The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has taken issue with homophobic comments directed at two of its members by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell during a recent convention of the women’s arm of his New National Party (NNP).
Addressing a meeting held at the Boca Secondary School, PM Mitchell referred to the NDC caretakers Ali Dowden and Tevin Andrews as “Arlene” and “Theresa”.
Dowden is the NDC caretaker in the Prime Minister’s constituency of St. George North-west, while Andrews is the candidate for Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
The NDC has joined scores of Grenadians at home and abroad, who have since taken to social media to criticise the Prime Minister and calling on him to apologise.
One resident commented: “Ali and Tevin have added youthful energy to Grenada politics; Ali has been awarded by QEII; Tevin continues to take the hurts and woes of the people of the dependencies to the forefront. They both seem to have a promising future in leading young people of this tri-island nation to improve themselves and get involved in positive activities”.
Kellon Bubb, a Grenadian who resides in the United States, said: “I condemn in the strongest possible terms the homophobic jab Dr Keith Mitchell levelled against the NDC Caretaker candidate for Carriacou and Petit Martinique. Calling the young man a “she” isn’t funny and one can certainly make fun of political opponents without engaging in such asinine diatribe. Dr Mitchell is supposed to be an elder statesman and should conduct himself in a manner befitting his status as the longest serving parliamentarian in Grenada and the Eastern Caribbean.”
Addressing this burning issue at a recent NDC press conference in St. George’s, Senator Franka Alexis-Bernardine, who is the NDC caretaker for the constituency of St. George South-east described as “very unfortunate, but not surprising” the attack on the young politicians by the Grenadian leader.
She pointed to the achievements of Dowden, who was the first Grenadian to be awarded the most prestigious Queen’s Young Leader’s award in 2016 in recognition of his impressive leadership skills.
“To belittle his skills and abilities and (make) comments on his own persona is absolutely unacceptable and I really do hope that we can try to continue lifting our noses higher from the byre so that we can get the country developed and not tearing down people who come forward and are courageous enough to step up to the plate and make a difference,” she said.
According to the former Education Minister, she can say the same about Andrew, whose Carriacou office and home have been broken into and vandalised in recent times.
“Unfortunately,” she noted that “our present government deteriorates into nasty comments, slogans and all manner of put-downs to people who are attempting to change their country (and) who are to be highly emulated for coming forward and trying to address the issues and put themselves forward”.
Sen. Bernadine went on: “…I am ashamed to think that those are the kinds of remarks and the levels to which we are dragging the politics in this country.”
“I cry shame on a party that would turn around and try to pull down two young people like that and cast aspersions on their character…that is not acceptable at all…it augurs very poorly for an election campaign coming up (because) people have grown wise,” she said.
In responding to the attacks on the two young NDC Caretakers, the party Chairman, Vincent Roberts expressed confidence that both Dowden and Andrews are capable of holding their own and defending themselves.
Roberts felt that the two young politicians are being attacked because they are seen as threats, especially with the upcoming general elections to be held shortly.
“It is clearly an indication that Prime Minister Mitchell has realised that he has failed to deliver on his promises in his 2013 election campaign,” Roberts said, as he called on Dr. Mitchell to apologise to the nation for what he described as an attack on the lesbian and gay community in Grenada.
In October last year, ahead of a referendum to change the island’s Constitution, there was a raging debate as to whether or not the Rights and Freedom Bill, one of seven in the referendum, was creating a loophole to legalise gay marriages on the island.
While the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) said it was promoting the legislation as elevating the fundamental rights and freedom of citizens, some sections of the religious community viewed it as creating a loophole to legalise same sex marriages.
The NDC Chairman said that his party is not in support of lesbian and gay activities but “we don’t have a right to judge persons who are living alternative lifestyles.”