The following is Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s address to the nation during a press conference on Wednesday 4 January 2017.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the media, citizens of Dominica, resident at home and abroad, residents, visitors, friends and well wishers, good afternoon….
Just a few days ago, the world ushered in a new year….
As Dominicans, we each wished the other, a happy and prosperous 2017….or words to similar effect.
Little did we expect that less than 24 hours later, we would have witnessed the launch of a carefully crafted campaign, designed to undermine and frustrate the rate of economic growth and development and post Ericka reconstruction, in this country.
The campaign itself and some of its main actors, were not by and in themselves, a major surprise. We have in the past experienced attack after attack from members of the United Workers Party who we believe work for, or have common interests with persons like Chris Kalin of Henley and Partners. It was former Prime Minister Denzil Douglas who told us that Edison James approached him as a salesman on behalf of Henley and Partners. It is not in dispute that Lennox Linton travelled with him several times. Chris Kalin of Henley and Partners has never been disposed to Dominica, ever since the election of a Dominica Labour Party administration in 2000 and our subsequent refusal to hire them as the exclusive agent for our citizenship by investment programme.
Indeed, you will recall that I have outlined to you before, the close relationship between Henley & Partners and the Leader of the Opposition and the United Workers Party. They or persons introduced by them were major financiers of the UWP in the 2005 and 2009 elections. Indeed, I strongly believe their machinations may have led to the ascension to leadership of the UWP, by Mr. Lennox Linton.
I do not wish to speculate as to whether the program idea was that of CBS or Henley and Partners, but, at this point it really does not matter. I think that Chris Kalin and Linton grabbed the opportunity to convey the negative messages, images and impression of our countries to the world.
What concerns me most however, is that notwithstanding the vote and by extrapolation, the voice of the people of Dominica two years ago, the Leader of the Opposition in Dominica, continues to promote what is clearly a Henley and Partners agenda, at the expense of the interest and wellbeing of Dominica.
This is what we warned about and this is what we feared would have happened, had Lennox Linton and the UWP been elected to office in the last general Election.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this attack was no doubt a calculated one. It is interesting to note that the Caribbean countries that have either not embraced Henley & Partners or discontinued their association with them were the ones targeted in this programme.
So I want the people of Dominica to recognize and understand the context of all of this. We view this as the beginning of a likely ongoing campaign to undermine and destabilize the economic wellbeing of Dominica, through the dismantling of its Citizenship By Investment Program.
It is noteworthy that nowhere in the program on Sunday was it said that Lennox Linton was Leader of the United Workers or the Opposition in Dominica. He was referred to merely as a Member of Parliament. To Americans and others this could be interpreted to mean that he was either a non-partisan Member or a critical Member of the Government side. The purpose was obvious!
What we cannot comprehend is how a sitting member of the Parliament of Dominica, in the person of Mr. Lennox Linton, the Leader of the Opposition, would be so irresponsibly a part of that campaign. Perhaps its his emotional ties to Henley & Partners or it may be his great anger and fear provoked by the considerable success of the CBI program.
This success benefits all Dominicans. However, Lennox Linton sees the success of the CBI program as a political threat to him. Your lives and those of your family mean nothing to him and his pathological obsession for political power.
We have explained ad nauseum how the CBI Programme works and Linton is more than aware of that. Let me once again, stress that the CBI Programme is governed by legislation, and persons seeking citizenship of Dominica under the CBI have to undergo a most rigorous, yet transparent, due diligence exercise, that involves criminal, character and ethics checks, by international law enforcement agencies and authorities and due diligence agencies.
While it is no longer mandatory for face to face interviews to be done, it may be required if deemed necessary. Once due diligence reports are received, a committee of Government officials, review all of the documentation before recommending the granting of citizenship. If there is any doubt or concern, further questions or vetting will take place. In no instance is citizenship granted to any one, if the due diligence checks do not pass muster.
Ladies and Gentlemen, quite simply, Lennox Linton, with the whole world watching, had a choice to make. He could have come down on the side of Dominica, or he could have sided with those who wish to see the demise of the Dominica CBI Program for their own selfish reasons. Which side did he choose? Certainly, not Dominica’s!
Let me turn now to the issue of diplomatic passports. We have said more than once that diplomatic passports are not sold under the CBI Programme or otherwise. We categorically refute the allegation that diplomatic passports are being sold by this Government as alleged or at all. It is regrettable that even in the face of constant denial and complete lack of any evidence that Mr. Linton would persist and insist on repeating his lies that such a practice exists.
Over the years we have had many outstanding non-Dominicans offer their services free of charge to Dominica in their countries of origin. They have served as our Ambassadors and Trade Investment Commissioners, in parts of the World where we are unable to be represented by Nationals.
In a few instances one or two of those persons have found themselves at odds with the law, but this was never prior to or known to me or the Government before we considered them. On the very rare occasions when this occurred, immediate action was taken to revoke their appointments as appropriate.
Parliamentarian Linton spoke on Sunday about the alleged sale of diplomatic passports to three individuals in particular. I wish now to address each of these allegations.
First off, it was said that Bahamian Rudolph King had been issued a Diplomatic passport and appointed Ambassador to Bahrain. Ladies and Gentlemen…that is a lie!
Rudolph King never applied for or was ever granted a passport of any sort, whether service, official or diplomatic, by the government of Dominica.
Rudolph King was never appointed ambassador to Bahrain.
The Government of Dominica has refuted this allegation by Linton on several occasions over the past 12 years, yet he persists in repeating it. This time, on international television.
I call on Lennox Linton one more time, to put up or shut up! To Lennox Linton I say – Provide evidence of Rudolph King having been issued a Dominica passport or having been appointed Ambassador to Bahrain. If you cannot do this, then do the decent thing and apologize to the people of Dominica!
Secondly, Linton claims that attempts were made to appoint Francisco Corallo to the FAO, while he was on an international crime watch list. This again, is a lie.
In June of 2011, the Government of Dominica wrote to the Italian government requesting a no-objection to the appointment of Corallo as its representative to the FAO. The Italian government was concerned in about October/ November 2011 that Corallo had considerable business interests in Italy, and was not comfortable agreeing to him becoming a Diplomat at the FAO. That was the right of the Italian Government to do, and this put an end to the matter.
At this time Corallo was recognized as a successful business man, and was at this time, given in 2011, a clean bill of health by the Ministry of the Interior and Foreign Affairs of Italy. .
It was almost a full year later that reports surfaced of Corallo’s name appearing on an international watch list. By this time, the pursuit of his appointment had already ended, because of Italy’s concern about his expansive business operations in that country. The Italian authorities never once made reference to any concerns about his integrity, alleged criminal background or watch list. .
So it was false and malicious of Lennox Linton to give the impression that at the time of the Government’s request for Italy’s consent to his appointment, Corallo was on an international watch list. That was simply not true. The facts, as made public before, clearly shows that the correspondence to Italy was dispatched in June 2011, and Corallo’s name first appeared on an international watch list in late 2012. Incidentally, Corallo has to date not been convicted of any major crime, as suggested by the program on Sunday. So that is lie No. 2!
The third person of interest named by Linton on Sunday was Diezani Alison- Madueke, a former Head of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and senior Minister of the Government of Nigeria. Alison-Madueke was also The recipient of Forbes Magazine’s Best of Africa Award In leadership. This is the sterling record which Alison-Madueke had when I invited her to serve as a voice and face of Dominica in Africa, a continent that lies untapped to most countries in the region.
It was some time after I spoke to Alison-Maduake that she was approached by British authorities and detained for questioning in the United Kingdom. She has up to this day, not been charged with any crime and is not wanted by any country. She currently resides in London, England, a free woman. However, when the news broke of her detention, the Government of Dominica voiced its concerns publicly and made clear that its association with Alison-Madueke was suspended until such time as she was cleared of all suspicion of wrong doing.
As I said earlier, to date no charges have been brought, but still the Government of Dominica has no connection with the former international figure, based on the concerns as expressed back then by the British authorities.
So, again, it was downright wrong and misleading of Lennox Linton to suggest, one, that the government of Dominica had approached her; knowing her to be a criminal, and also that the Government of Dominica had never commented on her detention.
Nothing could be further from the truth, as an official statement on the matter was promptly issued.
Lennox Linton made these sweeping allegations and once again, as was the case in the Huffington Post interview of 2015, he never produced a single shred of evidence to support his allegations.
But, today, Dominica is black eyed, in the eyes of the world, because of the reckless and dangerous utterances of one who aspires one day, to lead this country.
Lennox Linton also lied when he said I never answer questions or respond to these matters. The Government of Dominica has on two occasions disclosed the names of all diplomats to the Parliament, once in 2009 and again in 2012.
Further, public statements and releases were issued by me or the respective Ministry on the matters mentioned by Linton. Yet on Sunday, Linton gave the international community the impression that there is some covert, clandestine attempt on the part of the Government to conduct its affairs in a less than open and transparent manner.
Why a Member of Parliament of Dominica, who fancies himself as a future leader of this country, would wish to portray such an image of Dominica to the international community, is mind boggling, to say the least.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, what do we have on this second working day of 2017? An unfortunate distraction from the important work that this Government has to do in order to address the many challenges that confront us, particularly as we continue to recover from the effects of Erika.
We have invested millions of dollars and countless man hours marketing Dominica’s suitability as an ideal place in the Caribbean for persons to visit and do business, and with which high net worth individuals can associate with pride.
Our programme is among the most respected and revered in the global industry. It has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years and was at the centre of our post-Tropical Storm Erika recovery efforts and is largely financing our community and other locally funded projects.
Dominica has been able to survive the ravages of the global economic recession as a direct consequence of our prudent fiscal and economic management and with the assistance of our global partners. We have built a CBI program that is today the envy of many.
Now, at the start of 2017, when all indicators suggest we are poised for take-off with yet another record year of performance likely, this broadside attack on our CBI program and our country is launched by known enemies of Dominica, aided and abetted by one of its very own.
I remained quiet up to this point, because I wanted to monitor and assess the reaction of ordinary Dominicans to this outrage.
I am heartened by the fact that the vast majority of Dominicans are equally outraged by this unjustified attack on our image, character and integrity. I take great comfort in the fact that Dominicans from all walks of life have called and sent messages of disgust and outrage over this despicable attack on our country.
I am confident that Dominica shall survive this. I am confident that our CBI program shall survive this onslaught. And I am also confident that Dominicans, will remember who amongst us has facilitated and participated in seeking to destroy the good name of Dominica and the opportunity for us to push forward with our development.
I expect that what we saw last Sunday was but the beginning of this campaign and that there will be ongoing attempts to undermine our program. But, God is good and Dominica shall prevail!
It is not for me to prescribe any particular course of action against Lennox Linton. That is for the voters of Dominica to do. That is for the leadership of the United Workers Party to do. If the behavior of Lennox Linton is not offensive to his UWP colleagues in the Parliament of Dominica, then it is for the voters in those constituencies to express their outrage at the appropriate time.
My mission today is to assure Dominicans that despite this unwarranted attack to our economic wellbeing, we shall continue to pursue policies that will aid in the growth and development of our economy. We shall not be deterred！
So let us remain calm and focused and let us join forces in building and protecting this country.
May God continue to Bless this wonderful Nation of ours.”