Grenada's Prime Minister Keith Mitchell calls for watchdog committee to keep government honest - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Grenada’s Prime Minister Keith Mitchell calls for watchdog committee to keep government honest

Grenada’s comeback kid, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell told a massive rally at the Grenada National Stadium on Friday night that they can be reliant on specific institutions that will keep the government in check – in the face of no official opposition. He told thousands of Grenadians the constitution can protect the country’s democracy, even where there is no opposition.

“Your constitution specifies there must be institutions to protect our democracy; even in the face of no opposition. One such is the Public Accounts Committee,” Mitchell said.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is a watchdog committee. In accordance with the standing orders of Grenada’s House of Representatives, the Public Accounts Committee has the authority to scrutinize state owned entities and the government’s financial statements.

An opposition leader is required to nominate three Senators to the Senate and to spearhead the working of the PAC, said  former Attorney General and Speaker of the House Lawrence A. Joseph.

He said this is not easily attainable with one party winning all fifteen seats in the House of Representative.

What makes it easier is Section 62 (2) of the Grenada constitution, which states that the Governor General may act in his own deliberate judgment without the advice of a leader of the opposition if a leader of the opposition cannot be appointed. As was done in 1999 when Keith Mitchell and the NNP won all 15 seats, the Governor General can, under the constitution appoint three Senators to fill the space of the Opposition Senators in the Senate.

Former President of the Senate Joan Purcell told Baltimore Post-Examiner that “no less than three and no more than five members can sit on the committee. The constitution also makes it clear that none shall be a cabinet Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary.”

Standing order 69(3)(ii)(a) states that the chairman of the committee shall be the leader of the opposition in the House, if any….the PAC may comprise of a chairman and other members of the House of Representatives and the Senate as the House of Representatives may determine. (b) Where there are no members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, one of the Senators appointed by the Governor General under Section 62 (2) of the Constitution of Grenada shall be appointed as chairman.

PM Mitchell takes to the stage to address a maasive victory rally.

Mitchell supporters wait for their leader to take to the stage at a massive victory rally in Grenada. (All photos by Arthur George Hosten)

Mitchell told the gathering that he started holding discussions with his elected team about their responsibilities and reminded them that not everyone who is an MP will be given a cabinet post or even made a government minister. Mitchell also said there is a need for back benchers whose functions will be known in a matter of days.

He quickly admonished the audience that all the MPs will be treated equally. “Whether you are members of cabinet or not, you will receive the same salary. No one will be marginalized,” Mitchell said.

While it was not made clear, what positions the MPs without ministerial portfolios will be given, Mitchell told the rally that they have to look at considerations for the PAC, to which he chuckled. It was not clear what Mitchell meant by that passing comment, as he quickly rolled into another issue.

If in fact the Prime Minister was hinting at possible appointments of some of his MPs sitting on that Public Accounts Committee, then one can deduce from Joseph’s and Purcell’s explanation of the law on appointing such a committee, that the task of that committee and the government watch dogging each other may not work because they can’t police each other.

The constitution allows for the Governor General to appoint three members to the committee and for the exclusion of cabinet members and Parliamentary Secretaries on the PAC, but once the MPs are back-benchers they can be appointed to the committee.

Mitchell also warned his executive team that no Minister will be untouchable, referencing a situation in the Tillman Thomas led NDC where there was the perception that a certain Government Minister was untouchable, even by the Prime Minister.

Mitchell also advised his MPs that a need may arise later in the operations of the government where he will need to reshuffle his cabinet, based on changing situations, an exercise that is allowed by the constitution.

The artist Soca sings to the audience who came to celebrate Mtchell's victory. (All photos by Arthur George Hosten)

Soca musicians sing to the audience who came to celebrate Mtchell’s victory. (Arthur George Hosten)

An  invitation was sent for all of Grenada to assemble at the National Stadium on Sunday March 3 to witness the biggest swearing in ceremony the country has ever seen of its MP’s elect. Leaders from other parts of the Caribbean are expected to fly into Grenada to witness the event.

The idea of the public ceremony was born of Mitchell’s regional counterparts who wanted to be part of his historical sweep of all fifteen seats in the February 19 polls. Given Grenada’s cash strapped position, Mitchell assured the massive crowd that the regional leaders promised to assist in footing the bill for the mega swearing in ceremony.

“Friends of the region proposed the idea and will help fund the function and attend,” Mitchell said.

“After 30 years in the political vineyard, you know what touched me the most? The young faces, the young boys, the young girls, saying please help us, please save us…I ask you to pray for us.”

Mitchell said never in the history of the commonwealth has a political party  won all the seats on two occasions as he did. He thanked the supporters, told them they were good to themselves and to their country and reaffirmed that he will have a united, loving and respectful team that will lead by example.

 

 

 


About the author

Marcia Braveboy

Marcia Braveboy is a journalist from Grenada based in Trinidad and Tobago. She has over 20 years experience in media; mainly in copy writing, news and broadcast journalism. Braveboy was a senior reporter at Power 102 FM radio, CNC3 television and producer of the investigative Frontline program on CCN’s i95.5 FM talk-radio station. You can follow Marcia on Twitter: @mbraveboy Contact the author.
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