NDC: Public information should not be a secret

The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is calling for the Keith Mitchell government to make available to the general public the identity of committee members responsible for recommending persons for the prestigious Knighthood under the National Honours and Awards Act.

NDC Chairman, Vincent Roberts made the call Monday following government’s announcement last week Tuesday, of its decision to rescind the knighthood of Sir Anthony Bailey of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George, which was awarded to him in November 2015.

“This information is not and should not be a secret. We (the NDC) are trying to find out who the members of the committee are and I have asked around but I am not satisfied that the committee is duly constituted”, Roberts told reporters during the weekly NDC Press conference.

The National Honours and Awards Act provides for the establishment of a committee comprising a chairperson appointed by the Governor General after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of Opposition, Chairperson of the Public Service Commission (PSC), Commissioner of Police (CoP), two members of the public, one on advice of the Prime Minister and the other on advice of the Leader of the Opposition.

It also has serving on the body two persons appointed by the Governor General after consultations with civil society and the religious community.

A female trade union leader whose name was given to this newspaper by a top government official as being a member of the committee denied any involvement with the group.

According to the NDC Chairman, when the committee looks at someone who has been referred to them or, in their own judgment, are selecting someone for an award, they are requited to do a background check.

After this is done, according to the Act the committee shall forward to the Prime Minister the list of recommendations regarding each award, and the Prime Minster would then make the recommendation that he chooses including eliminating names from the list and then forward it to the Governor General for the awards to be granted.

Roberts pointed out that the Governor General “does not have a choice (in the matter) once the Prime Minister makes the recommendation”.

The Keith Mitchell-led government has announced that it took a decision at the level of Cabinet to revoke Sir Anthony’s award following charges leveled against him in British publications since May.

Health Minister Nickolas Steele said the decision to revoke was taken by the same committee that granted him the award.

“He (Sir Anthony) was awarded last year and it was – I believe – a reciprocal award. There is an awards committee. It was that committee that made the decision (to knight him)”, he said.

“It is also that committee, including legal individuals that have re-examined the criteria and the terms and conditions for giving of awards. Therefore steps have been taken to rescind the award”, he added.

The two awards bestowed upon Sir Anthony in 2015 were the “Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of the Nation within the Order of Grenada”, and “The Governor General’s Medal of Honour (Gold)”.

Minister Steele also told reporters that National honours awards that were bestowed on three other persons were also revoked.

The NDC Chairman charged that at the time the awards were granted to Bailey and others the recipients “had not done anything for Grenada”.

“… Awards should not be given in exchange for anything. There should be no consideration”, he said.

Roberts spoke of making checks minutes before the press conference with the authorities within the Roman Catholic Church “who assured me that with the exception of monies for work on the St. Joseph’s Convent (St. George’s), some work at New Life Organisation (NEWLO), a car for the Emeritus Bishop Sidney Charles, none of the contributions (promised by Sir. Anthony) for government projects have been realised and at this point we (NDC) doubt very much whether any sums would be forthcoming”.

“The NDC is therefore calling on Government to bring forward the information, which the people ought to be aware of”, Roberts said as he gave assurances that “once the NDC forms the government we will move swiftly to establish a Freedom of Information act making sure that the information belonging to the people of Grenada shall be available to them”.

“Things like the Gazette shall be online and accessible”, he said, adding that “the awards ought to have been published in the Gazette.

“They should at least have searchable PDF (files) so that you can put in the names, do a search and see if it appears in the Gazette”, Roberts declared.

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