The atmosphere surrounding the Westerhall Playing Field engulfed in shouts of joy and anticipation as news spread of the February 19 date for General Election.
Chairman of the main opposition New National Party (NNP), Gregory Bowen was on the podium addressing party supporters during a rally at Westerhall, St David’s as the announcement was made by Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas as he addressed a mass meeting of his National Democratic Congress (NDC) in St Patrick on Sunday evening.
“February 19 – judgment day announced”, and “The day for liberation”, were two of the chants that came from the mouths of thousands of NNP supporters assembled on the playing field at Westerhall.
The NNP held the meeting to officially introduce its newest candidate, former public servant, Oliver Joseph who replaced disgraced Caretaker Gabriel Henry.
Bowen told the gathering that many of their supporters are yet to be registered and urged them to do so.
He also warned those already registered to check the registration list to ensure that their names are on the final voters list and to ensure that they are registered to vote in their own constituency.
Two weeks ago, a senior official of the Electoral Office disclosed that they had discovered one person who tried to register in two different constituencies and urged people to refrain from doing so since they would be breaking the law.
Bowen who is seeking to recapture the St George South East constituency disclosed that a team of officials from the Organisation of American States (OAS) will arrive in the country later this month to ensure that a free and fair election is held.
He encouraged registered voters to scrutinise the list to ensure that mistakes can be corrected in time.
Former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oliver Joseph also addressed a major NNP national meeting for the first time.
Joseph charged that the propaganda machine of his opponents went into full swing as soon as he accepted the call to become NNP Caretaker as replacement for Henry.
Quoting a section of the Bible, Joseph warned that, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper!”
Allegations of sexual molestation against Joseph reared its head as the former public officer offered himself as a candidate for election to Parliament, the highest law-making body in the country.
A former student attached to the TA Marryshow Community College (TAMCC) raised the allegation against the NNP Caretaker in 2009 during a trip to Antigua to enlighten a group of students on the implementation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).
In an interview conducted with the now defunct Grenada Today newspaper in October 2009, Joseph was questioned about the allegation but denied that any such thing happened.
He hinted that he was a bit drunk from attending a party and merely stopped off at the student’s room in order to use the toilet.
According to Joseph, he spoke to the student’s grandmother and informed her that “if she (the student) said so (there was interference) then…if I did, I apologise”.
Joseph who joined the Grenada Public Service in 1982 and served in various positions including Director of Trade and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade accused the Tillman Thomas-led administration of victimization against him after their entry into government in 2008.
He said as soon as the NDC government came into office in July 2008, he was forced to operate with no office, all because of his perceived political affiliation.
He stated that his decision to get involved in frontline politics was a tough one but he is confident that he can win the St David’s Constituency against his main opponent, another former civil servant, Adrian “Persuader” Thomas.
Joseph promised the people that if elected into office, he plans to make regular visits to meet with them but reminded supporters that this is a critical election and that they must remain focused and not be sidetracked by lies and propaganda.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Mitchell urged his new caretaker, “Don’t even listen to the negatives”, as he himself faced various allegations during his political career including a charge of alleged rape.
Dr. Mitchell announced that NNP’s official campaign for next month’s election would be launched on Sunday in St Patrick as the party seeks to “liberate” the constituencies from NDC Parliamentary Representatives for St Patrick East, Prime minister Thomas and St Patrick West that went to former Congress member, Joseph Gilbert in the last poll.
Former Finance Minister Anthony Boatswain will seek to retain the seat from newcomer to the NDC, Joseph Andall while a relatively unknown, Clifton Paul will be up against the Prime Minister for his St. Patrick East seat.
Dr. Mitchell who has been calling in recent months for PM Thomas to announce the election date, welcomed what he termed “Judgment Day”, adding that February 20th brings, “Freedom at last” for Grenadians.
The NNP leader is seeking a fourth term as Prime Minister of the country following his 13-year stranglehold from 1995 to 2008.