Political Leader of the main opposition, New National Party (NNP), Dr. Keith Mitchell says that he will not “mess up” his chance of righting a wrong but did not specify the wrong that he was trying to put right.
“I am in the twilight of my political career and to me my legacy is crucial to me, I believe I’m given a chance to right a wrong and I ain’t messing that up at all. My team understands that that is crucial and fundamental to me”, said the former Prime Minister who is seeking a fourth term in office.
Addressing dozens of NNP executive members, private sector officials and other interest groups and organisations to launch the party’s 72 page Manifesto for Tuesday’s general election, Dr. Mitchell failed to explained what “wrongs he wants to right or the extent of his wrongs, but instead delved into the division within the incumbent National Democratic Congress (NDC) over the past four years.
During his 13 year stint as Prime Minister between June 1995 and July 2008, Dr. Mitchell was dogged by charges of corruption and running a government that engaged in heavy borrowing which saw the national debt jump from $EC373 million to EC$1.8 billion.
The most stinging accusation against the former Prime Minister related to a trip to Switzerland in June 2000 in which he reportedly accepted a bribe of US$500, 000.00 from imprisoned fraudster, Eric Resteiner in exchange for a diplomatic posting.
A one-man Commission of Inquiry conducted by Sir Richard Cheltenham of Barbados cleared Dr. Mitchell of any wrong-doing.
However, a subsequent document, which surfaced through WikiLeaks, quoted the U.S Ambassador to Barbados as saying that U.S officials had reviewed a tape of the Switzerland transaction and it showed Dr. Mitchell stuffing the reported money into his pocket.
The U.S document also described the former Grenada Prime Minister as more corrupt than the Birds family in Antigua.
In his attack on Congress, Dr. Mitchell said that while the NDC should have been focused on developing Grenada as other countries have done, the ruling party was distracted by infighting and focusing on politics of hate and spite.
This is an obvious reference to the emergence of a Gang within the government and party that challenged the leadership of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.
The issue was settled when party delegates at last September’s Convention expelled ten dissident members including five Members of Parliament – Peter David, Glynis Roberts, Karl Hood, Joseph Gilbert and Michael Church.
Hood has since appeared on the NNP platform for the upcoming general elections while Church has endorsed the NNP Candidate, Alvin Da Breo who is seeking to win his old constituency of St. John in a battle against NDC’s, Dr. George Vincent.
David and Gilbert have appeared on local radio and television stations to make hostile statements against Congress and seemingly in support of NNP during the ongoing campaign.
Former Prime Minister Mitchell promised that under a future NNP administration, there would be no attempt to malign investors such as Calivingy Owner/Developer George Cohen, Port Louis Developer, Peter deSavory, International Grand Prix driver, Lewis Hamilton and others as was allegedly done by NDC.
He charged that despite the resignations and firing of Cabinet Ministers over the past three years, the Thomas-led administration has not shown anything to indicate that the instability within Congress will not continue.
“If you’re a bad leader or bad leader…. my friends you could get the best team, you will find there would be enough basis for …. division and chaos. Today is Peter David tomorrow it will be another one … the problem is leadership”, he said.
Dr. Mitchell believes that leadership is about harnessing a team, knowing individual strengths and weaknesses and that the job of a leader is to use the available strengths of individual members and the collective wisdom of the team to bring success.
“If you cannot control the members in your own party… you (cannot) control a country … waste of time,” he remarked.
The NNP leader believes that if Grenada is to be pulled from the brink of economic catastrophe, which he said exist under the NDC administration then it requires urgent and decisive action.
He pointed out that saving Grenada could only be done by a responsive government that can deliver economic growth, jobs and other social advancements and with political inclusion rather than political turmoil.
The NNP leader said that the upcoming general election would be decided on two important issues – the economy and leadership and hinted to supporters to not be surprised if an elected government of his party calls on other persons to make a contribution towards the development of the country despite their political affiliation.
Political pundits are speculating about possible jobs within a Mitchell-led government for David (the former Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Hood (the former Minister of Health and Labour) among others.