In a press release two days ago, Consul General at the U.S. Embassy to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean, and the OECS, Mark Bysfield, stated categorically, “The United States has not requested any changes to passports issued by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis.”As a matter of fact, Bysfield confirmed that the place of birth is a “key element”of biographic data for machine readable and e-passports. He asserted that the U.S. government had notified the Douglas administration that persons applying for U.S. visas, who hold St. Kitts and Nevis passports which do not include the place of birth, have experienced delays in processing times. Now, why would Prime Minister Douglas tell such a “whopper”on the U.S.? We suspect that it is the same reason he would tell a “whopper”on the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in the same breath! The very same reason he has been telling “BIG WHOPPERS’to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis for more than nineteen years, to save his own skin. Lest we forget, in 2010 he first denied any knowledge of a company called Lex Consulting which (in 2009) issued a US$95,000 cheque to a Dr. Denzil L. Douglas. He suggested, at the time, that the cheque belonged to his son, also Denzil Douglas, before admitting one year later that he did in fact know of Lex Consulting and that the cheque was in fact written to him, the father, and not his son. And then there are whoppers over the closure of the Sugar industry, cottages built at Kittitian Hill, La Vallee, the VAT, Electricity rates, BHS contamination,…and the list goes on and on and on. The latest, and perhaps biggest, most economically damaging whopper so far, came last week when the Dr. Douglas’ Press Secretary, Erasmus Williams, told local media that the removal of the place of birth from passports issued by St Kitts and Nevis was done at the request of the U.S. government. The Press Secretary was subsequently forced to withdraw the statement, no doubt by the U.S. government, but in doing so he introduced us to another whopper, this time with regard ICAO guidelines. Williams said, “Although the US government was aware of St Kitts and Nevis’ decision to make this change following guidelines from The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), it was not made at their request.” In this week’s press statement, the U.S. Consul General also rejected any notion that the omission of place of birth from passports conform to ICAO guidelines. “We note that the Press Secretary to the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis has clarified that no such request was ever made by the United States. In fact, the International Civil Aviation Organization specifies place of birth as a key element of biographic data for machine readable and e-passports”, Bysfield said. The U.S. government does not trust Prime Minister Douglas. That was made very clear in a recent alert issued by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), warning international financial institutions that certain foreign individuals, “illicit actors”, are abusing the Citizenship-by-Investment (CBI) programme sponsored by the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis (SKN) to “acquire SKN citizenship in order to mask their identity and geographic background for the purpose of evading U.S. or international sanctions or engaging in other financial crime.”As Prime Minister and in our national interest, Dr. Douglas should have taken the FinCEN advisory constructively and moved immediately, without rancour, to take corrective action to restore the international reputation of the CBI, the main pillar of our already fragile economy. Instead, he proceeded to publicly berate the U.S. government and challenge the credibility of the advisory. Team Unity Leader, Dr. Timothy Harris, in assessing the relationship between the U.S. government and the Douglas administration, said, “So, here we have a government that has lost the confidence of the United States Government, a traditional ally and the most powerful country with which it does business. You can’t blame anybody after 20 years but yourself, because before that time, the program never had a bad name. Whatever bad name that it has had, has to do with his poor management and leadership of that program.”The U.S. Consul General this week made pellucid what most of us suspected a long time ago. Citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis are now experiencing tremendous difficulties in getting U.S. visas because, under Prime Minister Douglas, our Citizenship-by-Investment programme has “lax controls”, is non-transparent and is a magnet for “illicit actors”who use our passports to engage in international financial crime. Undoubtedly, St. Kitts and Nevis has been shamed (internationally) by Dr. Douglas’ woeful mismanagement of the Citizenship-by-Investment programme and we agree with Dr. Harris’ view, and that of an obvious majority of the electorate, that only fresh elections and a new administration can restore our country’s good name.