“I think the first year has shown up the New National Party (NNP) for what it truly is – a party that is big and grand in its promises and very weak on actual delivery of what was promised.”
Those were the words used by Interim Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) Joseph Andall, in reference to the first anniversary of NNP’s historic 3rd 15-0 victory at the polls.
“We are in some very troubling times in our country with a very uncertain industrial climate, a judicial climate that is close to collapse, a crumbling health system (and) nothing of substance for the young people but a set of posturing and chest beating by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet,” he said.
According to the interim NDC leader, the performance of the Keith Mitchell-led NNP administration since the March 2018 poll can best be “characterised by the massive failure of the referendum, which was a sad waste of taxpayer’s money (and) a more pressing concern is the near collapse of the judicial system in our country.
He added: “Since last year the High Court has been virtually paralysed with no more than one court operating at a time resulting in severe backlogs”.
Andall pointed to the unavailability of transcripts due to lack of equipment and personnel at the office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court for the problem, stating that “the monies that were spent on the referendum could have been used towards upgrading the physical facilities and in some cases making such facilities available for officers of the court”.
“So, all this talk about making justice more available has come to naught because even if we were to accede to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ (Caribbean Court of Justice), the fact that you cannot get out of the lower courts means that you would still not have access (to the CCJ as the final appellate court).
Andall called on the Mitchell government to “ensure that the citizens of our country have speedy access to justice.”
The NDC leader also put the government on the spot for what he described as the lack of implementation of its promises as he made specific reference to the “nonexistent shrimp farm” project that was to come on stream in the parish of St. Mark”.
He noted that the shrimp project was to be erected on the site of what should have been the “fowl farm,” another failed project under the NNP regime.
About two weeks ago, Prime Minister Mitchell announced that the promoters of the shrimp farm are being investigated for collecting money under government’s passport selling scheme known as Citizenship by Investment (CBI) and not utilising it on the promised project.
According to Andall, “the NNP and investigations are like a duck in water – they go hand in hand and we know that those investigations usually end up in a cover up”.
He recalled the investigation regarding irregularities with government’s services and materials about two (2) years ago in St. Patrick.
“We know that the police was involved, detaining persons for questioning and so on – materials were recovered and up to this blessed day we have not heard a report from the police, nor from Minister Gregory Bowen (who announced the investigation) or from any other member of the administration,” he quipped.
“…Young people have to wise up and realise that as important as it is to have a little income, no matter how small, it is even more important that they prepare themselves for a sustainable future because these little programmes by the NNP is designed to trap them into a cycle of dependence and poverty,” he said.
“We see again, another example of the deceitful nature of the NNP regarding the Pensions and Gratuity problems that workers post-1985 is faced with. I cannot fathom what it was Dr. Mitchell expected the unions to believe they were signing to a few days before the last general election and in typical fashion he is ducking out of the agreement leaving the workers with an empty bag to hold”, he added.
Andall also took issue with PM Mitchell, who is also the Minister of Finance, creating a position for his son within his own ministry and paying him an undisclosed amount of money in salary each month.
“The question here is not whether or not the young man is qualified to practice here in Grenada but one of ethics and nepotism (and) we also see the double standards of Peter David, who when he was a member of the Tillman Thomas administration advised against the appointment of the then Prime Minister’s wife to a senior position in the civil service.
“Yet, the same Peter David had no qualms in appointing his daughter as an Ambassador to serve in a ministry (of Foreign Affairs, which) he has line responsibility for. So, we see the double dealing of the administration.
The Congress leader also pointed to “another signature promise of the NNP to deliver on national health insurance for the population.
Andall said, “in spite of Chester Humphrey being head of the committee to implement that from since the days of the NDC and for the entire duration of the first NNP term, we still see no meaningful move or steps being taken to address that issue (and) our citizens are still forced to go on motorcades et cetera, in order to have access to proper health care”.
He said another area of “great concern” is the “stranglehold that the government or the ruling party is exercising over the media.
“We see for example, they already control the Government Information Service (GIS) and some operatives of the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN) function as though the GBN was an extension of the GIS. We see the unceremonious dumping of Lew Smith as host of the “Beyond the Headlines” radio and tv programme and it is a crying shame that the government should see it fit and that the management of GBN or whoever was responsible for that decision to see it fit to appoint a sitting government Senator to host a current affairs programme,” he argued.
“This,” he said, is very, very reminiscent of the practices in autocratic (societies) and we are seeing quite clearly the intent to impose on us a one party state where the citizens will not have access to unbiased information,” he said.
“We see again that certain media houses are put under duress and operatives of the NNP are being put in place in some private media houses to be in charge of the News Departments,” a move which he believes is a “reflection of an insecure government, one that is not satisfied with having total control over the Lower House of Parliament, but also believes that they have to control the flow and nature of information that the public has access to,” he remarked.
Andall said his statements “doesn’t mean that nothing has happened” during the last 12 months of NNP rule.
“On a positive note we have seen the opening of Silver Sands, but again we continue to call on government to ensure that development is spread throughout the country. Everything is cued toward St. George’s (and) even though we may hear certain statistics about unemployment and growth in the economy you need to go out into the rural areas and parts of St. George’s that are not touched by those activities to get a true appreciation of the nature of the problem that we face in Grenada regarding unbalanced development, lack of opportunities in the rural areas in particular and even for the people who are employed, extremely low wages,” he said.