By Caribbean News Global
TORONTO, Canada – The odds of obtaining a Saint Lucia passport has worsened nonchalantly to a passport racket – beyond the briefcase. The authorities’ understanding of technology and data, processing capacity and questionable practices in the state of affairs constitutes a moral hazard. This is detrimental to the integrity of the government of Saint Lucia-issued passports and related national documents.
A Caribbean News Global (CNG) June 13 article highlighted that “Communiqué is certain among international gateways and agencies of interest that Saint Lucia passports are predominantly obtained through third-party (street corner operations) service options, at variable service costs.”
The article also highlighted “matters of data security, accessing, possessing, and retaining personal documents by third-party. Questions were raised pertinent to constitutional responsibility, authorised agent, licenced for the location, possession, review, display, discussion and lawful retention of sensitive documents for passport application and other related services.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police Ronald Philip, said: “I have been made aware of the situation, and an investigator has been assigned to look into it.”
Beyond Saint Lucia’s passport racket and the briefcase becoming popular, (replaced in modern times by the laptop bag/case) history recalls the mystery of the missing and/or disappearing briefcase in the early life of a former prime minister and current parliamentarian. There is also, the Arab businessman diplomatic passport scandal in 2016, both during the governance of the labour party.
Beyond parallel, one briefcase was said to contain cash. The diplomatic passport scandal in 2016, presumably involved monetary transactions.
The Briefcase in this new dispensation provides an – a la carte – passport service that seems acceptable in the governance of the labour party.
Minister for the Public Service, Home Affairs, Labour and Gender Affairs, Dr Virginia Albert-Poyotte
An alternative narrative
In a June 13, article – ‘Passport processing is the focus of the government – Poyotte,’ – the home affairs minister, Dr Virginia Albert-Poyotte, wittingly and/or unwittingly revealed quite a dysfunction.
“According to Dr Albert-Poyotte, if someone owns a private business and other individuals choose to spend their money in that way, it does not directly affect the government.
She claims that the immigration department is the only area of attention, and she will concentrate her efforts there.
According to her, “the government will deal with the situation if it is discovered that individuals within the department facilitate any activity that is unlawful.”
The government won’t be concerned, according to Dr Poyotte, once companies that deal with the sale of passports are recognized as legal entities.
She notes the immigration department is about to move, but won’t go with any prior concerns, one of which includes the ability to process passports, adding that her focus also involves the department’s transfer to a new location.
[On Friday], I dropped by the department on the spur of the moment to see how the passport application process was going. I have actually seen how long it takes to process one passport.
She revealed that 200–300 passports are processed each day by the immigration department.
She predicts that the demand for passports will rise in the coming months as a result of increased travel, and she also anticipates an increase in the processing backlog.
“Over the past year, the immigration department has dealt with a number of issues, including the occupational health and safety of workers who have repeatedly engaged in industrial action without receiving compensation.”
The scope defined is beyond government unilateral provisions. And in theory, a review might also generate leads to follow and buttress.
Distilling the said comments, an immigration expert commented:
“Not surprisingly, the ministers’ comments are far from compelling. There are many points to elaborate on, however, it’s an astonishing attempt to prey on the ignorance of the public and/or even of self. As a result, we learn a thing or two about the government and some politicians.
“In this circumstance, the government seems uninterested or adapt to what’s at stake. They are not result-oriented, slow to turn around and not looking much further ahead.”
“Moreover, it is hardly representative of a minister of government, adequate with the supposed process of thought, security disclosure, the relative sequence of events, and risk exposure – that The Briefcase seems to do a better job than the government.”
Beyond the briefcase and a passport
The Briefcase can obtain Saint Lucia passports (XCD$650 plus) well above the government scheduled price of XCD$250 and $300, respectively.
Meanwhile, a route to Saint Lucia citizenship and a passport is said to be offering Citizenship By Investment (CIP) illegal discounting practice options at US$85,000 – well below the already ultra-low USD$100,000 stipulated by law.
Over the past months, there has been a substantial review by foreign authorities on CIP applications, including financing options and method of payments by applicants, material facts on the applications, and a review of the process that granted the application.
Caribbean governments and CIP units will soon have to decide for themselves subject to the “Citizenship by Investment Act” – or specifically be advised from a statement of “material fact” that, “ if such registration and approval as a citizen was obtained by false representation, fraud or wilful concealment of material fact,” mass citizenship revocation is imminent.
For example, press reports have recently shed light on an estimated 700 international students from India facing deportation from Canada after the federal government discovered the Letters of Admissions (LOAs) which formed the basis of their entry into Canada were in fact forged.
Pursue a path
Face with a major strategic direction and a turbulent mid-term crisis, the government of Saint Lucia no doubt is looking for a coherent alternative narrative to advance.
Beyond the obstacle course involved in renewing and the disrespect to obtain a Saint Lucia passport, the competence of the immigration department, the ministry/minister in charge is a grim chore of representation and governance. The outcome is the government’s inability to provide service to the public.
Among other matters, legislators and parliamentarians should be concerned with national security, privacy safeguards and abuses. Parliamentarians should be more concerned about their conduct in Saint Lucia, keeping the homeland safe, a framework for protection and trust; and a common sense policy approach to provide services to the public.
Technology is changing and dictating who will write the laws, designing and delivering tools for the 21st century. Progress has to be made by respective teams to support data flow, access to information, public safety, national security, and law enforcement.
The challenges require solutions to open and inclusive engagement. This goes beyond bureaucratic restructuring, and loud-mouth politicians seeking relevance and reassurance. Government must evolve through future technological innovation.
Without a significant new shift in thought process, discipline and a relentless execution strategy – The Briefcase looks exclusive and different. More capable than the government.