The Parliament of the Federation of St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Nevis will soon debate an Amendment to the Federation’s Constitution as well as a few other pieces of legislation including the Saint Christopher and Nevis Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2020. These Amendments aim to reduce the number of years of residency that would qualify a person for citizenship of the Federation from fourteen (14) to seven (7) years. The Bills are part of a comprehensive reform of the legal framework in the Federation, which also includes reform of the electoral system by amendment to the National Assembly Elections (Amendment) Bill), 2020, which seeks to provide for the length of stay that would clarify various non-national residents to vote in an federal election.
The Bill to amend the Constitution states that whereas under Section 92(1)(b) of the Constitution, a person, being a Commonwealth citizen, who is ordinarily resident in Saint Christopher and Nevis for fourteen (14) years, is entitled to become a citizen of Saint Christopher and Nevis upon application, it is hereby enacted by and with the advice and consent of the National Assembly of Saint Christopher and Nevis and by the authority of the same to amend the said Section 92 by deleting the expression, “being a Commonwealth citizen” and replacing the word “fourteen” with the word “seven.”
In July 2015, the St. Kitts and Nevis Parliament passed an amendment to the St. Christopher and Nevis Citizenship Act, which excluded persons from registering as citizens under specific conditions. In presenting the Amendment, Prime Minister, the Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris stated that it was part of a wider reform process of the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Program. In advancing reasons for the Amendment, Prime Minister Harris said, “What it seeks to do by and large is to give legislative authority to the Minister to be able to designate certain countries for prohibition from participation in the Citizenship by Investment Program for a variety of reasons.” He said, “Mr. Speaker, this is part of the reform process which we are starting.”
PM Harris advised that as part of the overall reform, the government is working with International Protective Service Agency (IPSA) to restructure the CBI Unit, including its staff. The IPSA International generally provides high-end anti-money laundering and international due diligence services out of offices in Vancouver, Phoenix, New York, London, Dubai and Hong Kong. The company served many of the world’s largest financial institutions related to financial crime compliance.
According to the statement of the government, the Amendment allows the nation to safeguard the integrity of the CBI Program, while contributing to the prevention of transnational organized crime. The Prime Minister stated, “One of the findings of IPSA International was that the Unit was improperly staffed and it had persons who did not have the requisite skill sets to ensure the efficiency of the program,” He further disclosed, “we have started to do some of those changes now that we have one of the professional functionaries of IPSA International working with us.”
In the meantime, Attorney General, the Hon. Vincent Byron advised that the principle /original act was passed in 1984 but world events have forced nations to rethink their policies, which meant that the amendment was necessary. AG Byron stated, “the full effects of globalization had not as yet manifested itself into the reality that it is today. The implications of these types of discrimination have unfortunately become so impactful that they cannot be ignored by a security conscious and forward-thinking nation such as ours.”
Compared to the situation in St. Kitts and Nevis, where constitutional and parliamentary democracy reigns, the same cannot be said about the Commonwealth of Dominica, where a ‘one-man government’ reigns supreme and has firm control over the executive and legislative branches of government, and possibly has undue influence over the judiciary of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC). In that regard, one must applaud the government of St. Kitts for taking these matters to the Parliament for debate and passage, notwithstanding the suggestion of the Leader of Opposition, Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas that such matters should be referred to a referendum with much more intense and meaningful public consultations.
With respect to the amendment of the Citizenship Act, Kittians and Nevisian can at least be assured that such matters benefit from some degree of meaning consultation and parliamentary debate. In Dominica, our Citizenship Act was amended by Statutory Regulatory and Order (SR&O) to establish the Citizenship by Investment program (CBI) i.e., by issuance of SR&O No.37 of 2014 pursuant to Section 20 of Citizenship Act of Dominica. The said SR&O was further amended in 2016 to define “specific purpose funds,” which allows our government to hold/hide away Billions of CBI funds from the sale of our passports in ESCROW accounts controlled by state and non-state actors. Lest we forget, Dominica does not have an Act of parliament governing its CBI program. The Commonwealth of Dominica Citizenship by Investment Regulations 2014 (SR&O.37 of 2014) was published pursuant to Section 101 of the Constitution and Section 8 and 20 (1) of the Citizenship Act of Dominica. The all-powerful Prime Minister Skerrit merely had Senator Mr. Alvin Bernard, who was the Minister responsible for the CBI program in the Prime Minister’s office made Regulations impacting our Citizenship.
This is not to say that Regulations do not carry the force of law, however, these Regulations do benefit from full and rigorous vetting of Parliament as an Act of Parliament. According to Section 20 the Citizenship Act, Chap.1.10 of Dominica, the Minister responsible for Citizenship may by Regulation make provision generally for carrying out the responsibilities under Act and the relevant provision of the Constitution. Therefore, in order to implement the Constitutional provision, the government of Dominica simply creates a Regulation and sets up special funds as approved by the cabinet to hide CBI funds as “specific purpose” accounts.
The fact is Sub-section 2 of Section 20 of the Citizenship Act of Dominica allows these things to occur as it does not require parliamentary approval or the resolution of the House of Assembly. These are things we must consider changing in our laws as the 1978 Constitution and Citizenship Act did not envisage such crafty arrangements of the 1980’s and 90’s to sell our Citizenship as part of a so-called “Investment program.” The relevant provisions of the 1978 Citizenship Act of Dominica should be reviewed to require parliamentary oversight and resolution. In most countries the law expressly requires the authorization of legislation of parliament to amend the Citizenship Act but in Dominica this is not necessary and a rogue regime like the DLP unfortunately takes full advantage of this situation.
The fallacy of the Westminster system of government continues to slap us in the face of abuse by a rogue DLP Administration. This is a failed system in which there is no real independence of the branches of government. The Executive arm is in charge of our entire system. It dominates our unicameral legislature and many citizens are now convinced that it controls or significantly influences the judiciary in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. The Executive branch of government, aided and abetted by a Speaker of the House, the President and Police Chief, who now appear to be part of the fold of the cabinet in Dominica -as we were recently reminded by the Parliamentary Representative of the Roseau Central constituency and wife of the Prime Minister in a Facebook posts, is in full control. Therefore, our legislature is now weak as the executive (dominated by one man) sets the legislative agenda and passes the laws, which are assented to by the President without question, and which it uses to govern its actions.