Former Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) CEO Chisanga Puta-Chekwe has warned against “juvenile temper tantrums” and backed calls for a hold on the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), reports the Antigua Observer.
Chekwe was asked about Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s chiding of him in parliament and suggestions that he had painted a bad picture of the CIP before Canada withdrew visa free access for Antiguans and Barbudans in June.
“This is not a time for juvenile temper tantrums. Antigua and Barbuda has an opportunity here that can be advantageously exploited for the country’s benefit but before that can be done there must be humility and acknowledgment of past error.
“Unfortunately, there are people who simply are, maybe even congenitally, incapable of acknowledging error, that is what we may be dealing with here, but I’m not a psychiatrist, I can’t really help those people,” Chekwe told OBSERVER media in an extensive interview.
The former CIU boss, who is adamant that visa free access to Canada can be regained, said rather than taking bad information to other states on Antigua & Barbuda’s CIP, he spent a huge amount of time seeking to preserve visa free access to Canada for Antiguan and Barbudan passport holders.
“There was a time that I had very reliable information that there was going to be an imposition of visa requirements. I took the right steps worked very hard and the visa requirement wasn’t imposed at that time, subsequently of course it was,” Chekwe said.
The former CIU boss said pausing the CIP would be costly but would allow for greater returns in the long term.
“This is not a time for puerile temper tantrums. This is a time for reflection, humility and acknowledgement of past error and it is important to do that because I truly believe that the Antigua & Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Programme can have a bright future despite all that’s happened. Indeed, what has happened can be taken as a lesson that yields huge dividends down the road and I do think that the focus should be on that rather than people just evading responsibility, [and] making wild claims when they know they can get away with it. I really do think that we need genuine leadership that is going to take the country out of these challenging times with respect to the CIP,” Chekwe said.
Meanwhile, when asked about the withdrawal of US due diligence support for the CIU, Chekwe would only say, “Frankly I don’t think it’s helpful to talk about that, all I can say is when people decide to do you a favour you do not undermine them in the most unseemly and public way,” he said.
It was in March, just a day after Browne chided the US for its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), that he announced the US was dropping its due diligence support for the CIU.
“Yesterday, I took a strong position with the erroneous report, INSCR report of the US government and by the way, just in passing Mr Speaker, only to be told this morning that the CIU unit got a call from the [US] Embassy in Barbados to inform us that they will discontinue doing due diligence on our behalf, so I imagine that is their way to fire back at us, but that is not going to stop this prime minister from standing up and saying what the truth is,” Browne told parliament in March.
Chekwe, who stressed that the CIU should have an arm’s length relationship with the government, made several recommendations to improve the programme and insulate the unit from the Cabinet.