“Unseemly,” “in poor taste,” “vulgar,” and “undignified,” were some of the words used by Antiguans and Barbudans to describe the crass ‘passports for sale’ ad that made the rounds on social and traditional media yesterday. It was an assault on our national pride, and the good senses and sensibilities of all right-thinking people. We recoiled at the disturbing image of a man holding up our passport and beckoning to the ‘whosoever will may come.’ Here was an Antiguan, making like a common street hustler or a bootlegger, in the teeming bazaars of Bombay and Istanbul, hawking one of our most prized possessions like it was going out of style. Talk about a fire sale! Talk about desperation! Even Jean and Dinah, the Caribbean’s most famous purveyors of the flesh would have blushed at the shameless and indecent offering of our passport.
If you recall, Jean and Dinah et al, four of the er . . . (how can we put this delicately) ‘ladies of the night,’ they who “Used to laugh and used to make style / Now taking two shillings with a smile / By the sweat of their brows they were going to eat bread.” So there they were; “Jean and Dinah, Rosita and Clementina / Round de corner posin; bet yuh life is someting dey sellin / And if you ketch dem broke, you can get dem all fuh nutten . . .” [The Mighty Sparrow, JEAN AND DINAH]. Alas, Jean and Dinah have nothing on this utterly insensitive and tacky seller of our passport. Jean and Dinah cannot pose like this idiotic huckster. And no, their ‘come hither’ looks and beckons are nothing when compared to this good gentleman’s tawdry passport-mongering. Good grief!
Clearly, this hapless administration cannot do the simplest of things properly. Every blessed thing that it attempts with its notorious reverse Midas touch, turns into a fiasco, a national embarrassment. Sigh! Help us, Lord!
We mean, who are the advertising geniuses behind this colossal flop? Who the hell thought that selling our passports like a cheap whore was a good idea? We mean, does the Citizen By Investment Unit not have sleek and clever marketing minds to package the product in a tasteful and professional manner? Have they not heard that image is everything? And that a proper presentation and packaging of a product is more than half the work? Does this genius with the crappy ad not know that he is belittling Antigua and Barbuda, and opening up our passport to raised eyebrows and extra scrutiny, never mind, ridicule?
Here’s what the political leader of the United Progressive Party, Harold Lovell, had to say about the ugly hawking of our passport: “The advertising of our programme, the CIP programme, there is a section in the act where we made it very clear that only authorised persons, following clear guidelines can go out and promote the programme, advertise the programme, or in any way disseminate information about the programme, and what we see this particular individual doing, clearly, this is not what Antigua and Barbuda wants; we do not want people just going out and saying, oh you can just come and buy a passport, ‘I sell passports.’ That’s not how we promote Antigua and Barbuda. It diminishes the status of the nation! It cheapens the country. . . And the person should be held accountable. And I have advocated that that advert should be immediately pulled down, it is not in keeping with the standards that one would expect . . . And I can’t see how the CIP unit could have authorised that . . .” Indeed, we’re all scratching our heads! Talk about a new low!
Next thing, they’ll be peddling our passports in a T-shirt or a tank top on the streets of Beijing and Shanghai for a mess of pottage or a fistful of dollars. We’ve come to a fine pass, eh! It’s because we’re broke. And all comers can now get our passport from any two-bit hustler for nutten!