Referendum vs. national elections

Is time running out for Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to call on Grenadians within a short 20-month period to go to the polls twice for a referendum on Constitutional Reform and secondly to seek a fresh mandate for his New National Party (NNP) for another five year term in office?

The question has become important in light of recent pronouncements made by Chairman of the Constitutional Review Advisory Committee (CRAC), Dr. Francis Alexis that he had expected the political directorate to announce a date for the long overdue Referendum vote by last weekend.

The time has long passed and no date has been forthcoming from the relevant authorities.

The experienced Dr. Alexis must be aware of something and would not have just put his neck out on the block to make a loose statement as to the date for the holding of the referendum, which in the past two years has often been pushed back by government for various reasons.

THE NEW TODAY suspects that Prime Minister Mitchell would be more concerned about getting another term in office than holding the referendum at this stage.

The Prime Minister would not want to give the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) any advantage in going into a national election by calling a referendum before and not getting the desired results.

Dr. Mitchell has never run the full five-year term in office and usually calls general elections months in advance of the constitutionally due date.

Given this scenario, the next election would most likely be held before December 31, 2017 – seventeen months away.

This newspaper would not rule out PM Mitchell making an announcement that the Constitutional Referendum would be held at a particular date in 2017 and then come back later and spring a snap poll sometime between September and December this year on the belief that the NNP would be much better prepared to face the electorate with only a short period available for campaigning.

There are some worrying signs for the Prime Minster on the horizon especially with the public sector unions – notable the Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) getting increasingly restless.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already alluded to the fact that the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) is due to end in December, and the unions would be pushing for salary increases for their membership and thus bring an end to the wage freeze arrangement with the administration.

The public sector unions are currently at odds with the regime on the payment of increments and back pay due to the estimated 5, 500 civil servants.

And information reaching THE NEW TODAY is that the PWU has approached the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) for permission to take to the streets in the coming days to send a message to government on some outstanding issues that need to be resolved quickly.

The Prime Minister has reacted swiftly by embarking upon a round of visits to Government Ministries and Departments to engage public officers.

Can he put out the fire that seems to be on the horizon, as the PWU has apparently gotten a new lease on life under its Acting President, Rachael Roberts?

Another of the long outstanding issues that needs to be addressed by both NNP and NDC is that of pension payment to civil servants who joined the service after 1983 in light of a high court ruling.

There are hundreds of public officers including police officers who are right now disgruntled because they are soon to reach the retirement age of 60 and will be going home with nothing in hand.

The IMF is also pressing the Mitchell government to do something about the huge size of the wage bill in Grenada.

The only realistic and pragmatic solution for the NNP administration or any government is to follow in the footsteps of the Barbados government and engage in some kind of retrenchment.

It is only an insensitive government that will face the electorate after sending home workers.

The most prudent thing is to call the elections, get another five-year term in office and do the retrenchment immediately and long in advance of the other election.

THE NEW TODAY is also getting a signal that the Prime Minister has a particular thought process in removing Emmalin Pierre as Minister of Youth & Sports and replacing her with the party’s General Secretary, Roland Bhola, the former Minister of Agriculture.

At the just-ended NNP General Council, Dr. Mitchell lamented the fact that the youth was noticeable absent from the session. Is this not saying something?

The NNP has not delivered on the promises made to the youths in 2013 and the general public about jobs and more jobs with an influx of foreign investors and cannot be fully confident that the electorate will give it another easy ride back into the seat of power.

Nazim Burke and NDC might not be doing anything to win the upcoming election but the electorate can choose to punish Dr. Mitchell and NNP for the many false promises including the building of a new economy that is laced with taxes and an assault on the disposable incomes of many who belong to the working class.

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