huffington Post, and he failed miserably to do so. (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/till-bruckner/dominica-passport-citizen_b_9009416.html) What fascinated most with this interview were Linton’s answers (to the Huffington Post’s questions, available on the above link).
I am not sure about you, but when a Leader of the Opposition (whose word you accept) hands up this level of gossip mongering as his evidence of alleged sales, he must be condemned. And when he goes on the international stage to poison his country’s reputation with more lies or rumourmongering … well you know my position.
16th January 2017
Anthony W Astaphan,SC
It is clear that you are critical the CBS’ dramatic 60 Minute Episode. It is also clear that you are hyper-critical of Lenox Linton’s comments therein. You were also similarly critical of Mr. Christian and what you apparently saw as his failure to be himself critical of both CBS’s expose and Linton’s assertions.
However, in my mind, you failed to address Mr. Christian’s most important contribution to the regional (and worldwide) debate on CBI programs: His recommendations – not to shelve them – but to make them better!
So, what is your response generally to the call for more transparency and accountability than currently exists and your response specifically to Mr. Christian’s recommendations?
Ass-ta-fan,your rogue prime mistake has denied many things which we have proved that he lied about! If denying something by word of mouth to defend one then there would be no need for a lawyer and court as none would be found guilty and made to pay. Your rogue prime mistake denied that he had any property but when the evidence of he owned land which worth a million dollars was made public,he then confessed that it was a gift. If he never owned any property,how then he ended up with land worth a million dollars as a gift?
I would like to see a response by Gabriel to the comments made by Anthony which paints a picture quite different from the inferences by Gabriel. Not being from Dominica, I do not have a stake in the matter but as a Caribbean native in the diaspora I am intrigued.
You have no idea who Tony Astaphan is do you?
A Man Paid to sit in his luxurious Florida home to apologize on the behalf of the government no matter how wrong they are. Flip and spin matters of truths and so much more. This man has absolutely no respect for the elected officials on the opposition side in this country, he incites violence among his supporters and the list goes on and on.
His latest spin was when the Governor of the ECCB said clearly that there needs to be transparency in the CBI program whilst giving sound advice to the Government on how the money should be spent. Tony’s article entitled “What did the Governor of the ECCB ACTUALLY say about the CBI in Dominica?” was misleading in saying that the governor was actually telling us the current program is in fact transparent as if we are fools living in paradise unable to read and understand simple language.
Listen to what Gabriel Christian had to say and tell me it make complete sense
The painful part of this CBI expose is the fact that the Government does not use this as an opportunity to be accountable to the people. They are acting like masters to the people holding smear campaigns against the opposition and weird press conferences. These guys are so bad for this country.
All well and good to ask for accountability! Are we concerned about the level of crime in our nation? I’m very disturbed. Let’s shift the focus. What can we do about it?