Silver Sands to start welcoming guests in December

The US$125M Silver Sands Resort is preparing to welcome its first set of guests to the silver-white sands of the Grand Anse Beach on Saturday (December 1), according to Sales and Marketing Director Jorge Collazo.

Prime Minister Keith Mitchell (left) and Egyptian Millionaire Naguib Sawiris cuts ribbon declaring the new Silver Sands resort open

He made the disclosure to reporters on the occasion of the official ribbon cutting ceremony last week Thursday evening for the controversial hotel.

The ceremony, which was attended by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who assisted Egyptian investor, Naguib Sawiris in cutting the bright blue ribbon to declare open the resort, which according to the Silver Sands website, presents a “radical departure from conventional Caribbean hospitality offerings with striking minimalist design by the stellar French design house AW2.”

Several government ministers and members from the local business community joined the owner at the Silver Sands ‘Grenadian Grill’ restaurant and bar, for the ribbon cutting ceremony, which came ahead of the actual completion of the property, comprising a main hotel with 43 suites and nine (9) private villas.

According to Silver Sands Public Relations Officer, Sorana Mitchell, the main hotel, along with five (5) ‘beach front villas’ have been completed, with the other four (4) ‘hill top Ocean view villas,’ still under construction.

She said it is expected that the remaining hilltop villas would be completed “by year end into early next year.”

Speaking during the ribbon cutting ceremony, Sawiris thanked Prime Minister Mitchell for the support received from government in making the hotel become a reality.

He said: “Very few politicians know what an investor looks for. He looks for someone who will honour his promises (and) deliver what he says he will deliver. I have never had more support in my whole career being as an investor in any other country like (I have) here.

“And because of that, we are going to be building two (2) more hotels on this island – both plots have already been purchased and we will start construction next year hopefully on both plots”, he added.

“By doing that we would have raised the total capacity of beds on this island by 30%,” he said, while announcing that monies made through the resort would be contributed back into the island.

“I am going to be putting the money back here. This money would never leave this island until we have doubled the whole capacity of rooms on this island, until everybody here has a decent job, has been trained and know how to get better”, the Egyptian millionaire declared.

Additionally, Sawiris sought to assure Grenadians that he is not here to disrupt their lives.

Beach Front VIlla, Pool Deck and Beach with open Pergolas

“We want to live with the people on this island, every time I walk on this beach I say hello to everybody and before I say hello they say hello to me – this is why we are here, we love the people here and anybody that tells you this is a private beach just tell them to go have a swim (because) we are not having it.

“We didn’t come here for any private beaches. We wanted to be with the people here because they are the nicest thing about this island. So please don’t listen to anybody who tells you anything (else) wrong.

According to the Egyptian multi-millionaire, he is “very well known in my country (and) I am very out spoken and because I am very outspoken, I have to be very careful and I always adhere to the rules”.

“We are law abiding people, we will never cross any law so everything you see here has been approved lawfully (and) anybody who has pointed out to us that there is anything which is wrong, we will tear it down the next day. We have no interest to violate anything,” he said.

“We are here to create happiness for everybody; for the nice people who are going to be working here and I have had the pleasure to see in the last few days they are doing a real great job.

“I think it’s one of my happiest days, I have to say that because I came to this island with no plans. I was walking on the beach (and) I tumbled into a sign that said ‘for sale’ and it was this piece of land here. My friend ‘Danny’ is the one who introduced me to Grenada so thank you ‘Danny’, you made me discover paradise here and not only paradise.

“I didn’t just fall in love with this island but actually the people who live on this island – they are so sweet, kind and friendly – and I think maybe it’s because they have not been polluted by the rest of the world. Very few people do things not just for the money…it’s easy to do things for the money…but I did this here because I fell in love with this island and its people”.

Prime Minister Mitchell, who also addressed the gathering, urged Grenadians to be careful with their words and actions because “sometimes, the way we treat people, the way we react to people sends a powerful message”.

“And therefore, if he (Sawiris) had come here… and not got the sense of peace and calm and love that he saw, they would not be standing here today.”

This is a clear reference to the attacks levelled against the Silver Sands by locals who expressed concerns whether it was being built in keeping with an Environment Impact assessment (EIA) study and violations of the rights of neighbouring properties.

The Prime Minister expressed support for the Egyptian and his hotel project.

“…I cannot see any Grenadian, Carriacounian or Petite Martiniquan doing or saying anything against someone who has come here (and) put down some serious investment promoting this country’s image and will do anything to malign that individual. That means we do not like ourselves. I must say this sisters and brothers, I must say it,” he said amidst a round of applause.

“Naguib Siwiris could (have) put this money in any other part of the world. This cannot be a place of profiteering for him, if you understand who he is but he is here because he loves this place, he loves the people he has met and therefore we are very proud that you have chosen us as a place to invest. So I want us sisters and brothers, no matter what our biases are, put it aside. This is not about our personal friendships or interests, it’s about Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

“Put down love sisters and brothers, drop the hate and the spite (and) love our country,” PM Mitchell declared before turning to Naguib to shake his hand saying: “My brother I am happy to have you.”

The new Silver Sands hotel is regarded as the largest investment on the island in the last three (3) years.”

It is understood that 210 persons are on the Silver Sands payroll, who according to the public relations officer, had previously received the required training in the various departments to ensure the success of operations.

Prime Minister skips high-level, resilience conference in Washington because of tense industrial climate

Prime Minister, Dr. the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell did not travel to Washington as planned this past weekend to attend a high-level meeting at the World Bank.

Noting the current instability in the country’s industrial climate, Dr. Mitchell has decided to forego the Building Resilience to Disaster and Climate Change in the Caribbean Conference, which was held Monday in Washington, DC.

The conference, organised jointly by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, brings together key stakeholders to explore shifting the focus of policies towards building resilience as well as innovative disaster risk financing policies and instruments.

Dr. Mitchell was scheduled to be one of the panelists in the session titled “Taking Stock of Efforts to Build Resilience”.

Resilience as the Prime Minister explained in the 2019 Budget, is a key watchword for Government, with the intention being to promote economic, social and environmental resilience to accelerate job-rich growth and reduce poverty.

The Washington meeting would have provided an opportunity for Dr. Mitchell to further articulate Grenada’s position and experience as a trail blazer in building fiscal and infrastructural resilience.

However, due to the ongoing impasse between Government’s Pension Engagement Committee and the trade unions representing public sector workers, Dr. Mitchell cancelled his travel plans, choosing instead to remain at home to lend his voice to resolution of the ongoing dispute.

Minister of Climate Resilience, Senator Simon Stiell represented Grenada at the Washington meeting.

Tesday McSween committed to stand trial for murder

32-year-old Tesday Mc Sween was last week Friday committed to stand trial at the High Court on a Non-Capital Murder charge in connection with the July 18, stabbing death of former Calypso Monarch Rootsman Kelly’s, 24-year-old son, Khalid Griffith.

Tesday Mc Sween – is depending of self defense in
murder case

The murder accused was apprehended by police investigators and slapped with the indictable charge on July 20, two (2) days after the deceased was found lying in a pool of blood on the ground, somewhere in the vicinity of the Grand Anse Beach area, close to the popular Umbrellas Restaurant.

Griffith, who was from the village of Perdmontempts, St. David, had multiple stab wounds to his neck and arm and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the St. George’s General Hospital.

The Preliminary Inquiry (PI) into the charge against Mc Sween concluded last week Friday before Chief Magistrate Tamara Gill at the St. George’s No. 1 Magistrate’s Court.

The Police Prosecution called a total of four (4) witnesses to give evidence against the Labourer from Birchgrove, St. Andrew, who resided at Marian, St. George, up to the time of his arrest.

Mc Sween is receiving pro-bono assistance from American-trained Attorney-at-Law, Jerry Edwin from the Law Firm of Eden Law Caribbean.

The murder suspect, who also has a recent conviction for Manslaughter, faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted on the Non-Capital Murder charge.

However, Edwin is contending that the incident is a “clear case of self-defense” based on the “compelling evidence given in the PI.”

Attorney Edwin is optimistic that the Prosecuting team will agree to a reduction in the charge laid against his client, who remains confined to the walls of the Richmond Hill Prison.

He told THE NEW TODAY on Tuesday that he will be seeking to secure bail for his client at the level of the High Court.

Pay up!!!

The seeds for the current impasse on the issue of pension and gratuity for public officers were sown many years ago by the politicians who have ruled Grenada over the years.

It was the late Sir Eric Matthew Gairy, the first real labour leader in Grenada who had the foresight to ensure that a pension and gratuity plan was put in place for public officers when Independence came into force on February 7, 1974.

The left-leaning People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of late Prime Minister Maurice Bishop purported to affect the pension act that was guaranteed by the Constitution when it launched the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) in 1983.

The PRG had suspended the Grenada Constitution after the March 13, 1979 coup d’etat against the elected Gairy government and the pension as provided for was affected when the NIS kicked in.

The Bishop regime had selected a committee, headed by Trinidad attorney-at-law, the late Alan Alexander to draft a new constitution for Grenada.

No one knew for sure what would have been included in the new PRG Constitution on the issue of pension for public officers.

However, when the constitution was restored in 1985 the existing laws governing Pension of public officers kicked back in as any other law on pension, once in conflict with the Constitution had to take second place as the Constitution will always prevail.

Unfortunately, Grenada was now faced with a situation in which the number of public officers on the payroll had swelled tremendously over the years from the pre-Eric Gairy era.

The PRG had promoted a state-controlled model of development and as such the state became a major employer of labour in the country.

The collapse of the revolutionary government did not see a reversal in the activities of the state in hiring and the build-up of workers on the public purse continued virtually unabated.

Late Prime Minister Herbert Blaize in the face of a bloated civil service attempted to reduce the numbers on the payroll with the so-called “Golden Handshake” in the 1984-1990 period in order to try and reduce the numbers and to bring it in line with the capacity of the state to honour its commitments to the workforce on a monthly basis.

The Blaize policy was literally thrown out the door and discarded with the advent of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell at the helm of government as he used not only government but the state-owned enterprises to provide employment for persons in exchange for election votes.

The point is that under the Gairy period in government the public service was manageable and could afford to pay pension and gratuity for an estimated 1000 to 1500 civil servants but the number has risen to an estimated 5, 500 and with much higher salaries and obviously a higher pension figure.

THE NEW TODAY disagrees with the position being advanced by PM Mitchell that government is not under any legal obligation to make gratuity payments to public officers.

The court has already ruled on this in past cases to the extent that there is a ruling which states that a new pension formula can be worked out with public officers once it does not place anyone at a disadvantage from whatever is guaranteed to them under the provisions of the constitution.

This newspaper believes that the Prime Minister was under the mistaken belief that only those workers who were in the service between 1983 and 1985 were entitled to pension payments and no one else and the payment given to them earlier in the year brought an end to pension payments to public officers.

It is clear that Prime Minister Mitchell felt that with this now out of the way that he was moving to the next stage which was reform of the current provisions guaranteeing pension for public officers to bringing it in line with the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) forced onto him by the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of the Structural

Adjustment Programme (SAP).

The unions took the correct position of not entertaining discussion on a reduction of the 25% formula for their members.

The Prime Minister could have avoided the past month of industrial crisis in the country by agreeing immediately to the 25% formula but coming up with a staggered payment plan for all public officers who qualified for pension as not everyone is leaving the service in one block.

The President-General of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU), Senator Andre Lewis announced to the nation in an address last week that in brokered talks the unions were given assurances that Dr. Mitchell had agreed to the 25% payment.

It is not clear why this information was not communicated to the unions in the official talks that took place afterwards with the Government Team of Negotiators and the Union leadership.

THE NEW TODAY has no reason to doubt Sen. Lewis as PM Mitchell has not denied this assertion at all.

If anything, the Prime Minister has incensed the workers by his national address on Monday night when he indicated that government will not be paying the 25% as being demanded by the unions.

As the Prime Minister who has been in charge of the nation’s affairs for 18 plus of the last 23 years, he had more than ample time to go before the Privy Council as the final appellate court for Grenada to challenge many of the past court rulings on pension for public officers.

Dr. Mitchell is out of time and cannot be allowed to hide under the FRA which cannot override the pension provisions of the Constitution.

The reality is that the country cannot sustain pension for public officers under the current construct and the unions and government should start talking about the creation of a Pension Fund as gone are the days when one can rely solely on the revenue of the state as this is clearly unsustainable.

A pension fund should also be put in place for all statutory bodies to avoid state intervention when the time comes to pay the workers what is rightfully due to them.

Carriacou businessmen and women voice concerns

A town hall meeting geared at finding ways to ease the burdens for Carriacou businessmen and women due to the move of the port from Hillsborough to Harvey Vale was held at the conference room of the Mermaid Hotel on Saturday.

Carriacou Businessman Kimberlain Mills opposes move of the part from Hillsborough to Harvey Vale

The meeting organised by Tevin Andrews of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) was held in response to a call made by Carriacou businessmen and residents who are most inconvenienced by the move of the island’s main port from the central Hillsborough town to Harvey Vale in the south of the island.

Andrews told THE NEW TODAY last week Friday that “a marine engineer was also invited to make recommendations on what can be done to enhance the Hillsborough jetty,” which officially stopped operating on November 2.

Andrews, who is the NDC caretaker of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, said the ideas and recommendations coming out of the meeting will be presented to the Minister for Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs, Kindra Mathurine-Stewart and the Grenada Ports Authority (GPA) for their consideration.

The young politician charged that “not enough consultation was done” prior to the construction of the Harvey Vale Port.

“A feasibility study should have been conducted to find out how the move would affect the micro and macro economy,” he said, recalling that “only two consultations were held (with members of the public) basically to tell people that we are moving down to Harvey Vale.”

Noting that the move has been affecting the businesses in many ways, Andrews pointed out that “people are not against the port moving to Harvey Vale, people are opposed to all services moving to Harvey Vale.”

According to Andrews, some residents on the small island are complaining that “the price for a taxi is very unstable and are calling for a clear price range for transportation”, while the taxi-men are aggrieved that they now have to “compete with bus men for passengers,” as there is no taxi-stand at Harvey Vale as was the case in Hillsborough.

He also said that small hoteliers in Hillsborough are complaining that business “has been moving along very slow since the moving of the port” and these are just some among the many issues now being faced by Carriacou businessmen and women.

One Carriacou Businessman, Kimberlain Mills, is in strong opposition to the move of the port and has voiced concerns on behalf of consumers whose pockets do not allow for the additional burden placed on them.

“They (the authorities) closed the port in Hillsborough, nobody could use it. There is another jetty in Harvey Vale that is being used currently, nothing is wrong with it but they gonna close that too. So, they (are) closing the two ports and forcing each and everybody to use the new facility and I don’t think it’s fair, Mills said in a recent interview with “Concepcion,” an upcoming magazine celebrating Grenada’s 45th year of political Independence.

“So, now we have this extra burden put on these people and it’s not fair. Now what I find very strange here in Carriacou and it’s because of partisanship, is that a lot of business people are not saying anything”, he remarked.

“There is politics involved here…if you see something is happening, feel free to talk about it and criticise it (but) people don’t see constructive criticism (because) the minute you criticise here, (the general perception is that) you are against and they take your colour from yellow and they put it to green, or from Green to yellow,” he said.

Mills stated that the businessmen are not speaking out on the issue because they know that the additional burden will be passed onto the consumers.

“I believe the businessmen are not speaking out because they know…I am a businessman and I know for a fact that the burden is passed on to the consumers and I am worried about the consumer who cannot afford to have this extra burden placed on them. I am not making noise and talking about it for me. I am talking about it for the people who cannot afford it,” he said.

Is negotiated settlement possible?

By Claudette Joseph

So I’ve slept on that National Address by our leader Monday night and now I’m up with a hole in my stomach at what is happening to my little beloved country. Friends, has that national address sunk in?

We have a situation where, the laws of the land, the Constitution no less, enshrines pension benefits for all public workers. As it now stands, we need pension reform because an attempt at such by the PRG Government, in 1983, 35 years ago, has been declared unconstitutional by our courts.

The first time our courts suggested that the PRG effort was unconstitutional was in 1988, 30 years ago. Then in 1997, in the case of Irvin Mc Queen v. The Attorney General of Grenada, the Court was pellucid in that declaration. Let that sink in.

It means since then, all Governments knew that they needed to deal with this matter urgently to bring the new regime in line with the Constitution or to set up one that complies with the Constitution. No Government did. The Constitution does not prohibit pension reform but it says any new scheme must not be less favourable than the one being replaced.

In the 30 years between 1988 and 2018, our current Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell has been Prime Minister for 19.5 years. Let that also sink in. Various people, including Sir. Nicholas Brathwaite, Mr. George Brizan and Mr. Tilman Thomas served as Prime Minister at different times in the remaining 9.5 years. So it is fair to say that no one has had as good an opportunity as Dr. Mitchell to fix this. He did not.

The first set of public officers to be adversely affected by this in large numbers are now beginning to retire. So the matter has become critically urgent. Without rectification, large swats of public officers will retire into poverty. Some will literally lose their homes if they don’t find post retirement work to help supplement the NIS pittance.

Against this backdrop, on the eve of the last general elections, Government signed an MOU with the unions and the Prime Minister announced to the nation, that they had “resolved the pension issue”. This announcement gave his party a big boost just days before elections. He and the unions knew this.

Now, post elections the parties are in dispute as to what was understood and agreed when the MOU was signed and the PM’s announcement made. In short, the unions are saying, anything less than what obtained before 1983 (which according to the decisions of the Cours is still the law of the land), will be unfavourable and therefore unconstitutional. The Government is saying they cannot pay as per the pre-1983 scheme because it will be fiscally damaging to the country.

The law is on the unions’ side but we must recognise that government owes us all a responsibility to act fiscally prudent in managing our affairs. So what then must be the solution?

There is nothing wrong or unconstitutional with the parties sitting and working out a formula that will be in line with the Constitution, i.e., no less favourable than what now obtains, while at the same time, ensuring that the economic consequences are not too dire. It does not have to be 25% or 2%. It does not have to be that all must be paid up front. It just must be a scheme that does not leave the pensioner in a worse off position than he would be if paid under the pre-1983 scheme.

What Government cannot do is breach or avoid the provisions of the Constitution, while hiding behind the Fiscal Responsibility Act. That in itself, will be unconstitutional.

The unions say that 25% gratuity (an advance payment on pension that is repaid over 12.5 years) was always what they expected to be part of the package. Nothing else was discussed.

The government says, no quantum of gratuity was discussed before so they are now free to make proposals and they proposed 2%.

Both sides may actually be telling the truth about this because, 25% gratuity is specifically provided for in the law, but can be changed. So the unions may have assumed that they were working with what the law says and the Government may have assumed that the 25% can be changed to something else that is no less favourable to the pensioners, but more manageable for Government.

It seems to me, that given the basis on which the 25% gratuity is provided for in the law, while 2% may compute to more dollars in the long run (if the pensioner does not die young), that formula is indeed less favourable than what now obtains and therefore a court may strike it down as unconstitutional. In my view, the unions were correct to reject that offer.

Both parties now appear to have adopted inflexible stances, a recipe for disaster when negotiating. After 4 weeks of industrial unrest, the Roman Catholic Bishop of St. George’s In Grenada intervened and a new, more experienced MP was appointed to act as Labour Minister.

Between these two gentlemen, the unions and Government were coaxed into returning to the negotiating table. In that context, the unions postponed strike action it had announced for Tuesday. This certainly was a good faith gesture on the unions’ part.

So why then would the Prime Minister, on the eve of the resumption of negotiations address the nation in the tone that he did Monday night? The Prime Minister was belligerent and uncompromising in tone. He sought to rally the public against teachers and public officers. He sought to decide the outcome of the renewed negotiations in advance by repeating and digging his heels in on Government’s position, thereby, sounding a public warning to all involved, especially the Pension Engagement Committee and the acting Labour Minister. Do it my way or else!

At the same time, he openly threatened the teachers that if he didn’t have his way, he will change up our entire education system, setting up mass learning centers manned by he and his Ministers and rendering the entire teaching service redundant. As laughable as this suggestion is, we can’t just laugh it off because he did it with a straight face while addressing a national crisis. He even suggested that he and his MPs have already decided what subjects they’d teach once all teachers are rendered redundant and this new system is in place.

That national address Monday evening was the type of stuff that men like Hitler, Mussolini and Mugabe were made of. In times like these, we must scramble for our Constitution and get ready for Court. Oh my! We have no Court building. Our justice system is in shambles. We have 3 judges and 1 temporary civil court! Will we be able to get the Registrar to open the Registry so that we can file documents against the State on a weekend?

Friends, the Constitution is crippled when there is a Mugabe style leader together with a broken justice system. It is the Courts that interpret and enforce the Constitution. Without functioning Courts, we are in trouble. But that’s how dictators and autocrats work. They weaken democratic institutions and then they attack, leaving the people exposed.

What then do we do? We stand united together. We resist and we fight back – fearlessly. We have come too far from 1951 to turn back now!

The Government Must Act Responsibly

The National Democratic Congress commends the people of Grenada for the overwhelming support that they have so far given to Public Officers in the struggle for their pension rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.

The numbers who came out in public protest on Tuesday 20th November 2018 sent a clear message to the Government that it is time to act to resolve this impasse.

We thank and commend Bishop Clyde Harvey for his timely intervention in bringing the Government and unions back to the negotiating table. We are however, very disquieted by the Prime Minister’s conduct in the last few days, first jeering at and berating the union leaders in the Parliament and then, on the eve of the resumption of negotiations, attempting to put the public against teachers and public officers, a most reckless move.

The level of openness and the acceptance by the leadership of the unions to dialogue must not be extinguished by arrogance, belligerence, deception and divide and rule tactics. This is a national issue at the core. It must be resolved in a non-political manner that avoids hundreds of teachers, civil servants, police officers and prison officers retiring into poverty after serving our country for over 30 years. Therefore, any attempt to convert this matter into a battle to win cheap political points must be rejected.

The NDC hereby makes it abundantly clear that its support for the workers’ cause is anchored by the fact that Public Sector Pension rights are entrenched in the Constitution and a resolution that preserves workers’ constitutional rights is the only just and fair outcome.

The NDC appreciates Government’s responsibility to maintain fiscal discipline but we do not support its attempt to shield itself behind the Fiscal Responsibility Act, while avoiding its Constitutional obligations to workers. Nothing can trump the Constitution, so a way has to be found.

We have assessed the situation and are satisfied that a resolution that is satisfactory to all can be achieved. Ridiculing union leaders, issuing threats and intimidating workers will only serve to make bad matters worse. It is amazing that Government seems mindless to the fact that the affected workers cut across the political divide in their support.

Moreover, the failure of the government to manage the situation in a manner that promotes goodwill and mutual understanding is having a serious effect on our children’s education as industrial action is prolonged. Threatening to take over the classrooms only adds fuel to the fire.

Furthermore, this is the tourist season and it is indeed regrettable that our visitors have to contend with the spectacle of public protest. This does not augur well for our image and we trust that a solution is soon found so that further public protests are avoided.

The Prime Minister’s display in Monday’s National Address was most distasteful and uncalled for. It smacked of the ranting of an autocrat out of control. We urge the unions, in returning to the new negotiating table, not to be daunted by the Prime Minister’s conduct in the last few days. Rather, go with an open mind and in the spirit of compromise and what is best for the nation. We call on the government to act responsibly by tempering its tone and being willing to compromise around this new table.

We urge Government in the spirit of these new negotiations, to revisit its decision to deduct monies from workers’ salaries. That will go a long way in mending wounds.

The announcement of the setting up of a Pension Secretariat is positive, however it must be provided with the necessary financial and technical support, so that it does not suffer the fate of previous Secretariats set up by this administration.

The Government must act not just fiscally responsibly, but morally so as well, respecting at all times, the legitimate demands of the workers. To act otherwise can only lead to an escalation of protest action and the corresponding economic and other consequences which our country can ill afford.

We wish the parties a speedy and mutually satisfactory resolution so that we may get back to the nation’s business, especially educating our children.

(The above reflects the views of the main opposition National Democratic Congress)

Prime Minister Mitchell explains his Cabinet of teachers’ theory

In the face of what many regarded as a publicity stunt, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said he was serious in announcing to the nation that several members of cabinet were prepared to go into the classroom to teach students in order to do the work of striking teachers.

Dr. Mitchell made the disclosure Monday night in a national television and radio broadcast as teachers and public officers remained off the job over the past month over a dispute with government on a 25% pension and gratuity payment due to them.

He said the Cabinet membes who had taught before entering politics were prepared to volunteer to go back into the classroom if there was an escalation in the industrial relations climate in the country.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday in the official residence of the Prime Minister at Mt. Wheldale, St. George, Dr. Mitchell said if there was a continuation of the strike, he and fellow Cabinet ministers were ready to teach the nation’s children.

“Will you want, your child if you have one going to school and you have to be out there for four months without any education, none of us want that? So, those of us who in a position with skills, are we going to say sit in a government office and don’t go out there and give some service? I am only talking in dire situations.

“You think I really enjoy having to go in a classroom but I will do it under extenuating circumstances – so, really I don’t know what is the uproar about because I am saying that I am prepared to sacrifice my body…for the benefit of the children, if it comes to that I believe the alternative of leaving them home without any service is wrong.

Speculation is rife that the Prime Minister had floated the idea in order to try and win public sympathy in the long drawn out battle with the three public sector unions and assoications negotiating for police and prison officers.

The Prime Minister sought to downplay the notion of the move would have amounted to an attempt by government to engage in union bursting tactics.

He said: “I don’t intend to go against union bursting… but if it means saving the future of this nation and our children’s education, then I think everything is off the table.”

Prime Minister Mitchell explained how the students would have been taught by Cabinet Ministers through the use of learning centres and technology rather than going directly into the schools.

“Well if the school is closed, you don’t want to be seen as going there creating another problem and you may in some cases use a school as a centre if it’s closed but that would be an understanding with the Ministry of Education and hopefully the teachers also. Right now you have a portal by which teachers can teach now in classrooms and several parts of the country”, he said.

The Prime Minister stated apart from his ministers a number of retired people had called in offering their services to government to help teach the students.

He also floated the idea of creating substitute teachers to handle a situation as what was created by the industrial action taken by the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT).

The Prime Minister said: “When I taught high school in the United States before I was teaching at University, I taught a couple of high schools and they had what you call substitute teachers. So if a teacher got sick today…somebody comes in and substitute and usually they’re retired people and they pay them for the two weeks and when the teacher comes back, that person goes home.

“I think we need to institute that because what happens many times when teachers get sick, the classroom many times are left without anybody, that is not fair. So the Ministry needs to look at a substitute teacher programme,” he added.

Apart from GUT, the two other public sector bodies engaged in the strike action was the Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU).

The unions have heeded a request made by Catholic Bishop, Clyde Harvey to return to the bargaining table with the Government Negotiating team (GNT) to try and resolve the pension and gratuity payment issue.

Peter David flies out

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Grenada’s Foreign Minister Peter David arrived here Saturday night to join his regional counterparts in the first ever CARICOM – United Arab Emirates meeting.

The UAE is hosting the First UAE-Caribbean Cooperation Forum in Dubai from 24 to 26 November 2018.

The Forum will be the first of its kind for the Region with the UAE.

The three-day event which will host key government representatives and private sector stakeholders is designed to create an exciting opportunity to exchange knowledge and experiences; to build strong networks; and to engage in dialogue at the highest level.

The aim is not only to discuss the strategic bilateral relationships, but also to identify new areas of cooperation and opportunities in the fields of Investment, Trade and Culture.

“We think that that this is an exciting opportunity for us in the region to lay the platform to build new relationships with the hope of getting fresh investments in the region,” Hon David said on arrival here.

Minister David heads the delegation which also includes Culture Minister Norland Cox, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade Aaron Francois, and Ronald Theodore, the new CEO of the Grenada Industrial Development Corporation.

Minister David had a meeting on the sidelines of the meeting almost immediately on arrival with St Lucia’s Prime Minister Allan Chastanet, who is one of the keynote speakers during the first official session Sunday.

While away for the week, Anthony Boatswain will act as the Labor Minister.

Minister David said that it was a difficult time to leave given the labour issues now at the center of the debate back home, but he was confident that his colleague Boatswain can play a constructive role in acting as mediator while he is away.

David said he will be speaking to him on a regular basis while away for the week.

The Foreign Minister was scheduled to hold more meetings Sunday with regional counterparts, as they discuss joint approaches for some of the formal sessions.

Jamaica’s Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith Minister stated that she looks forward to this engagement as Jamaica and by extension the Caribbean seek to strengthen the current state of cooperation with the UAE, with a view to determining modalities for deepened, mutually-beneficial cooperation between the two regions.

“We are very hopeful that the entire region will benefit from this,” Minister David also stated.

No lawyer for Murder accused

It’s almost 1-month since Randy John was slapped with a Capital Murder charge in connection with the death of 16-year-old Belle Vue resident, Queenette Johnson and the suspect has not been able to retain legal counsel up to his third appearance in court last week Friday.

Randy John – accused of killing Queenette Johnson

John appeared at the St. David’s Magistrate’s for his second mention date before Magistrate Karen Noel with no one to defend him in the indictable matter.

The suspect, who was not represented by legal counsel on his first two court appearances, is accused of suffocating the teenage girl to death and hiding her body underneath a dwelling house in Charlotte Vale, St. David, where it was found partially decomposed some days later.

According to an autopsy report, the young girl died as a result of asphyxiation.

John, a Construction Worker of Epping Forest in St. David, was apprehended less than 24 hours after a maintenance worker discovered the teenager’s body, when he went to do some de-bushing work during the early morning hours of the Thanksgiving Holiday, on October 25.

The young murder suspect, who faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted of Johnson’s death, remained calm and composed when he appeared for a third time before Magistrate Noel.

The Preliminary Inquiry (PI) into the Capital Murder charge laid against the 20-year-old, is expected to commence, when the matter resumes in court on December 14.

The Police Prosecution team is in the process of finalising its list of witnesses who will give evidence in the PI, which will determine if the 20-year-old should be committed to stand trial at the High Court for the death of the teenage girl.