Senator Sean Douglas shows an old newspaper in parliament
Senator Sean Douglas shows an old newspaper in parliament

What's in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.

-From William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.

Just weeks after the British Government placed visa restrictions on holders of Dominican passports, Speaker of the House Joseph Isaac has determined that the terms "selling of passports "or "sale of citizenship" will not be mentioned in Dominica's parliament.

"I have ruled with regards to that terminology, sale of citizenship. I'll ask you to withdraw that," Speaker Isaac told opposition Senator Sean Douglas during the 2023/2024 budget debate.

In exchanges with Douglas, a former press secretary in the Skerrit administration, Isaac interrupted Douglas several times, as he spoke on Dominica's Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programme.

"I want that to be really stamped out in Dominica. I hear people saying about sale of passports, sale of citizenship. Withdraw that," a seemingly agitated Speaker Isaac said. "It is illegal to sell passports."

Douglas responded that Dr. Ralph Gonzales, the prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has publicly mentioned his opposition to the sale of passports.

"Dr. Gonzales is not in Dominica's parliament," Isaac stated.

Douglas protested and was reluctant to accept the Speaker's demand that he withdraw the statements.

"I am the chairman and the Speaker of the House, and I am asking you to withdraw it. There's no way we are selling passports," Isaac said. "Withdraw that statement. It's illegal. (If you) want to continue, then withdraw. You decide."

"I withdraw"

"Then proceed."

Later on, Douglas referred to a document showing that the late Prime Minister Rosie Douglas, his uncle, opposed the "sale of passports" or citizenship.

Isaac interrupted.

"You have to withdraw," he said. "You have to understand where my philosophy is. It is illegal, and you are a member of parliament saying what is illegal. Please withdraw it and say clearly what you are withdrawing".

"I'm not saying it is illegal," Douglas responded.

"I'm telling you, it is illegal to do that. So you can't say it in the House," the Speaker said.

Douglas withdrew the statement. Isaac continued: "It's illegal to say that. Not illegal to say but illegal to do it. We have to set a certain standard in the House. We cannot, as Dominicans, be saying that in parliament".

"So, Mr. Speaker, what are we really doing?" Douglas asked.

"If you try to challenge the Chair, I'll ask you to take your seat. Proceed and show the Chair some respect," Isaac said.

Douglas muttered before continuing: "Extraordinary, really. You have 19 seats, five senators, and the Speaker on your side. Yet still, I'm not allowed to present…"

"Again, you are impugning improper motives," Isaac interrupted. "I am giving you your final chance to deliver… I'll ask you to take your seat. You are attacking the Chair."

"Ok, Mr. Speaker."

Under Dominica's CBI programme, applicants can acquire economic citizenship to Dominica (obtain passports) by making a "financial contribution" to the country's Economic Diversification Fund. Other applicants can invest under the CBI's real estate option to obtain citizenship.

Governments sometimes hate calling a spade a spade. For instance, for the president of Russia Vladimir Putin and the Russian Duma, the lower House of Parliament, the war or invasion of Ukraine is "a special military operation". If Russian citizens call it a war, they are likely to be jailed for up to 15 years for spreading "fake" news.

Nevertheless, William Shakespeare, the famous 16 Century British playwright, was correct: "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."