It has been now one year, since our frontline workers in the health sector, police and other security services, essential services, such as transportation, supermarkets and other retail outlets, began sacrificing everything to put our wellbeing above all else. Because of your hard work and sacrifice, we are kept safe with low rates of infection. On behalf of the people of Grenada, the NDC says thank you!
Our dear teachers, one year ago, without complaint, you once again became students. Learning new methods of teaching using technology, and adapting to a new work environment, your homes. You lovingly did this, to ensure that our children continue with their educational training and personal development. You learnt while you taught, and you gave selflessly. On behalf of the people of Grenada, the NDC says thank you!
We all tuned in to listen to the National Address by the Prime Minister. Once more, our expectations of an inspiring and uplifting address, were dashed.
One year, since Grenada recorded its first Covid-19 case. One year, since we accepted, that with the disruption brought on by the pandemic, life as we know it, will never be the same. One year since all of us realized that to achieve national sustainable growth in future, there must be a paradigm shift in the areas we depend on as engines of economic growth. One year, and Prime Minister Mitchell and his Cabinet remain stagnated in the same old mold.
In the address, Prime Minister Mitchell exposed himself to be a ruler for the good times. His arrogant, chastising, disrespectful and impatient tone, exposed that he is unable to govern in a crisis or to think outside the box when challenged. Mitchell is only good, for when things are good.
The Workers’ Struggle
We have all come to realise, that Mitchell and his NNP put themselves and their political self-interests before that of the people. He therefore constantly breaks promises made, and bamboozles with lies. For this reason, the workers of Grenada simply cannot trust him.
Just before the 2008 elections, Mitchell tried to buy workers’ votes by signing an agreement with the unions for substantial salary increases. The incoming NDC government stood by the workers and honoured that agreement, despite inheriting a ravaged economy in a global economic crisis.
Brothers and sisters, in addition to that, the NDC government made a large number of temporary teachers and public workers permanent between 2009 and 2012. These were the last permeant employees taken on in the teaching and public service. That is why teachers and public workers did not have to march for wages and job security during the NDC administration. The NDC puts our people first.
In contrast, brothers and sisters, just before the 2018 elections, Mitchell, with the help of a former union leader, signed an MOU with the unions. That MOU promised to restore workers’ pension and gratuity. As soon as elections were over, Mitchell backed out of the MOU. Workers of Grenada, the NDC fully understands why you do not trust the Prime Minister.
While Mitchell increased wages and allowances for his MPs, he asked the workers of this country to sacrifice, and take wage a freeze; while we embarked on a structural adjustment program. The workers co-operated and in 2017, negotiated a 4% increase. For many teachers and public workers, 4% will only mean an additional $48.00 a month. Once again, Mitchell has broken his promise and is refusing to pay. Like his Minister of Education, he condescendingly and arrogantly, says to the workers: “you will get is when we have it!” Workers of Grenada, the NDC fully understands why you do not trust the Prime Minister.
When the teachers were learning and teaching at once, they never anticipated that today, they would be marching in the blazing sun, for a meagre 4% salary increase. An increase they have already earned. That is why, dear teachers, the NDC understands why you do not trust the Prime Minister.
It is unacceptable and untrustworthy for the Prime Minister to look at our workers in their faces and say to them, he has no money to pay them. He has found over $200 million dollars to pay the GRENLEC judgement, which was a completely unnecessary debt. He has found a way to secure the loan of over $150 million for the airport expansion. He has found over $30 million to spend on traffic lights that we don’t need now. He finds hundreds of thousands of dollars, to pay advisors such as Alexandra Otway-Noel, his son, Olinga and many other party hacks. All this shows, not only that the Prime Minister does not know how to govern in a crisis, but also how absolutely reckless and uncaring he and his administration are.
We heard for the first time, the Prime Minister admitting what we in the NDC have been saying all along. That the large sum the government coughed up from a secret source, to pay for GRENLEC after they lost the case, had nothing to do with lowering electricity rates, or breaking up a monopoly, or patriotic sentiment, or getting into renewable sources of energy. It was because, if they didn’t pay up, the whole economy would have been strangled. WRB would have enforced the judgment and froze every government bank account, garnished all monies coming to government, crippled airport operations. That is what recklessness and vindictiveness in government caused! The haste to pay WRB was all about a senseless vendetta coming back to bite two reckless men and entire nation.
Is it right for government to pay some judgments and not others? Perhaps Gemma Bain-Thomas, Dorset Charles and all the other Grenadians with judgments that Mitchell and Bowen refuse to pay, should begin enforcing these judgments just like WRB threatened to do!
During the address, the Prime Minister asked the question: “Are we willing to sacrifice the desires of a few…” at the expense of the many? We ask him the question: Why were you and Gregory Bowen willing to satisfy a hateful vendetta at the expense of economic ruin of the whole nation?
The Prime Minister urged union leaders to lead by example. The question is, is he taking his own advice? Why not lead by example in these challenging times by being truthful with our people. How about leading by example by stop hiring party hacks for thousands of dollars? How about leading by example by placing greater emphasis on agriculture and related sectors?
Mitchell the divider
Brothers and sisters, at this very difficult time in our history, we need each other now more than ever. We need leaders that will unite us and bind us together in unbreakable cords. The kind of unbreakable cords Herbert Blaire always sang about – “Bind Us Together Lord”.
Mitchell is not a uniting force. Fellow Grenadians, we all listened to the address and we heard clearly, the Prime Minister playing a divider rather than a uniter. He was in effect riling parents of children who may need scholarships, road workers, debushers, contract and non-unionized workers against teachers and public workers. This is classic divide and rule tactic of a dictator.
Teachers, police officers, public workers stand firm and united together. Let no one bully and intimidate you. Let no take away your constitutional rights to assemble and protest until you are paid what is rightfully yours! We urge all Grenadians to stand in solidarity with our teachers and public workers.
No New Economic Plan
The Prime Minister’s obvious desperation to return to the old economic model of tourism and construction must be of grave concern to all Grenadians. His arrogant bullying, especially when threatening to force Grenadians to become vaccinated, shows sheer desperation and exasperation. He and his Cabinet lack a vision on how a shift in economic model is what is required to get Grenada going. The boasts of a fast growing, stable economy, were clearly not based on any solid economic model.
Brothers and sisters, in more prosperous times, agriculture was the pillar of our economy and the rural parishes our breadbaskets. Since 1995, Mitchell has deliberately ignored agriculture and has focused on the fragile and volatile sectors, of tourism and construction. We in the NDC understand that these are key sectors, but we find it foolhardy, for this administration to continue placing all our eggs in one basket, when all our new realities tell us, that we should invest in other more resilient sectors. That begs the question: Mr. Prime Minister, what ae your priorities to get our country moving?
The NDC is grateful to the Government and peoples of Dominica and Barbados for providing the vaccines that we now have. As indicated before, the NDC encourages our people to get vaccinated. Doing so will help us to resume normal operations sooner rather than later.
While we encourage you to get vaccinated, we urge Mitchell and his Minister of Health, rather than threats, force, fear and intimidation; use education to encourage people to take the vaccine. Threats and intimidation will only cause more resistance. Many of our people would like to have a choice of vaccines. As the Prime Minister himself said some time ago, it is a personal choice. Arrogance from our leaders will only be counterproductive.
The statement by the Prime Minister that there are illegal persons in the country is of grave concern to the NDC. It points to yet another failure of the Prime Minister as the Minister of National Security. In this period, it is his responsibility to keep us safe within our borders. Indeed, this breach points to poor prioritizing on his part. Rather than traffic lights, why not invest more in keeping our borders safe? By this admission, the Prime Minister told us that government is not taking the necessary actions to protect the population and must therefore take full responsibility for persons entering the country illegally.
We Offer Solutions
Difficult times call for inspirational, visionary leadership. We do not have that in Keith Mitchell. What we have is a dictator who is arrogant, disrespectful and long past his best time to lead. He is simply not what Grenada needs now.
The NDC offers better. Had our party been in office, here are only some, of the steps and initiatives we would have undertaken to survive the pandemic and thrive afterwards:
- Adopt a more conciliatory approach towards our workers who are demanding what is rightfully theirs.
- Instead buying traffic lights and taking the large airport loan, pay teachers and public their 4%, or at least, some of it.
- From early on and continuing, engage in much more public education on Covid-19 and conduct widespread, early testing.
- Engage in education and persuasion, instead of threats and intimidation, in order to get the population vaccinated.
- Give much needed support to farmers, including poultry and livestock, fishermen, to ensure food and nutrition security.
- Ensure food security is protected, and that a revilalised agricultural sector, will be all encompassing, to provide a large number of good quality, sustainable jobs.
- Exploit the many available opportunities for our young people to obtain jobs in the Information Technology field.
Finally, my brothers and sisters, as we celebrate the season of Easter with Christians throughout the world, let us also share in the sense of hope, which is one of the most important messages of Easter; a reminder of the constant renewal of life here on Earth. It doesn’t matter whether we are Christian, Muslim or Hindu, this message of hope is meaningful to us all, in our desire towards living the fullness of our lives.
Easter offers the assurance that the many difficulties and challenges that threaten to overwhelm us will be overcome.
The risen Christ offers us joy and peace, forgiveness and hope. Most of all he offers you himself. Therefore, we need not fear. With Him, we will overcome. We’re in this together, and together, we are stronger.
Happy Easter to you all; and may God bless all of us! May He bless Grenada.