L-R: Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, Teo Ah Khing, winner of the Kentucky Derby Justify’s jockey, Mike Smith, and Justify’s trainer, Bob Baffert
By Melanius Alphonse
Caribbean News Now associate editor
Pursuant to Cabinet Conclusion No. 292 of 2018, which decided that Venezuela is a threat to Saint Lucia’s national security and that China should enjoy most favoured economic and political status, the government has imposed a visa requirement for Venezuelans and waived it for Chinese citizens.
Review of Saint Lucia’s visa regime
According to the Cabinet document:
“This review took into account Saint Lucia’s strategic geopolitical, economic and national security interests.
“Cabinet took note of intelligence provided regarding the nature of criminal activities in the country, the nationality of the perpetrators and the necessity of an immediate response.
“In light of the foregoing, Cabinet approved the following:
“1) that visas would be imposed on Venezuelan nationals seeking to enter Saint Lucia to stay or transit;
“2) that the visa requirement would take effect immediately and its duration will be subject to review by Cabinet;
“3) that holders of diplomatic and official passports issued by the Government of Venezuela would be exempted from the visa requirement;”
In relation to China, the Cabinet Conclusion said:
“Cabinet also approved the removal of visa requirement for Chinese nationals seeking to enter Saint Lucia, whether to stay or transit with immediate effect.”
However, on April 5, 2018, a memo from the Department of External Affairs to the Chief Immigration Officer subject: Review of Saint Lucia’s visa regime, said:
“In that regard, the Department informs of the following:
“1. The immediate removal of visa requirement for Chinese nationals seeking to enter Saint Lucia, whether to stay or transit.
“2. As it relates to the implementations of visas on Venezuelan nationals seeking to enter Saint Lucia whether to stay or transit, the Department informs that this should be placed on hold until further instructions.”
Meanwhile, at an event held to mark the 207th anniversary of the independence of Venezuela, Barbados Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Sandra Husbands, said:
“Barbados is aware that the need to create closer hemispheric ties depends largely on the cooperation and collaboration among the countries in the hemisphere.
“To this end, Barbados pledges its ongoing cooperation and consultation with Venezuela on matters of mutual concern with the aim of confronting the challenges that face us individually and as a region.
“Barbados has enjoyed friendly and productive relations since 1969, when diplomatic relations were established.”
The Chinese are coming: Pearl of the Caribbean
At the weekend of November 27, 2016, ground-breaking festivities and ceremony that featured Prince Harry, the Desert Star Holdings (DSH) $2.6-billion project, Pearl of the Caribbean, was said to have “several components, all of which aim to heighten Saint Lucia’s profile as a premier tourism destination. In addition to the racetrack, the Pearl of the Caribbean will also include several boutique resorts, a marina, a casino, shopping and residential areas, such as waterfront villas, situated on 700 acres of undeveloped land” according to its Chairman, Teo Ah Khing.
Foreign policy vulnerability
At the 2018 Kentucky Derby press conference, Ah Khing said: “I have a very special friend here, very close friend of China Horse Club who also happens to be the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, where we are currently building a race track.”
Chastanet responded: “We’re going to run an international horse race competition in Saint Lucia, we’ll have access to some of the best horses in the world! I am very excited about the announcement of hosting a major international horse race event here on February 10, . The track itself will be completed by the end of July.”
Also, in the 2018/19 budget address he said: “Redevelopment of Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) will take place in a phased manner using concessional loan financing. We are currently finalizing the loan agreement with the Republic of China (Taiwan) for the US$100 million required. The US$15 million a year in airport tax will be used as security against repayment of the loan.”
Importantly, Saint Lucia has diplomatic relations with Taiwan, not China, the second largest economy in the world; the world’s second largest investor in R&D, spending almost $240 billion last year, or over 20 percent of global R&D spending.
The region’s strategic importance to Washington and now China makes it pertinent to revise priorities, objectives, and capabilities or risk losing it all as bystanders of history.