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The Citizenship Law


Fri, Aug 17, 2012

by Hans King
Press Secretary to the Prime Minister

On the last occasion when the House of Assembly met two or so weeks ago on July 31, 2012, Senator Dr Linton Lewis posed a four-part question to Prime Minister Gonsalves about the number of persons associated with the Buccament Resort who had been granted Vincentian citizenship, their original citizenship, the status of such person(s) in St Vincent and the Grenadines prior to the grant of citizenship, and the reasons for the grant of such citizenship.{{more}}

The Prime Minister replied to the first two parts of the question by indicating that it was already public knowledge that one person from the Buccament Resort, a British citizen, had been granted Vincentian citizenship. The Prime Minister declined to answer the other two parts of the question by insisting, first, that the Rules of the House of Assembly prohibit him from answering questions about an individual and that it was indeed improper to discuss the grounds on which he exercised his discretion to grant citizenship. He assured the nation that he had exercised his discretion properly and reasonably within the framework of the Citizenship Law and advised Dr Lewis to read the law for the answer.

Additionally, Prime Minister Gonsalves pointed out that the grant of citizenship to the investor at the Buccament Resort was not “economic citizenship” for which the NDP government had specifically enacted a law in 1997, but which the ULP administration had repealed in 2001. The “economic citizenship” law permitted a non-national to buy a passport and citizenship upfront. Dr Gonsalves has long insisted that our citizenship is not for sale; it is not a commodity for purchase; and that it is the highest office in the land to be acquired in the usual ways as laid down in the Constitution of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Citizenship Act (No. 12 of 1984) (Chapter 117 of the Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines).

Since the meeting of the House of Assembly, the NDP propagandists, and fellow-travellers, have falsely been insisting that Dr Gonsalves’ request to Dr Lewis to read the Citizenship Law was both evasive and arrogant. One anti-Ralph newspaper editorialised as much. Dr Lewis, for his part, has taken refuge in the vanity nonsense that he does not need advice from the Prime Minister to read the law and that he was so bright that he passed his law exams and got his PhD in Law. But as Dr Gonsalves always says there are two kinds of brightness: one which blinds; the other which illuminates.

Unfortunately, neither Dr Lewis nor his NDP commentators and anti-Ralph “journalists” have bothered to read the law or at least have not drawn it to the public’s attention.

What does the St Vincent and the Grenadines Citizenship Act say? In Section 9 thereof, under the rubric “Registration of other persons [as citizens]” it is provided thus:

“The Minister may, in his discretion, cause to be registered as a citizen a person who makes an application under this section for registration as a citizen if that person –

(a) Is of good character and has an adequate knowledge of English Language and of the responsibilities of a citizen of St Vincent and the Grenadines and has, over a period of at least five years, made substantial contribution to cultural or economic growth and development in St Vincent and the Grenadines”.

The Minister in this section of the Act means the Minister responsible for matters relating to citizenship, who happens to be Prime Minister Gonsalves.

Section 18 of the said St Vincent and the Grenadines citizenship Act provides importantly as follows under the rubric “Discretion of the Minister”:

“The Minister shall not be required to assign any reason for the grant or refusal of an application of the making of an order under this Act, the decision of which it is in his discretion; and the decision of the Minister on any such application or order shall not be subject to an appeal or review in any court.”

Please remember that this Act has been in place since July 04, 1984. Indeed, there is a similar provision prior to this date. This Act was not passed by the Ralph Gonsalves administration!

I should point out that there are detailed provisions in Section 14 of the Citizenship Act for the Minister to exercise his discretion to deprive a Vincentian “citizen by registration or naturalisation”. There is a wide ambit for the exercise of the discretion to deprive such a person of his/her citizenship by registration or naturalisation, including a provision in Section 14(h) of the Act whereby the Minister may issue an order of citizenship deprivation if he is satisfied that:

“it is not conducive to public interest, public order, public safety, or national security that the person should continue to be a citizen of St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

This discretion, too, of the Minister is not open to question or legal challenge under the above-mentioned Section 18 of the Act.

It is to be noted that despite the fact that a few Vincentian citizens by registration or naturalisation have conducted themselves in a manner possibly to invoke Section 14(h) or other “deprivation” provisions, the Prime Minister in over eleven years in office has never once ever contemplated to invoke it. That is the reason why, among other things, he told Dr Lewis that he takes the exercise of his discretion under the Citizenship Law most seriously. Neither Dr Lewis nor any of his fellow-travelling mischief-makers has any leg, moral or legal, to question legitimately this Prime Minister in the exercise of his discretion under the Citizenship Law. Dr Lewis, who has never exercised such a discretion and is unlikely ever to have the opportunity so to do, is not likely to grasp what is required in the circumstances to exercise a discretion which Prime Minister Gonsalves has been doing, commendably, for over eleven years.