Dominica – a Country in Crisis
(03 Feb. 2017) — Since writing the article, “Challenges to EC Citizenship by Investment Programs Spark Nasty Debate”, in response to the 60 Minutes exposé and expressing my own concerns for the integrity of similar economic citizenship programs in the region, the issues surrounding Dominica’s Citizenship by Investment Program have exploded. A follow-up article by Dominica diaspora leader Atty. Gabriel Christian, “A Call to Responsible Action – Response to Dominica’s CBI Program”, called for a commission of inquiry and transparency in Dominica’s economic citizenship program. The Roosevelt Skerrit-led government’s push-back, subsequent actions and statements, seems to stretch the limits of democratic norms which has brought the country to the edge of a political crisis.
The Dominican government’s response to demands for transparency and accountability by members of the Dominican Diaspora and citizens at home has resulted in what amounts to a steady stream of comments by government spokespersons and supporters accusing opposition forces of un-patriotism. Some detractors are being accused of treasonous intentions and engaging in sinister efforts to sabotage the country’s economy. Accusations flowing back and forth and media exposures of alleged corrupt practices in the Dominica CBI program now dominate online chatter and social media. In this milieu, the Roosevelt Skerrit-led government has pushed back hard and seems determined to maintain a lid of secrecy on the program, in particular on information related to non-Dominican individuals who have been granted diplomatic passports as ambassadors through the CBI program or on some other economic-related pretext.
There are good reasons for concern by members of the Dominican Diaspora and citizens at home. In fact, there are good reasons for all CARICOM member states to be concerned about any program that could impact negatively on the region, regardless of which country is in charge of such program or whose nationals are directly impacted. As Caribbean people we should have recognized by now that the entire region rises and falls on the achievements and mistakes of each of us. So let’s not kid ourselves, there is cause for regional concerns. Such concerns will not go away by stifling dissent. Concerns can only be ameliorated through transparency in government actions, and by a government that is willing to acknowledge publicly its mistakes and take responsibility for them.
At the same time, societal chaos will only be averted when a responsible government is forthcoming with clear and credible means to correct its mistakes. That’s a sign of maturity of a democratic system and characteristic of a government which puts its people and country first. It’s a demonstration to the people of Dominica, the region, and the world that the government’s actions are above board, and that neither government officials, political leaders, or their inner circles profit from corruption and other criminal enterprise.
There are many troubling issues related to Dominica’s economic citizenship program that are broadly discussed and available from open sources, including credible international media sources. From these sources we are made aware of a number of individuals, not natural-born nationals of Dominica or their descendants, who hold Dominica diplomatic passports and who have been investigated, hunted as international criminals, and arrested by various jurisdictions for a number of serious crimes. Common among these individuals is that they carry the rank of Ambassador of Dominica. I will cite two examples.
Among the noted Dominican diplomats who have ran afoul of the law are a former Nigerian oil minister, Deizani Alison-Madueke who was arrested in London by the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) on October 2nd 2015. According to the BBC report, Alison-Madueke was one of five people being investigated by the NCA as part of an investigation into suspected bribery and money laundering. During Alison-Madueke’s term as Nigeria’s oil minister (2010-2015), it was alleged that $20 billion of oil money went missing. There were a number of investigations, including by the Nigeria Senate, of corruption charges against Alison-Madueke. According to the ACA, its investigation of Alison-Madueke had been going on since 2013. While charges failed to stick in Nigeria, and she has denied any criminal activity, it seems to have been sufficient of a red flag for any government vetting her for citizenship, and certainly for making her an ambassador.
Another more recent Dominican diplomat, Alireza Zibahalat Monfared, an Iranian citizen, was arrested and returned to Iran on January 16, 2017. Monfared has been accused of involvement in a sanctions-busting scheme (UN and U.S. sanctions against Iran oil industry) in which he worked closely with another Iranian who was sentenced to death last year for embezzling the Iranian government of some $2.8 billion. Monfared was part of a group assisting Iran to evade UN and U.S. sanctions.
These two cases cited are not rumors; they are facts. The people of Dominica have a right to raise questions about the integrity of their country’s economic citizenship program, and in particular the granting of diplomatic passports to non-Dominicans of whom they know very little, if anything, until these individuals are arrested by some foreign country.
No level of strong-arm response will stifle civil disobedience. The result of such strategy, which is really not a strategy, is more unrest which inevitably descends into violence and chaos. There will come a time when law enforcement and security personnel with integrity and commitment to the Rule of Law and good governance will step away from the government and stand with the civilian population. Dominica should not have to come to that. The government has within its powers the means to alter the dynamics and ensure that the people are heard through their elected and non-elected representatives. Calm and reason on both sides of the divide are essential to peace and tranquility which will inure to the benefit of the people and the country, and also to the region.
Reports of the arrest of an outspoken critic of the Dominican government, medical doctor Sam Christian is troubling. According to the arrest warrant, Dr. Christian was charged with inciting violence, and the police cited as evidence a public speech he gave over a year ago in a public park. This speech has been in the public domain for more than a year, including on You Tube. Why arrest Dr. Christian now? Why at a time when there is raging debate about the economic citizenship program of which he is a well-known critic? This can be no coincidence.
Dr. Christian’s arrest suggest at least one of two things: 1) The Dominica constabulary and public prosecutor are grossly incompetent for this so-called criminal violation to be languishing for more than a year without taking action to protect the public; or 2) The Dominica constabulary and public prosecutor have been corrupted by government’s intent on stifling dissent. Under the circumstances it appears to be the latter.
It is the obligation of CARICOM collectively, and Caribbean political and civil society leaders to step forward and help bring about civil discourse between the government and people of Dominica and stop the hemorrhaging of human rights protection. The government bears the utmost responsibility to ensure the rights of its citizens are protected. Rule of Law and good governance should be the hallmark of all Caribbean governments. There is no exception.
Thanks for calling out the Caribbean governments to the rescue of the Dominican people.
What you describe as personal attacks are not caused by demands for accountability. They are triggered by a smear campaign of alternative facts. In relation to the ECP and CBI programs (i) revenues are disclosed in the Estimates and public accounts, (ii) the names of all persons granted citizenship are published in the Gazette, (ii) there are regulations and laws which govern the process including mandatory due diligence, and following the initiation of the CBI the Prime Minister gave a detailed account of the expenditure of CBI funds for which he was commended by the Governor of the ECCB.
On the issue of diplomatic passports, the names of postings were disclosed in the Parliament from 2000 to 2012. More specifically, in relation to your two (2) examples. The allegation by Lennox Linton and Gabriel Christian is that the Prime Minister has sold, and is selling, diplomatic passports. Despite repeated denials, and requests for evidence, none has been supplied. Nevertheless that they persist in the allegation.
Further, immediately on being informed of Allison-Maduake’s detention for questioning, the Prime Minister gave a public address, and all relations with her were suspended, and her diplomatic passport cancelled. In his address the Prime Minister indicated that he had received due diligence prior to meeting with Maduake. The statement is still on the Gov website. [ See http://www.opm.gov.dm/?p=1611%5D
The allegations in relation to Monfared are that no due diligence was done , and that the Prime Minister sold the passport to him to enable him to escape arrest for violating US law. Again, the Prime Minister gave an Address on the allegations [ seehttp://www.cbn4.com/2017/01/31/address-to-the-nation-by-hon-roosevelt-skerrit-jan-27-2017-greece/] , and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a perss release.[ See http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Dominica-says–due-diligence-followed–before-granting-citizenship-to-arrested-Iranian-national.%5D . These public statements are directly relevant to the issue of accountability.
The indisputable fact which the opposition is ignoring is that the Prime Minister acted on a due diligence report dated July 2014 prepared by Bishops Services Inc. They are also ignoring the facts that (i) Monfared was not on any US or EU sanctions breaker watch list, (ii) there was no warrant or request for his extradition by the USA Government, (iii) Monfared was not mentioned by the US Justice Department or in the 2016 US Zarrab Indictments . The allegation made first was that he was a person of interest in relation to that Indictment. In others words, there is no basis for the allegation he was wanted by the US. It was the Iranians who sought him for allegedly very different reasons in late 2016 or 2017.
In view of the above, which is not exhaustive, many in Dominica not believe the conduct of the opposition is not are you have sought to describe it.
Tony you think of yourself too much. You really believe that the little title of Senior Council and your INEXPERIENCE can compare with Mr Ward ? did you google Mr Ward to know the man he is as you did Rijock ? . It beats the hell out of me to really accept you saying that you all did due diligence on these people . If due diligence was done by the firm and they found nothing criminal or otherwise at all on these people and the regular people could find a cemetery then you all need the fire that firm plain and simple. By the way i don’t believe it’s the firm fault i believe at the end of the day you all could not let all that money go . Creed again. On the other hand i read through Mr ward article and this man is being as transparent and honest as you can get great article . One thing i came to the realisation that you all are afraid of independent/ Intelligent / educated people challenging you guys is like everyone has to agree with the nonsense you speak and believe we all should accept whats going on in Dominica. Tony you and the Labour party has destroyed Dominica totally and completely with the lack of transparency and creed. The CBI was supposed to be transparent and for the people of Dominica yesterday/ today and tomorrow.Tony this is coming from someone who’s been living their entire life in Dominica. So therefore i have to agree with Mr Ward. I do not need to google or wait for the news nor go investigate whats going on i am living it . Something has to change and we the people who know what good governance is are the ones who will right the wrong. Stop making excuses in the name of creed. Tell the people the truth. Mr Ward thank you for your honest opinion.
In light of the Aljazeera investigative piece, “diplomats for sale”, what now do you have to say? Keep oppressing democracy, electoral reforms is a must.
A well written and balanced analysis of the Dominican situation. Let’s hope the DLP Government and Skerrit act appropriately now to avoid any further damage to Dominica’s economy , democracy and way of life and as well to avoid ripple impact on CARICOM..
The Government of Dominica led by Roosevelt Skerrit in the face of all this evidence continues to blame the UWP opposition for the news of this high level of corruption in the sale of Dominica passports. They continue to use the police to intimidate and harrass citizens who have a voice of dissent. Never in the history of Dominica has the government of the day waged war on the opposition and their supporters in such a manner. Depriving them of jobs refusing to do business with them refusing to fix roads where these people live refusing scholarships to their children and forcing them to leave the country. The level of corruption displayed by this government is unsurpassed and continues unabated with agents of passport sales buying and constructing expensive properties and putting up businesses requiring large capital outlay while allegedly owning accounts in overseas banks with huge balances. News of large amounts of cash being handed out to labor party supporters has been around in various villages for years. People are now asking where is all that money coming from. Another major question on the lips of Dominicans including labor party supporters is if all this money is made in passport why are things so bad on island. Why are roads so bad? Why are the health services so lacking? Why is the govt offering civil servants 0% increase for 3 years with the cost of living as onr of the highest in the region? Where is all the passport money going?
Ambassador Ward – you need to talk to none bias individuals – and – do your own research – and – please conduct your own on the ground assessment.
Mr. Davis – you are making false assumptions and drawing erroneous conclusions. Perhaps you should have opined that I haven’t spoken to you and offer a reason why I should. FYI: I communicate with individuals who actually know what’s going on. If you have something constructive and factual to say, I invite you to post it and have it reviewed for approval. Also, FYI: I do a lot of research, including with U.S. government sources. CW
Ambassador Ward is taking the effort to connect the dots, much less furthering discourse before widespread civil unrest. He sheds light upon a non-ethical drift within Dominica’s political institutions who shelter those who do not assume ethical civic responsibilities elsewhere. All governments must reinforce established ethical national standards (or purported standards) for one another when individuals seek self interest over these responsibilities – and not shelter these individuals. If governments do not, the most effective diplomatic tool, Financial Sanctions, will be undermined to the detriment of every nation – and thus every citizen. International sanction regimes are increasingly being defused “Off Shore” (even in Delaware) by “modern tactics” of moving money through tax havens, loopholes and front companies – and now selling diplomatic status – to individuals who invest in a system that aids and abets pre-modern tactics of dropping barrels filled with explosives on urban areas. If they still choose such systems despite tremendous human suffering, do you think a little civil unrest and political bickering bother them? Which side are you on?
Michael Davis is pro government most likely paid. He is a dishonest and dishonorable man to come here and attack an ambassador such as you Sir. He Davis is known to excuse every crime against perpetrated by the current government as some Innocent mistake or he denies it ever happens.
Astaphan is the hired gun of the Government and tries to intimidate the democracy and good governance activist with threats. (Editor: Sentence edited out as accusations are not supported by collaborating information).
Sir, these two men are dangerous to Caribbean democracy, rule of law and honor and would live in another galaxy bereft of honest space cadets if they want us to believe the diplomatic passpets were “gifts” and no bargained for exchange tool place. The nouveau riche is now in league with the old rich elite of which Astaphan is part. It is a corrupt marriage of convenience which is poisoning Dominica and the region. They must go!