I find myself unable to fully digest the news of the past couple of weeks, especially revelations that the government of Dominica has allowed what was a well intentioned economic citizenship program to devolve into a naked and unvarnished huckstering of an important piece of our national identity: Passports of the Commonwealth Of Dominica.
The news is disturbing on many levels. It opens an additional window into the moral character of the Skerrit regime. We have known for some time that the regime is incapable of showing any regard to proper ethical and accountability standards when spending the treasury’s resources, as has been documented in the various reported scandals involving garbage bins, and fertilizer, not to mention the prime minister’s own personal behavior with respect to ownership of property relative to his visible income.
It appears that this crisis of moral leadership has entered a new and potentially more dangerous realm.
Dominica may now be ground zero in the battle against “sin activities”. I define sin activities as any human endeavor that commercializes and creates a market for the baser instincts of humankind.The category includes many of the activities which are condemned internationally: human trafficking, child molestation, prostitution, drug trafficking etc. To this list of sleazy activities can be added: the selling of passports. Indeed, the wanton and indiscriminate selling of passports can, and in most instances, are intended to facilitate criminal activities and criminal behavior. Is this where we wish to be heading as a country?
The revelation of the massive passport scheme of the Skerrit regime should give pause to genuine patriots who are rightly concerned about the image of their country especially in an era where public relations and brand identity are prime determinants of perceptions in the marketplace. To be sure, we are what we are perceived to be. If we go down the low road of navigating the fetid waters of sin activities, in our case, the shameful peddling of passports, we will forever carry the baggage associated with those who participate in the murky underworld of international pariahs. We can do better as a people if we are committed to the notion of contributing to the global economy with the competitive advantages of which we are endowed by nature and history.
Apologists for the passports debacle are quick to advance the argument that the US and Canada also have their passports program. This is a fake argument. Both countries’ passport programmes have the clear intent of job creation in their countries and have certain residency requirements to ensure recipients and holders of their passports deliver something of economic value in exchange for the privilege of holding their passports. Contrast this to the situation we find ourselves in: WE are shamelessly peddling our passports, an important icon of our national identity and national sovereignty as if we were peddling bananas or the hapless victims of human trafficking in the commercial marketplace. We can do better as a people.
It’s easy to understand why the prime minister may want to jettison any semblance of morality as he seeks ways to bring in revenue into the nation’s coffers. The wanton sale of passports seems an easy and effortless way to attract money. But life’s lessons teach us that that the easy path to riches can be extremely pricey in terms of collateral costs and damages to society. The true costs of the passport selling programme in terms of the country’s international image will far outweigh the nominal benefits in the long run. It is just a matter of time before the UK and other jurisdictions, as has been reported by others, adopt a more hawkish attitude towards our nationals who seek to enter their countries visa free. But more importantly, the focus on selling passports makes us all bedfellows of those who seek to operate on the fringes and the underbelly of the global economy. We are serving notice that we have embraced the morally dubious argument that the end, or the objective of raking in money, is justified by the adoption of sleazy means even if that implies taking hugely costly risks to our international reputation, not to mention legal implications should international courts hold the country liable in the facilitation of crimes.
So the country is definitely at the crossroads. Should it continue to defy common sense and informed advice by continuing along a path that is rooted in folly and a callous disregard for the norms of international behavior, or should it suspend the passport selling programme and conduct a serious analysis and review? I believe we should do the latter. The risks facing the country if we do otherwise are far too severe to even contemplate. Indeed, in a world moving at warp speed aided by technology and globalization, we could easily find ourselves stigmatized as nation of outlaws who facilitate the sin activities of those who operate in the shadows, those who seek cover from countries such as ours who are all too willing to trade their national sovereignty in exchange for a few pieces of silver. The prime minister, in his sober and reflective moments, needs to do some serious soul searching, for this is not simply a matter that affects his political standing but carries implications for the general population and the reputation of every citizen of the land.
When a newspaper as distant as Bangladesh, The Weekly Blitz, but as near to us as a few strokes on a computer keyboard, makes us the focus of its attention with a series of articles all pointing to a culture of sleaze that has engulfed our body politic, it is time to take note and to pay attention. The country does not exist in isolation but is part of a global ecosystem and we would be foolish to ignore the reputation we are gradually accumulating even if the political leadership is asleep or would prefer to ignore the collateral costs that it is imposing on the population at large.
So Mr. Skerrit, there is time to change course. It may not be easy for you to evaluate the danger inherent in your rather loose ethical standards as it relates to your passport selling industry, but you need to know that there are some Dominican patriots who take their citizenship seriously and are alarmed at the prospect of diluting or polluting the image of those of us who are legitimate holders of our national passports, those who acquired them through the right of birth.
History will not be kind to those who commercialize and trivialize our national identity and sovereignty in pursuit of personal riches.
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