The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has complained about “police spies” intruding its private meetings and called on Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and Acting Commissioner of Police, Winston James to put an end to the practice.
Congress called a press conference last Friday to give details to the local media about the actions of members of the Special Branch of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) to sit in on private meetings of the party held in St. Andrew’s and the south of the island.
The party did not release the names of the three plain clothes police officers allegedly engaged in the alleged acts of espionage.
Addressing members of the local media at the press briefing, Deputy Political Leader of the party, Nazim Burke accused the Special Branch officers of taking it on their own to invite themselves to the party meeting and recording the proceedings.
Burke said the party is concerned that the constitutional rights of its members are being infringed upon and that this is a very disturbing development that strikes at the very heart of democracy and which if not arrested is likely to compromise the very democratic system “that we live in”.
The former Finance Minister made specific reference to a meeting held last week Wednesday at 7.00 p.m. at the Grand Anse Roman Catholic School by the St George South Constituency Branch of Congress.
He said that two police officers, who were later identified as members of the Special Branch of RGPF showed up at the meeting unannounced and uninvited, took their seats and sat throughout the meeting, listening and observing and recording the entire proceedings.
According to Burke, a similar situation took place the previous night when the St Andrew South West Constituency Branch met at the St Andrew Primary School and one officer in plain clothes who was identified to be part of the Special Branch unit sought to sit in the session and record the proceedings.
On this second occasion, he said the officer was advised that it was a private closed-door meeting of the NDC and that persons who were not members of the party were not invited and not welcomed and the person left the building.
Burke told reporters that the NDC is alarmed that this behaviour on the part of the Special Branch of the force is taking place less than 90 days after the February 19, General Elections in which the ruling New National Party (NNP) won all 15 seats, leaving the country without an official opposition party in Parliament.
“We call this press conference because these two incidents (are) a dangerous precedence for Grenada as the constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association”, he said
“We consider these developments especially disturbing in light of comments reported in the media that media persons are going to be expected to let certain persons in authority see what they have to produce and what they have to publish and what they say before they say it, as well as announcements … that a new law is going to be passed that will allow wiretapping for criminal purposes which mean that as long as the police believe that somebody is engaged in criminal activity then they can tap their phones.
“So we hearing about the possibilities of curtailing media behaviour, we hearing about the possibilities of tapping phones and … we observing and seeing another case where people are simply showing up at the (NDC) meetings, all of these rights are protected by the constitution and this is not what we envisage.
The former government pointed out that NDC is not attempting to overthrow the NNP-led government of Dr. Mitchell and as such there can be no reasonable justification for this action by members of the Special Branch.
“The NDC is not a subversive organisation – it did not attempt, it is not attempting to overthrow any government … there could be no reasonable explanation as to why anyone should find it necessary to be eavesdropping, to be spying, to be conducting surveillance on the National Democratic Congress”, he said.
“This is absolutely unwarranted, this is absolutely unnecessary”, he said, adding that all the NDC wants to do is to rebuild its organisation and work to regain the confidence of the Grenadian people so that it can win the next general election.
Burke said he cannot comprehend why after winning all 15 seats in Parliament, some members of the ruling New National Party are so angry with Congress.
“When they (NNP people) speak you see so much anger in their demeanour, it’s as though they still not satisfied… The only reasonable explanation that one can say to this is that there are some (NNP) members who seemed determined, who want to see the complete annihilation of the National Democratic Congress and the establishment perhaps of a one-party state.”
Burke is calling on Commissioner of Police, Winston James to reign-in his officers to ensure this practice comes to an end and for the Minister for National Security, Prime Minister Mitchell to use his office to ensure that this does not happen again on the island.