Grenada is to be represented by a two-member delegation at this week’s official funeral of Nelson Mandela, the first Black President of the Republic of South Africa.
Heading the delegation will be deputy Prime Minister, Elvin Nimrod with the other member being trade unionist, Chester Humphrey, the President-General of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU).
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell made the disclosure to journalists attending Sunday night’s annual awards ceremony of the Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG).
The inclusion of Humphrey in the Grenada delegation raised eyebrows in certain quarters in the country.
An official of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) sees the selection as Humphrey as a reward by the ruling New National Party (NNP) for the role played by the trade unionist and a group of other Congress rebels in the internal feuding that affected the Tillman Thomas-led government and contributed to its humiliating 15-0 defeat at the polls in February.
Nimrod and Humphrey flew out of the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) on Sunday night for Trinidad and Tobago to board a Caribbean Airlines flight, chartered by the Government in Port-of-Spain for the journey into Pretoria.
The two will join several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders who left the region on Monday for South Africa to attend the funeral of the anti-apartheid icon.
Before flying out of Port-of-Spain, the country’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the regional leaders will not use the traditional route to fly into South Africa due to the weather pattern in Europe.
She said the route will take them into Brazil and then fly straight into South Africa in order to facilitate easier access due to time constraints.
“If we had passed through the UK, we would have had further constraints. We will fly to Rio De Janeiro (Brazil) to refuel and then pursue over the Atlantic to come back”, she said.
Asked about the cost of the trip, the TNT Prime Minister said: “Not at this point in time we are having it worked out. In terms of the commitment, we have to honour the great work of Mandela. The cost will not be exorbitant. I have nothing to hide. It would have cost more to fly so many of us down to South Africa.” Mandela, 95, died last Thursday, following a prolonged illness. He will be buried on Sunday, December 15.
CARICOM chairman and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad Bissessar, as well as her Jamaican counterpart, Portia Simpson-Miller are expected in Johannesburg in time for the funeral.
President Donald Ramotar of Guyana and Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie are also attending the meeting.
A Bahamas government statement said that the delegation will first travel to Trinidad where it will “join other CARICOM Heads of Government for the direct flight to Johannesburg via private charter courtesy of the government of Trinidad and Tobago”.
The statement said that Nassau had played a prominent role in the release of Mandela after 27 years in jail for his fight to overthrow the apartheid system.
“Once released from prison, Mr Mandela came almost immediately to visit The Bahamas to personally thank former Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling for his leadership in securing the release. In fact, Mr Mandela made two trips to the Bahamas,” the statement said, noting that “Sir Lynden Pindling was chairman of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1985 which issued the “Nassau Accords” that led to Mr Mandela’s release.
“As a result of this close relationship, Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Mandela as the second president of a democratic South Africa, made an official state visit to The Bahamas during his tenure as president in 2002, the statement said.