By Caribbean News Now contributor
BASSETERRE, St Kitts -- According to the St Kitts and Nevis prime minister’s press secretary, Erasmus Williams, the removal of the place of birth from passports issued by that country was done at the request of the US government.
This issue has achieved some prominence in relation to the St Kitts and Nevis citizenship by investment programme, under which foreign investors pay a minimum of US$250,000 to a government fund and receive a St Kitts-Nevis passport in return.
The recent alert issued by the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FINCEN), warning financial institutions to be cautious in dealing with St Kitts and Nevis passport holders and accusing the programme of having lax controls and being attractive to illicit actors, has served to refocus attention on this issue.
"[The] place of birth from our St Kitts and Nevis passport was removed at the request of the United States authorities," Williams told WINN FM in St Kitts.
Dr Timothy Harris, leader of the opposition coalition Team Unity, said that it is “a significant matter domestically and internationally because it identifies who we are”.
“We are proud citizens of St Kitts and Nevis but it still eludes us into understanding why would the outgoing prime minister [seek] to remove that field. Who was he attempting to protect? Not the good citizens of St Kitts and Nevis. Certainly the only beneficiary to having a passport which did not say from whence you can me originally would be illicit actors," Harris asserted.
Harris accused the government of not reinstating the place of birth field on St Kitts and Nevis passports despite promises to do so.
"That is totally not so," Williams said.
"A few... months ago, I had reason to speak with persons within the ministry of national security and I am informed the process is being reintroduced shortly," he told WINN.
According to a US government source, the question of any American request to remove the place of birth field from St Kitts-Nevis passports is a matter for the State Department, which has so far failed to respond to telephone and emailed inquiries.
Dr Timothy Harris
In the meantime, according to Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas, the federal cabinet has approved an action plan involving enhanced security, regulatory compliance and administrative strengthening of the citizenship by investment programme and a specially appointed implementation team has been given the responsibility of executing the action plan in keeping with policies established by the government.
No details of the action plan in question have so far been revealed.
Harris alleges that that all the government has done is talk and has failed to take meaningful action.
"What has our government done some... 50 days after such an important advisory? Not one thing," he said. "We have had talk, but we need to go beyond talk. We need to go into action."