Signs are emerging of political cracks within the ranks of the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) Administration.
Member of Parliament for St. Patrick West, Anthony Boatswain is the latest high-ranking member of the party to publicly register his frustration over the level of government support he is receiving for his constituency.
Boatswain, the current Minister of Education, spoke out in Parliament last week Thursday, during his contribution to the debate of the 2016 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure.
He complained over what he said was the disparity in support for his constituency and highlighted one of his major concerns as the low amount of housing assistance received during the year.
He reported that out of over three hundred applicants for housing assistance, only thirty-one received assistance.
“When I look at what we received in St. Patrick’s West, and when I speak to my colleague ministers they all tell me boy I have more than that,” he told Parliament.
Boatswain spoke of Housing Minister Delma Thomas coming to his assistance and granting him an additional seven from what was first provided.
“If it was not for the intervention of the Minister responsible for Housing, it would not have (been) 31 recipients, it would have been 24,” he said.
“Even if it means taking a bulldozer, I will be bulldozing my way to ensure that we get more,” he added.
Boatswain described 2015 as a year of mixed results for his Constituency.
The Parliamentary Representative told Parliament that when promises are made either one of three things can be done.
He said it can either be delivered upon, the delivery of the promise can be delayed, or the promise could be denied.
Mitchell’s NNP won all 15 seats in the 2013 general elections with the promise to the electorate to provide thousands of jobs, build a new economy, and to attract several foreign investment projects.
Boatswain also referred to plans in the budget to have a section of the roadway in St. Patrick’s rebuilt.
He said since the NNP Administration took office almost three years ago he has been hearing of that plan in every budget presentation.
“This is the third budget when I’m hearing about the St. Patrick’s Road Project,” he told Parliament.
Dr. Mitchell who is also the Minister of Finance said in his budget speech St. Patrick’s Roads Project will commence next year, adding that at least $2.25M will be spent on the project.
MP Boatswain said the St. Patrick’s Roads Project which is to rehabilitate almost eight kilometers of road and eighteen bridges touches three parishes and four constituencies.
He warned that some of the bridges are on the verge of collapse, adding that the bridge at La Fortune has virtually collapsed over the past six months.
Sources told THE NEW TODAY newspaper that Boatswain’s outburst in Parliament could be in retaliation to reports within the ruling party that PM Mitchell might be seeking to replace him as a candidate in the next general election.
Party insiders have said that a recent poll commissioned by the NNP indicated that the Education Minister is facing a stiff challenge for the seat from deputy Leader of the National Democratic Congress, Joseph Andall.
In his presentation in Parliament, Minister Boatswain also drew the Lower House’s attention to what he considered as “a serious erosion” taking place in Low Town at Sauteurs, St. Patrick’s.
He believes if remedial work is delayed in saving the properties there, the entire area would be lost.
The Parliamentary Representative spoke of the Parish of St. Patrick’s which is considered to be one of the poorest in the country still having a high level of unemployment.
“St. Patrick’s… is listed as one of the more impoverished parishes, and, therefore, we have to ensure that we bring some sustainable jobs into the area. Right now I cannot think of any project that is providing sustainable jobs in the area,” he said.
Boatswain said he has heard of a number of projects mentioned in the budget which he said is very good for Grenada, “but we need a balance otherwise we will have this serious rural/urban drift creating social problems in the south.”
He felt that some of the projects should come to the North.
Boatswain noted that since phase one work on the controversial Snell Hall playing field was completed, nothing else took place to further develop the facility.
He said a number of young people in the area are looking forward to using the playing field whenever it is completed.
According to him, a promise was made by NNP to build a resource centre as part of the second phase and he is looking forward to having that promise fulfilled.
“I prefer to see a promise being made than a promise being denied. So we cannot deny them that facility because we promised them… If you can’t fulfill don’t promise,” he said.
This is an apparent rebuke of his own party that is being accused of not fulfilling most of the promises made to win the last general elections.
However, the Member of Parliament for St. Patrick’s West appealed to his constituents to exercise patience and indulgence over the delay in having the promises delivered.
He said that St. Patrick’s is considered as the historical and cultural parish of Grenada, but asked “what is it to show?”
He called for incentives to be provided to the private sector to upgrade the historical sites of the parish including the famous Carib Leap.
Another concern voiced by Boatswain was the lack of street lights in certain areas of his constituency.
He said over one year ago he made a request for street lights for the rural village of Red Mud where the murder of a young woman, Jessie Narine took place.
He said since the incident took place the villagers are scared of walking in that area at nights since it is usually dark.
Backbencher Tobias Clement also addressed Parliament as part of his budgetary contribution and admitted that he was satisfied with the level of work being done in his Constituency of St. George’s North East.
According to Clement, he laid his cards on the table before Prime Minister Mitchell when he decided to contest the general elections.
“It is a good thing I tell Doc (Dr. Keith Mitchell) in the beginning I don’t want any part of that (a ministry). Put me to serve the people of St. George’s North East, treat me fairly, and that is (how) I desire to be treated.
“…I think I remember I told him (the Prime Minister) once if you suck a sweetie in St. George North West (which he represents), I should suck a sweetie in St. George North East too,” Clement told the House.
He noted that St. George North East borders a number of constituencies including, St. George North West, St. George South East, Town of St. George, St. David’s and St. Andrew’s North West.
“So I’m right smack in the middle of them and I’m looking so when I see stuff going on in the North West, I’m well informed. In St. David’s too, I’m well informed, but Brother Bowen dare not build something by him and I don’t get some too,” he said.
Two months ago former Minister of Implementation, Kenny Lalsingh who once represented the St. Patrick’s West Constituency was the first top flight NNP official to make some harsh remarks about government on the increase in the petrol tax.
He said then: “That (the petrol tax) has created also a political and a psychological problem because your sister countries in the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States), their petrol is cheaper than Grenada”.
The St. Patrick’s-based businessman added that, “People are complaining. Some people may not tell them (the government)… but when you go around people are complaining… but to add more (taxes) would be counterproductive”.
Speculation is rife that PM Mitchell might be inclined to call general election before the middle of next year as government will have to hunt for millions of dollars to pay US bondholders as part of a deal worked out on debts due to them.