Why all the secrecy?

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When the news broke that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU), Chisanga Chekwe, had tendered his resignation after only six months on the job, it raised more than a few eyebrows with one prominent question being asked:  why?

The news broke shortly after the American media house, CBS, aired a damning piece on CIP across the Caribbean and described them as “cash for passports” programmes which catered to terrorists and other undesirables. It is, therefore, natural for persons to think that the two were connected.  In fact, the conspiracy theorists believe that they are directly linked and that all is not right in the CIP world.   They believe that Chekwe saw enough in six months to say that he did not want to be associated with the CIU.   All speculation, of course, but you know how those conspiracy theorists are.

The situation was not helped Prime Minster Browne, when asked about the surprised resignation, stated, “You’ll have to ask him about it.  Call him and inquire of him.”  Why the PM decided to be less than forthcoming with information on the matter is unknown to us, and we will not speculate; unlike the conspiracy theorists who have fed on the brief remark with a ravenous appetite for more.

In a case like this, where one of the country’s most controversial (and revenue important) programmes is under attack, we would have thought that the PM would have been quick to provide some explanation to the public to allay any fears that there was anything wrong; much in the same way that he defended the CIP in the CBS 60 Minutes piece. 

As we stated in our previous editorial on this matter, PM Brown’s willingness to appear and defend Antigua & Barbuda’s Citizenship by Investment Programme, in the face of what was an obvious negative story line, helped tremendously, as we emerged the least scathed country in the show’s critique of CIP. Other islands, whose governments made themselves unavailable, allowed the void to be filled by the rhetoric and suffered because of that decision.

That said, fast forward to today and we are more than a bit baffled as to why the PM would stray from that strategy and decide to stay quiet on this one.  If this is nothing more than a ‘bad fit’ or a change in direction by either party, then simply say so.  These things happen.  Not everyone is a fit and no situation stays static.  Change is the only constant. We believe that most people understand that and a simple explanation would have quieted the situation and reduced the conspiracy theorists chatter that is now the raucous chorus filling the void.

This is just another example of what happens when there is a lack of transparency.  If this is nothing more than a personnel issue, then it is easy to see how a simple explanation would have satisfied people’s expectations and fostered confidence in the CIU.  Instead, the information void has resulted in speculation and a reliance on ‘sources’ for information.  The problem with that is: it becomes a runaway train; to the point where any future explanation will be met with scepticism, as people will feel that it is a ‘made-up ting’ being force-fed to the people to quell the disquiet. (As evidenced by the initial reactions to the ‘personal reasons’ explanation recently advanced.)

This may seem like we are picking on the PM, but we are not.   We always give PM Browne credit for making himself available to the media.  Rather, we are using this situation to point out a key flaw in our government and its relationship with the people.  In fact, this is not only a flaw in our government but one that exists everywhere.

There is an old adage from Latin, “in regione caecorum rex est luscus” (credited to Desiderius Erasmus’s Adagia – 1500) that translates to “in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king”.  These are wise words for anyone, but it especially relevant to politicians because it is a maxim that is often missed or ignored.

When transparency is discarded and opaqueness becomes normal, the people become blind to the affairs of government.  This is the time when the one-eyed man rises to power and leads the people to the light at the end of the tunnel.  That light may be tinted with a certain colour, but it is light nonetheless and welcomed by most; even if the eventual destination and the road/tunnel to get there may be hazardous and the eventual destination not what was desired.

So, to our politicians – all of them – let transparency reign.  Do not be afraid of the light.  Let the people be empowered and enlightened with knowledge so that they are not led down a dark, unknown path with destination unknown by the one-eyed man.

Let there be light!

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