Former Finance Minister, Nazim Burke has unleashed a vicious attack on Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and questioning the paternity of Olinga Mitchell, whom the Grenadian leader arrived with in the country in the early 1980’s as his son with his wife Marietta Mitchell.
An irate Burke hit out in the Senate as he retaliated to allegations made by Dr. Mitchell that a former government minister not only gave his son a full paid scholarship but ordered that government cheques amounting to $67,000.00 a year be made payable directly to the individual.
Dr. Mitchell was clearly alluding to a scholarship given to Burke’s son, Mikhail and branded the transaction as a first for government-sponsored students.
During a recent weekly post-Cabinet briefing, Prime Minister Mitchell told reporters that, “There were people who sat in Government, in some cases gave their children scholarships at the expense of the taxpayers while poor people children could not get a dime and to study. I never saw that in all the years of government I’ve been in, I’ve never seen this happen.
“These are people whose sons and daughters in some cases were made exception to the rule of what Government pays to Universities for their children to study, as scholarships and were prepared to take the taxpayers money, sat in a Cabinet and give an average of $67,000.00 a year to their son in addition to what was earned.
“…Sisters and brothers and sons and daughters while the poor people out there looking for medication, looking for help and we had no money to do so, while the hospital was left without medication some of them were building two houses at the same time, those moralists.
Burke used the occasion of the debate in the Senate on the 2014 budget to respond and to say that his son Mikhail Burke was granted a scholarship as an Island Scholar under the previous NNP government headed by Dr. Mitchell himself in 2007.
Addressing what he said is a close and personal issue to him, Burke said that on December 4, 2007 his son received a letter from former NNP Education Minister, Claris Charles informing him that following a Cabinet Conclusion he was granted a scholarship as Island Scholar which entitled him to $65,000.00 per year in financial assistance.
He said that his son subsequently applied to the University of Toronto to pursue Biomedical Engineering and was accepted and the Ministry of Education was notified and that a letter of confirmation for the scholarship from the ministry was sent to the University for a period of three years.
According to Burke, the programme being undertaken by his son was to run for four years and he wrote to the ministry, now under the leadership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) asking for further support for his son to complete the additional one-year.
Burke as Finance Minister absented himself from Cabinet to allow his ministerial colleagues to consider the request, it was approved for an additional $65,000.00.
An emotional Burke told the Senate that rather than being proud of a young man struggling to succeed in life with all the negatives about underachieving young men, Dr Mitchell is trying to smear his son’s character.
Burke made it clear that Dr Mitchell can attack him and accuse him of all sorts of things, “I can live with that”, but warned the Grenadian leader to not make the same mistake with his child.
The former senior government minister said that despite the political maneuverings over the years, he has never attacked Dr Mitchell’s family and he believes the attack on his son was unwarranted.
Burke broke protocol and unleashed a vicious attack on the Prime Minister and charged that many Grenadians could be heard asking each other the following question: “Is Dr Mitchell the father?”
“I understand he (Dr Mitchell) has no children of his own”, he told the Senate.
Several opponents of Prime Minister Mitchell have taken pot shots at him over the years on the issue of whether he has biologically fathered any children of his own.
When Dr. Mitchell returned to Grenada in the aftermath of the 1983 downfall of the People’s Revolutionary Government, alongside him were his wife Marietta and a little boy known as Olinga who now lives and practice as an attorney-at-law in Florida.
In his Senate address, Burke said that he is deeply offended and considers the attack on his son by Dr. Mitchell as despicable and unforgivable and beneath the quality of someone holding the position of Prime Minister.
Former Education Minister, Franka Alexis-Bernadine did not agree with Burke’s response to Prime Minister Mitchell since he insinuated that the Grenadian leader was the father of an adopted son.
Alexis-Bernadine told the Senate that she has many adopted nieces and does not understand why people think adoption is a bad thing and was really unhappy with her colleague’s statement.
Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for Information in the Prime Minister’s Office, Senator Winston Garraway also came in defense of Dr Mitchell as a parent saying that Burke is doing the same thing he is accusing Dr Mitchell of doing, destroying the character of a young man who is also succeeding.