Dominica won't have a public inquiry into the Mehul Choksi affair but we must demand it anyway
Unquestionably, the month-long and ongoing high stakes international incident involving Indian- Antiguan diamantaire Mehul Choksi has done profound damage to Dominica's fragile image. We will never know the cost but we can guesstimate that it has been huge.
But what is clear to a large number of Dominicans is that we, the people, need to know the truth about our government's involvement, or non-involvement, in this sordid affair that may have included torture, human trafficking, and kidnapping.
"Negative publicity is often painful," writes UKEssays in The effects of negative publicity. "When a rumour that your hamburger… uses worm meat, sales (could) drop by more than 25%".
So, not only that we need to evaluate the cost to Dominica of the Choksi matter, but we also need to find out, through an independent public inquiry, the extent of the involvement of the Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force and the Office of the Prime Minister.
We, the people, need to know what happened, why did it happen, who is to blame and most importantly, what can be done to prevent this from happening again.
Of course, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, after an extended silence, has indicated to the world that his hands are clean according to the Sun's front-page story of 6 July 2021.
"To say that the government of Dominica and the government of Antigua along with India colluded in any way, give me a break, that's total nonsense. We don't get involved ourselves in those kinds of activities, those practices, not at all. I mean that is absurd and we reject it and it is unfortunate that anybody would want to propagate this unsubstantiated claim by a gentleman who is before the courts," he said.
The prime minister even got involved in a little blame-shifting and some obvious whataboutism, the technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counter-accusation or raising a different issue.
"I'm hearing Dominicans, especially the opposition, talking about Mr. Choksi but there's a young boy from Grand Bay, facing extradition to the USVI and we heard nothing from the opposition in that matter. So we cannot want to be treating different people differently depending on who they are or how much money they may have. All of us are subjected to the laws irrespective of our position or how much money we have or we don't have," Mr. Skerrit said on his weekly media programme.
But the Choksi problem remains a major issue for the government of Dominica since London's Metropolitan Police or Scotland Yard is now poking around mainly because a few British nationals were allegedly involved in the incident. Although the immediate focus has now shifted back to Antigua where Choksi has returned for so-called "medical attention", on a EC$10,000 bond.
Let's see if Mr. Choksi will ever return to Dominica to face that problematic charge of "illegal entry". We are not holding our breath.
If you are still unaware about this Robert Ludlum- type story, the issue surrounds how the diamond merchant, who became an Antiguan in November 2017 through the twin-island state's citizenship by investment programme, mysteriously disappeared from his home country and his equally mysterious appearance in Dominica. The authorities in St. John's and Roseau have been unable to explain how he left Antigua or how he arrived in Dominica, although the police here have charged him with illegal entry.
Choksi alleges that he was kidnapped, placed on a St. Lucia-registered yacht, switched to a Dominica coast guard vessel on the high seas, and taken here where lawmen were waiting to nab him. Last week Choksi gave details of his abduction to Luftus Durand of Q95 FM which the talk-show host has decided to serialize.
But Choksi's lawyer in Antigua, Justin Simon, admits that it has not been proven that Choksi was abducted. However, he said, nothing else makes sense.
"A proven fact it is not because it is really just Choksi's word, but the circumstances are very strange," the Dominica-born former Antigua attorney general told the Sun. "How are the police in Dominica able to know exactly where Choksi is going to be landing . . . Did he swim to come to Dominica from Antigua? He must have come by some boat. So where is the boat? Where is the yacht? And if you're going to be charging the man with illegal entry, how did he illegally enter the country, who facilitated it, why haven't you picked up those persons? Add to that the situation that they had him there, secretly at the police station in Roseau, prevented the man from getting medical attention when it was clear from the man's face and his body that he was bruised and battered, and you refuse him to see a lawyer . . . So when you add all of these things together, it's clear that something is amiss."
There's no doubt that the issue is extremely serious, a problem that no country should ignore, or sweep under a rug. Dominica must clear its name and dispel the impression that it is a rogue country masquerading as a nation governed by the rule of law.
Our nation must not be, in any way shape or form, involved in the violation of international law against extermination, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, or other severe deprivation of physical liberty.
If our nation's hands are indeed clean let's show them to the world.
We demand a public independent inquiry.