Caribbean News Service (CNS).
ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Apr 15 2016 – Prime Minister Gaston Browne has called for an end to the criticism of the Muslim religion in Iraq as his administration moves ahead with plans to allow Iraqi nationals to participate in the country’s citizenship by investment programme (CIP).
The main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) has called on the Antigua and Barbuda government to re-think its decision to allow Iraqi nationals to participate in the programme, saying “there can be no benefit to the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
“We have no cultural and we have no trade ties with Iraq. What is the benefit to opening an embassy in Baghdad? Iraq as we know is in the midst of a civil war with ISIS and ISIS is in control of large sections of Iraq. We are unnecessarily exposing our country and our people to unnecessary risk.
“Perhaps it may benefit a few individuals financially but it will not benefit the people of Antigua and Barbuda,” UPP leader Harold Lovell said recently.
But Prime Minister Browne said that the “greater risk that we face at this point is that if members of the opposition is going to mock these people’s and their religion and draw attention to themselves that is a far greater risk of attracting some form of action than processing the CIP passport”.
Prime Minister Browne said that it is not in the interest of the country to provoke, saying “clearly the Caribbean is not a priority for them at this time.
“I am not saying that a terrorist could not end up in the Caribbean but it is not a priority. But if in Antigua and Barbuda…you are going to have individuals for partisan political reasons you are going to provoke them, then clearly there could be consequences.
“The response of the UPP is far more damaging or represents a greater threat to the country than the processing of these applications and that is where perhaps the public ought to express some concerns,” he added.
But UPP public relations officer, Damani Tabor has dismissed the statements made by Prime Minister Browne.
He said while there are billions of Muslims in the world, “we are concerned about the risk of terrorism and we are concerned about the risk of the association with this terrorist element and we are not mocking Islam and the Prime Minister knows this”.
Earlier this month, the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) also issued a statement questioning the government’s decision to establish an embassy in Iraq.
In a letter to Prime Minister Browne, the ABWU raised objections to the decision to establish ties with Iraq, stating it was concerned about the negative impact an embassy could have on the twin island state.
“What are the benefits to be derived from having an Embassy in Iraq and how can it (government) justify to citizens that this linkage could not prove disastrous to us in the future,” the union said, and called on the government to abandon the idea “immediately”.