By Loshaun Dixon
Former Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris has once again aimed at current PM Dr. Terrance Drew over the transparency regarding the Citizenship By Investment Programme, while Dr. Drew has indicated his predecessor’s rhetoric is irresponsible.
Speaking last week at a press conference, Dr. Harris slammed the Prime Minister for not producing the number of citizenships granted under the programme since being in office, having promised to do so. He said the CBI programme is a subject matter under the office of the Prime Minister, so Dr. Drew would be privy to the statistics.
“It is an extension of that office, and importantly I make the point, by our laws, only the Prime Minister can sign the Citizenship of Registration (COR) which allows you to get your passport. So the Prime Minister would know.”
Referencing the multiple times questions as to the amount of citizenship granted and the nationalities have been posed by this media house, Dr. Harris said the prime minister ought to be better prepared.
“And he only needs to request it…he is asking you to do his job. He has a press conference. He must come prepared to address any subject matter under his portfolio. And it is quite possible that at times he may not have all the information. His job is to get it.”
“Repeatedly people will ask, so you prepare. ‘Mr. Such and Such, I’m having a press conference, so could you send me the statistics just in case somebody asks?’ And in a new day, and a better way, you wouldn’t even have to ask.”
He repeated that the Prime Minister knows what those statistics are, because he has to sign each application.
“When the applications come in up there, you sign them in, you know how many. When they send them down to the Prime Minister’s office to be signed, they are recorded in the Office of the Prime Minister and they are recorded in the books of the sender. The Prime Minister is attempting to be too smart, and he’s outsmarting himself, because you are not being fooled.
“Why is he wasting the media’s time to say go and ask the CBI, which you should know? Because they can’t have a COR unless you sign it.”
Dr. Harris accused Dr. Drew of playing a cat-and-mouse game with an important matter.
“They prepare it and it comes to you blank. When I say blank, without the signature, to give it the authority to be executed and to be acted upon, and you sign and you stamp it. So he’s playing a cat-and-mouse game, unfortunately with something so critical.”
Dr. Harris warned that it was similar practices in 2014 that put the CBI in trouble.
“And that is why in 2014, the same smartness was being tried and they got caught. And then we had the burden of trying to track over 15,000 passports, which in the smartness they issued and they take out which country the people were from. These things have a way of catching up on you.
“So he must come prepared and you all must say that to him. Prime Minister, you are the minister responsible for the citizenship programme. You must come with the information, because we’ve been asking you so repeatedly.”
Responding to Dr. Harris, Prime Minister Drew said that he was “acting irresponsibly and saying all sort of things, some of them not true”.
He said that the matter was very serious, and that Dr. Harris “has lost his credibility on this one.”
“I am taking this one very seriously. We know the seriousness of the matter, and he is treating this like any other issue, but I will not have that.”
Dr. Drew said his administration has also done something to strengthen the programme.
“We know what needs to be strengthened; we know what we met and are now adding international surveillance. We have a process called due diligence and our partners know this. You have to go through a robust background check, and that is very vigorous.”
The Prime Minister said they have introduced even more checks on due diligence.
“We are making it very tight, and what we are introducing now is someone in charge of the surveillance of our citizenship, which is an added factor. They will be positioned in Europe.”
He said that those are the changes they are making to show how responsible we are as a country to make it the tightest programme of any of the programmes.
“We are the innovators and continue to lead on it. That is why I took those decisions to ensure we strengthen it as much as possible. The former administration caused the country to depend too heavily on the CBI programme. We now are seeking to cut our dependence on it, and not depend on any one sector. We want to diversify the economy and strengthen all sectors.”