Enemies of the State? Is PM Skerrit serious?
Last week when Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit uttered the phrase "Enemy of the State" he conjured images of Joseph Stalin, Donald Trump, and Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels who used that phrase and the similar statement "Enemy of the People", to justify their murderous purges of millions of their citizens.
"An enemy of the state is a person accused of certain crimes against the state, such as treason. Describing individuals in this way is sometimes a manifestation of political repression", states Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.
"Enemy of the people" is an incendiary phrase. It's been uttered by some of history's most vicious thugs — Robespierre, Goebbels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao — to vilify their opponents ... who were often murdered", said Scott Simon in an August 2018 article in NPR. ORG.
However, we will be the first to rationalize that Mr. Skerrit does not yet have Stalin-like intentions of jailing and killing and disappearing thousands of Dominicans who openly disagree with his policies.
Of course, Mr. Skerrit's supporters will downplay the implication of the prime minister's use of the term by declaring that the PM was just talking, blowing hot air, playing politics, and definitely not inciting his most fervent, irrational or mentally unstable supporters to attack whomever they perceive to be enemies of the state.
But if Mr. Skerrit has no intentions of replicating the behaviour of the world's most vicious thugs, why is he repeating their stock phrase: "enemy of the state"?
Maybe Mr. Skerrit is unaware of the origin and history of the phrase; otherwise why would he use it? So we may want to use ignorance of the historic use of that phrase as an excuse in our attempt at searching for an escape hatch for the Prime Minister. But the Prime Minister is fully capable of defending himself so he probably needs to explain: Whom, specifically, are enemies of the state?
If you recall, Mr. Skerrit used that phrase "Enemy of the state" while he was defending his use of state funds obtained through the sale of Dominican passports under the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme.
It is no secret that Mr. Skerrit has allowed the foreign firm Montreal Management Construction (MMC) to gain access to hundreds of millions, if not thousands of millions, of CBI funds under what the government calls a "housing option". MMC has been contracting to construct apartment buildings and health clinics around the island.
Mr. Skerrit spoke at the official opening of the MMC-built Portsmouth Health and Wellness Centre on 1 March 2021; he said: "Anybody who is seeking to undermine the CBI is an enemy of the state. It is as simple as that."
The expression "Enemy of the state" dates back to Roman times when the Senate declared emperor Nero a hostis publicus in AD 68. Its direct translation is "public enemy".
During the French Revolution the words "ennemi du peuple" were used extensively. On 25 December 1793 Robespierre stated: "The revolutionary government owes to the good citizen all the protection of the nation; it owes nothing to the Enemies of the People but death".
In Marxist–Leninist states the term was also extremely popular and was used many times by Stalin who declared: "All leaders of the Constitutional Democratic Party, a party filled with enemies of the people, are hereby to be considered outlaws, and are to be arrested immediately and brought before the revolutionary court.
In China, in Mao Zedong's 1957 speech he commented that all groups who resist communism "are all enemies of the people."
In Nazi German, the Nazi tabloid Der Stürmer wrote:" In former times sane people and sane leaders of the peoples made short shrift of enemies of the people. They had them either expelled or killed."
On 17 February 2017, President of the United States Donald Trump declared on Twitter that The New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, and CNN were "fake news" and the "enemy of the people".
In Dominica's case, who then is Prime Minister Skerrit labelling as an "enemy of the state", as far as the CBI is concerned?
We suggest that there are a few notable people and organisation that easily come to mind.
Undoubtedly, the most deliberate and prominent critique of the CBI programme has come from Leader of the Opposition, Lennox Linton and his United Workers Party, as well as other opposition parties; there are international news organisations such as Aljazeera and CBS; and American blogger Kenneth Rijock.
Recall that on the award-winning CBS 60 minutes in January 2017, Steve Kroft, the presenter, opened the programme "Passports for Sale" with these words: "It's called citizenship by investment and it's become a $2 billion industry built around people looking for a change of scenery or a change of passport, a new life or maybe a new identity, a getaway from the rat race, or perhaps an escape from an ex-spouse or Interpol. In any event, it's brought in huge amounts of revenue for the sellers and attracted among the buyers a rogue's gallery of scoundrels, fugitives, tax cheats, and possibly much worse."
"Passports for Sale" was aired on New Year's Day 2017. It sparked a massive demonstration in Roseau on 7 February; it led to the arrest of several opposition politicians and it widened the chasm between government and the opposition.
Is the CBS then an enemy of the state?
Again, in November 2019, in "Diplomats for Sale", Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit exposed politicians in Dominica and Grenada willing to accept secret campaign contributions from wealthy foreign businessmen in exchange for diplomatic passports. Skerrit denied these allegations.
"We categorically refute the allegation that diplomatic passports are being sold by this Government as alleged or at all," PM Skerrit said.
Is Al Jazeera then an enemy of the state?
Over many years, especially since September 2019, Linton and the UWP have made a case for an explanation of his perceived discrepancies in earnings from the CBI programme.
Is the UWP, the President's loyal opposition, then an enemy of the state?
And what about Kenneth Rijock, the banking lawyer turned-career money launderer (10 years), turned-compliance officer specializing in enhanced due diligence (this is taken verbatim from his website)?
Well, we can say only one thing about Rijock without fear of contradiction: He is consistent in accusing the government of Dominica of abusing the sale of passports especially diplomatic passports.
Is Kenneth Rijock then an enemy of the state?
In the final analysis, you may want to ask PM Skerrit what does he expect to happen to "enemies of the state" because you cannot just accuse people of being enemies of the state and leave it there.
Or maybe we are wide of the mark by taking whatever Prime Minister Skerrit says so literally.
But then, Dominicans, ponder this: what are the implications of such reasoning, deliberately diluting Mr. Skerrit's words, when there is a real enemy of the state at our door?
Please, just advise Mr. Skerrit that as the Prime Minister we, the people of the state, demand that he picks his phrases carefully.