(CMC) Prime Minister Allen Chastanet says he was “uncomfortable” with the wording of an opposition motion regarding the controversial Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP).
The opposition legislators last week stormed out of the Parliament after the decision of the Speaker, Leonne Theodore-John, not to allow for the debate explaining that the motion would be deferred for a subsequent sitting of the Parliament.
But she told legislators that she had written to the Member of Parliament for the Castries South constituency, Dr Ernest Hilaire on the issue.
But an infuriated Hilaire complained that he only learnt of the change when he arrived at the Parliament building last Tuesday and it was improper for a motion, which was circulated to members to be altered at short notice.
Speaking at a news conference here on Monday, Prime Minister Chastanet told reporters with regards to the incident in the House last week, the Speaker was very clear.
“At the right time the motion will come back before the House for debate, but from my perspective I don’t know how you debate a motion which is based on something that is not factual.
“The wording of the motion in my mind was uncomfortable, it didn’t feel good going into the debate. Now those are things they want to bring up in the debate, they are free to bring it up in the debate but they can’t be written in a motion. The motion says whereas which suggests it is the fact.
“There is no fact that suggests because we lower the price that the programme has jeopardised the reputation or undermined the security of this country,” Chastanet said.
Chastanet told reporters that he would like to hear the positions of former prime ministers Dr Kenny Anthony and Professor Vaughan Lewis as to whether or not they support the position adopted by the opposition party on the CIP.
Chastant said that he was surprised at the position adopted by the opposition St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) on the CIP when the programme was started under its administration.
“The Labour Party is attempting to suggest that because we lowered the prices that somehow this is going to make the country less secure. None of the regulations as it pertains to background checks has been changed.
“In fact if anything they have been strengthened by new relationships we have gained through the regional security forces. So I want to assure everybody that’s the case. So I don’t understand the arguments they are making,” he told reporters.
Last week, following the walkout, Opposition Leader Phillip J Pierre told reporters that “we believe that the government simply does not wish any debate on the Citizenship by Investment Programme and has refused to provide any information on the CIP as required by law.
“The SLP believes that this latest move by the government is testimony to the vindictiveness and undemocratic nature of the UWP (United Workers Party) government and its desire to stifle free speech,” Pierre said.
“We intend to continue to show the people of St Lucia that this government is vindictive, is dictatorial, it abuses power. If it can do that after less than one year in office, we can imagine what can happen when they are in power for a longer period,” Pierre said.
St Lucia is among several Caribbean countries that have introduced a CIP aimed at luring foreign investors to the region. Under the programme, the foreign investor is granted citizenship if he or she makes a substantial investment to the socio-economic development of the island.