Ex-Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has called for a referendum involving the people on government’s plans to seek a 50-60% hair cut from the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) as part of its 3-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
Addressing scores of supporters of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) during the party’s rally at the Tempe Playing Field to highlight wanton increases on taxes and the continued rise in unemployment, Thomas said that the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government’s impending move on NIS is immoral.
The former Prime Minister who lost his job in the February 2013 general elections warned that if the NIS Board of Directors grants such request it will be illegal.
He told supporters that the NIS was set up during the 1979-83 revolutionary government of late Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop for the benefits of workers and that while the Board of Directors can make investments in the interests of workers it has no authority to provide debt forgiveness.
He suggested that any such decision that has to be undertaken must take the form of a referendum since it is workers who have to make such a decision and not the Board of Directors.
Thomas expressed disappointment with members of the private sector who have remained silent or in support of the Government’s attempt to once more tamper with people’s pensions after retirement and in the event of medical problems.
“Why should workers be made to pay for this? Thomas asked as he reminded the NIS Board of Directors that the institution “is a creature of law”.
The former Congress leader stated that Grenada under the leadership of Prime Minister Mitchell is now like a blight and until the people get rid of him, the country and its people would continue to suffer.
“Uncle Tilly” as he is affectionately called, told supporters that the country’s institutions have suffered, been frustrated and in some instances disregarded by the Mitchell regime as his leadership of mismanagement of the public’s business continues.
Using the Ministry of Education as his first example, Thomas charged that the NNP regime quickly shot down the opportunity to house a University on island after assuming office 16 months ago.
This is obvious reference to the plans by the University of the West Indies (UWI) to establish an institution at Hope in St. Andrew’s.
Works Minister Gregory Bowen has said that UWI is unable to raise the funds to set up the facility.
According to Thomas, the failure on the part of the government to get the UWI project going is a direct attempt to deprive young people from achieving University level education.
He said that had education been a priority of the Mitchell regime, the administration would not have moved so hastily to remove the CXC incentives for those Grenadian students securing eight or more passes nor would they have cut the concessions granted to the T.A. Marryshow Community College by 50%.
The former Prime Minister pointed an accusing finger at the Mitchell regime in terms of the negative effect it was having on the local media in the dissemination of information to the public.
He chided a section of the media for not being aggressive enough in bringing issues to the public attention.
He also chastised local media practitioners for not taking a strong stance on the controversial Electronic Crimes Bill, which was passed in Parliament, withdrawn in the face of regional and international opposition and then subsequently amended to ensure greater freedom of the press.
Thomas commended the stand taken by Vincentian national, attorney-at-law and political activist Anesia Baptiste, for bringing the Electronic Crimes Bill issue to the fore.
The ex-Congress boss also lashed out at PM Mitchell’s dealings with the Public Service and acts of alleged victimisation taking place in the country.
Thomas insisted that Dr Mitchell had to be removed from office if Grenada is to prosper and for institutions to be respected.