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OPINION: Diplomatic passports & promissory notes

by: - June 30, 2017
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By: Ronald Charles

Tuesday June 27th 2017 will go down in the annals of Dominica’s political history as the day when Dominica’s “blue emperor” was stripped of his clothing to expose a not so beautiful skeletal frame riddled with credibility issues. Yes, it was on that day that the Dominican public learnt about the disgraceful action the United Workers Party (UWP) had devised to raise campaign financing over two successive general elections cycle.

Elections were held here in 2005 and again in 2009 and for the first time in its history, the opposition UWP found itself in great need for money – l’argent seche. Remember the UWP had outspent the other political parties, including the incumbent Freedom Party at two general elections – 1990 and 1995. In the 2000 general elections, they controlled the nation’s treasury, DBS radio and the Government Information Service (GIS). Remember the 747 jet liner that “landed” in Lagoon, Roseau on manifesto night 2000?

In that particular fundraising effort, the UWP had offered Dominica’s diplomatic passports to certain individuals, outside of Dominica in exchange for hefty cash contribution towards the campaign finances. According to the source, it was estimated that in the 2005 general elections campaign, at least 3 million dollars was received by the UWP from various benefactors in Europe in exchange for a promise of diplomatic passports if the UWP won the elections and become the government. A similar perhaps smaller amount, but still in the millions was also received by the UWP, under similar arrangements for the 2009 general elections campaign.

The person making that revelation stated quite forcefully that he has inside information as he was part of the fundraising efforts of the UWP back then. He Know this for a fact. He chastised the opposition on its hypocrisy in criticizing the incumbent government over the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) and Diplomatic Passport issue program, He emphasized the hypocritical grandstanding of the opposition on the matter. The opposition was and still is in the throes of a never-ending campaign screaming foul against the government and its management of the CBI program. They see criminal, moral and ethical wrongdoing in every facet of the program. There is nothing legal, right or correct about how the program is administered. It has been an unrelenting 24-7 public campaign that is aided and abetted by two ex-convicts postulating as credible spokesperson. Thus, they ought not to be caught with their proverbial pants down at a time when they were not equipped with any “boxer shorts”.

The management and issuing of diplomatic passports remains in the sole purview of the Hon. Prime Minister as head of government. He determines who might be given the great privilege to carry and travel on a diplomatic passport issued by Dominica. Common sense therefore dictates that an opposition party cannot determine who receives that level of national accreditation on behalf of the state – paid or unpaid. So the charge therefore, that the opposition promised to make available Dominica’s diplomatic passports to anyone has to be weighed very careful. Thus, in the immediate aftermath of that damning revelation on a radio station, that is for all intents and purposes owned and operated by agents of the UWP, its spin room attempted to do havoc with that line of reasoning. “Only governments can issue diplomatic passports”. So far they failed miserably for the following reasons.

1. There has not been any frontal denial of the charge by the former leadership of the UWP who were emasculated in this ugly and immoral plan at raising funds for their party’s campaign finances. The only response I have heard so far is one directed at disparaging the person making the revelation and seeking to discredit his character. He was made out to be a traitor, back stabber and one begging for the crumbs that fall from Skerrit’s lunch table. He was branded an opportunist of the worst kind. But no firm denial. Not even the veiled threat of a law suit for libel, slander and defamation. Even when the present leader makes a public statement acknowledging that his “credibility has been damaged”, there is no indication that he intends to take any action to regain his credibility. In fact he has surrendered himself on the altar of being a “sacrificial lamb” for democracy. An emotional appeal to his supporters one may say. For a man that is never short on words. Always with a ready response, it shudders the mind to know that he can say nothing credible in his defence but rather has chosen by clear design to go after the messenger.

2. Before that open revelation on public radio, the matter was already ventilated in the local media – both on radio and television. In one instance, a leading weekly newspaper carried a front-page story detailing to some extent of efforts by the opposition to raise funds for the its general elections campaign. The newspaper story concluded that based on its own investigations, the opposition UWP had entered into certain pre-government level arrangements with individuals foreign to Dominica, to provide diplomatic passports to those who contributed to the party’s election campaign. More than two months of that story coming to light on the front-page of a local newspaper, the UWP has not uttered one word in denial or explanation. In fact their very loud and deafening silence seem to suggest that no one, absolutely no one from the leadership of the UWP has ever read the paper of that date. Perhaps they read the issue but did not think too much of the contents therein. After all it is only PM Skerrit and his cabal is capable of behaving thus.

3. Senior Counsel, Mr. Anthony Astaphan published in both hard and electronic print his findings concerning the sources of funding for the UWP election campaigns in 2005 and 2009. In that public disclosure, information concerning the wire transfers, date, amount of money, name of receiving company and corresponding bank accounts among other pertinent information on the very subject of discussion was publicized. Mr. Astaphan even went on daily and weekly chat radio and has been doing so for weeks on end providing this information to the public.

I suspect the no response strategy is by design. Sam Raphael should not be antagonized into making any more revelations. Let the “body-blows” flow and allow the damage that has already been done to the leader’s credibility to stand.

In the meantime, PM Skerrit has every reason to stand in awe and gaze at what is happening to those who could spare no effort at going after his trustworthiness.