A senior civil servant has accused Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell of engaging in “character assassination” against him and not being truthful to the nation on the issue of the controversial importation of plants with dangerous insects by Sandals/La Source hotel.
The issue has resulted in senior civil servant, Paul Graham being removed as Head of the Pest Management Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture.
Graham was among three top civil servants who were transferred last month from their long-held posts by the Public Service Commission (PSC) allegedly at the behest of the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration.
THE NEW TODAY was told that a female Permanent Secretary played a key role in facilitating the request that was made to remove the civil servants from their positions.
She reportedly submitted a report to PSC that has left “a sour mouth” with the trade union representing public officers.
This newspaper has obtained the copy of a report submitted by Graham to the Public Workers Union (PWU) in which he gave background information about the Sandals issue.
According to Graham, he is deeply hurt by the attack launched on him by Prime Minister Mitchell and considers the remarks made by the Grenadian leader at a recent Press Conference as “insulting, portrays me as a liar (and) does not reveal the truth”.
“The Prime Minister’s remarks on September 21 are insulting, portrays me as a liar, does not reveal the truth and tries to establish his ignorance about our transfer. As a consequence, I have no alternative (but) to present the facts and clear my name since I do not take character assassination lightly. The decisions I make at the Pest Management Unit are made based on my training and experience and are done in the best interest of Grenada”, he said.
The senior civil servant told the PWU that the Sandals container that came into the country did contain a number of dangerous insects that could have created havoc on some of the local species.
Following is the text of Graham’s submission to his union:
“At a press conference conducted on September 21, 2016, Prime Minister Mitchell was asked to comment on the transfer of three senior public Officers in a move viewed largely as intimidation/victimization.
With reference to Paul Graham’s transfer he said the following:
(1) Sandals has not brought any insects into the country. Any report that Sandals has brought insects into the country is a lie.
Five (5) insects recovered from Sandals reefer containers (with plants) have been identified by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Of these, the Red Imported Fire Ant, is a pest of public health and Quarantine importance. For the past five years, Antigua has had a major problem keeping this pest under control.
The rusty millipede, very prominent at night on Sandals grounds is present nowhere else in Grenada. In addition to the five listed, the Pest Management Unit was forced to confiscate and bury sixty five (65) boxes of Oranges from Florida because of the presence of the California Red Scale. In addition to insects, the Cuban Tree Frog and the Brown Anole Lizard, recovered from Sandals plant reefers were identified by FDACS.
The Cuban Tree Frog carries the Chytrid Fungus which has almost wiped out the Mountain Chicken population in Dominica. The Brown Anole is a very aggressive lizard which will reduce the population of the large green lizard that is indigenous to Grenada”.
Graham also set the record straight with the claim made by Prime Minister Mitchell that there has been no problem with the soil (in the sod) imported by Sandals in the past.
The senior civil servant provided facts which contradicted the statement made on the issue by the Grenadian leader.
He said: “This statement is untrue. Because of the many critters recovered from Sandals plant reefers and the failure of their suppliers to enforce the treatment prescribed (Methyl Bromide Fumigation), the Pest Management Unit was forced to deploy Officers on Sunday, December 8, 2013 and Monday, December 9, 2014 to supervise the treatment of all the mats of soil in the containers”.
Graham also addressed another statement made by PM Mitchell that Sod (with soil) was brought in under a previous Government.
He said: The FACTS: Sandals is the first and only institution to be given permission to import Sod into Grenada (that happened in 2013; the same year Sandals opened). The Pest Management’s position was that the soil had to be treated using an approved method to eliminate plant pest risks or the soil had to be washed from the sod and the grass treated with an insecticide/nematicide. In Quarantine circles, the movement of soil is prohibited”.
“Samples of the Cuban Tree Frog, California Red Scale and Brown Anole Lizard are available from the laboratory of the Pest Management Unit.
The samples identified are present at FDACS in Gainesville, Florida.
Louis Somma (who) can be contacted on (352) 395 4822 to confirm the origin of the specimens identified.