A former Foreign Affairs Minister with the New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell has lauded the decision of the Grenadian leader to introduce Casino gambling into the island.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY Newspaper, Mark Isaac, who won the South St. George seat in the 1995 and 1999 general elections said that the move is long overdue.
According to Isaac who is no longer engaged in frontline politics, he personally wanted to see this form of gambling becoming legal in the country a very long time now.
“As they say it’s better late than never and Dr. Keith Mitchell has finally entered the dragon and now Casino gambling is legal in Grenada,” he said.
“If we had Casino gambling years ago, I believe our tourism sector would have been better. We cannot talk about tourism right now in the present world without Casino,” he added.
Former Agriculture Minister, Michael Baptiste had indicated that the 1995-99 NNP-led government of Dr. Mitchell had sought to push for Casino Gambling but was fearful of the reaction of the island’s church leaders.
Baptiste said that Dr. Mitchell had spoken to both he and late Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Raphael Fletcher about a plan that he had to influence the country into going the way of casino gambling.
He spoke of PM Mitchell assigning him the task of selling the idea on the ground and for Dr. Fletcher whose family had close ties with the Roman Catholic Church to try and influence the church leaders on the introduction of casino gambling.
According to Isaac, the other islands that are competing with Grenada for the tourist dollar such as St. Lucia, Antigua and St. Kitts have casino gambling as a major attraction.
“If you want to compete with that arena we too must have it”, he quipped.
Isaac was quick to add that the modern tourist doesn’t just want sun, sand and sea any more.
“The modern tourists is younger than tourists fifty years ago and therefore we must cater for the (modern) tourists, give the tourists what they want”, he said.
“Grenada is a long way from North America and Europe, no one comes down here just for the sun and therefore a casino would increase our night life, help even our singers and so on and people in culture will have a better chance with a casino…”, he added.
Isaac stressed that he has no problems wit the stipulation in the Casino law that prevents Grenadians from going into the casino and engage in gambling.
He also sought to brush aside fears being expressed in some quarters that casinos bring with them issues like prostitution.
“I’m not afraid of things like prostitution, I’m not worried about that or whatever else you may have. If women are working, less chance of (them) being prostitutes, so I’m not worried about that”, he said.
“What I’m worried about is all these young women and young men walking the streets looking for jobs and can’t find any jobs, that’s my number one worry … so I believe the Casino will help in unemployment,” he added.
The former government minister also commented on the move being made by the Mitchell government to make certain amendments to the Grenada Constitution.
He made a plea for the Constitution to always make provisions for a Leader of the Opposition and for all elected Members of Parliament to be paid a full minister’s salary.
“In my opinion for the future, there shall be a Leader of the Opposition, whether in the Lower House or in the Senate. No matter what happens (in an election) somebody must be Leader of the Opposition officially.
“As a matter of fact, Nazim Burke (Political Leader of congress) should be Leader of the Opposition right now officially and I regret that he does not have an office as Leader of the Opposition because to everybody he is the Leader of the Opposition.
Isaac is suggesting that a change should be made to the Constitution that there should always be a Leader of the Opposition.
He also praised Prime Minister Mitchell for taking the bold step to pay a salary to all elected Members of Parliament even those who were not allocated any official government assignment and remain as backbenchers.
This, he said was something that did not happen when he was in politics and was very much regretted.
“I would like to say that every elected member of the house shall be paid a monthly salary of not less than a Permanent Secretary, providing that the member is not a Cabinet Minister.
“…When NNP won all 15 seats in 1999, Dr Keith Mitchell left me out of his Cabinet and the reason I cared about being left out of the Cabinet is because I wasn’t going to get any pay.
“I had just won election to represent people and there was no official way for me to get pay. I don’t want that to happen to anybody in the future anymore.
“Anytime you win a seat, you “gotta” get pay, you “gotta” represent people, regardless of you being a Minister or not … bring the money,
“…I want that to be in the Constitution, I don’t want to take the chance to (get) pay one time and not pay the other time. Pay everybody who win. If a Senator becomes a Minister fine, if he is not a Minister, nobody voted for he or she but all elected members must be paid.