Commentary

A permanent State of Emergency

I am rallying all my colleagues and comrades in the legal fraternity in Grenada to rise up and challenge this draconian and unconstitutional law. We, as lawyers, are the true custodians of our democracy and our Constitution

Wednesday, July 22nd 2020 will go down in the history of Grenada as the day when maybe the dumbest and most authoritarian statement has been made by a political leader or Prime Minister of Grenada. Our Prime Minister is quoted as saying that, “We will be going to Parliament with a permanent State of Emergency”.

Just to give you an idea of his plans, he has said that, “we should have that process in place until you have a vaccine that protects the people from being infected”. Even the United States of America is unsure as to when such a vaccine might be available to its citizens.

And, even if one becomes available next year it would take years to have it rolled out to poor, begging countries like Grenada. And then, who will pay for the vaccines? Grenada cannot even pay for the COVID tests right now. So, our Prime Minister wants us all to be in a permanent state of emergency. He is relishing the extra power that a State of Emergency gives him.

Let me make it very clear from the outset that the following article is my comment on the published words that are attributed to Prime Minister Keith Mitchell as direct quotes. I want to save the Prime Minister from the expense, embarrassment and aggravation of some flippant, frivolous and vexatious threat of legal action for defamation.

My entire article is then irrelevant, of no effect and to be completely disregarded if Prime Minister did not in fact say the words attributed to him.

A slip of the tongue?
For all those persons out there, who go the extra mile to try to defend the idiotic and senseless pronouncements and acts of the Prime Minister, let me simply say to you that he was simply expressing the intentions and the desire that is the real basis for attempting to pass this law.

The law is not about the existence of an emergency because the official word from the Ministry of Health and the government is that we have no active cases of COVID-19 in Grenada. What the Prime Minister is saying is that he does not really care if there is actually an emergency existing in Grenada at present, his desire is to take unto himself emergency powers to allow him to make laws and do exactly what he wants.

Keith Mitchell is the boss in Cabinet. Keith Mitchell is the boss in Parliament. But as all power hungry persons who exercise power have shown, no amount of power is deemed to be enough. These persons always seek more and more power, absolute power that corrupts absolutely. They thrive in the corruption that such power allows and causes.

What our Prime Minister is trying to do is to remove the need for public debate on laws and give the power to make laws to himself and his party members in Cabinet. In Cabinet he does not have to come under public scrutiny. In Cabinet he does not have to contrive and make up any reason to present to anyone for passing a law.

He says that they are just regulations but they are really full-fledged laws, even criminal offences that are created by King Keith. Please wake up my people! Why are we allowing one party, one political group, to make laws in Grenada? What do you think will happen to other political interests in Grenada?

A show of ignorance
When I read the quote attributed to our Prime Minister my instant reaction to it was, “what a truly ignorant, misguided man! What a foolish leader!” He is no longer concerned about the economy and how such a move will affect economic growth because of the uncertainty that it will cause to potential investors. He is only concerned about wielding more and more power.

Give him his credit, whatever else you may say about Donald Trump, he is acutely aware of the damage that the restrictions caused by the virus are doing to the mighty United States of America and continues to try his best to push economic activity in spite of a raging virus in his country.

Our Prime Minister tells us on one hand that we have no active virus cases in Grenada but yet he wants to go to Parliament for a permanent State of Emergency! Has Keith Mitchell become senile? Maybe he needs to take the cognitive test that Donald Trump is boasting about acing, the test for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.

This move is a clear demonstration of ignorance about the COVID-19 and a clear overreaction to the virus. He is pushing the “panic button”, but with deep, dark ulterior motives behind his actions. If we have no active cases in Grenada as the NNP tells us; if we have no community spread of the virus as the NNP tells us; if we have done so well in our contact tracing as NNP tells us; if we continue to do so well in our testing program as the NNP tells us; if we have been zealously guarding our borders as the NNP tells us then why do we need a permanent state of emergency?

A legal status is needed
The protocols are still in place and therefore you have to have a legal status for any such law that is implemented.” There it is, coming from the mouth of the Prime Minister himself! He is at last acknowledging that no proper legal basis exists at present for the several regulations that have been issued week after week by his government.

I have said the same thing time and time again but I have been very reluctant to vigorously promote my opinion for fear that it would have caused several Grenadians to disregard the regulations, at a time when some form of control was needed in the face of the threat of our country being overwhelmed by the virus.

The regulations were all unlawful and unconstitutional, being based upon a power that does not exist in Grenadian law. I have repeatedly called for Parliament to be convened to pass a law to form the basis of any regulations being issued for the COVID-19 crisis.

Deceased George Grant (a true Grenadian patriot) and I discussed this matter repeatedly and we came to the conclusion that we ought to remain silent so as not to undermine genuine efforts to protect the health of Grenadians.

Contrary to the message being peddled by the NNP group, George was never at all concerned about hating Keith and trying to get at him and embarrass him. Grenada continues to miss him even though the NNP base may rejoice. I can give you much more details about my actions regarding the initial State of Emergency but I will forbear at this juncture.

I have had the privilege of reading what is presently in circulation as the draft bill and my conclusion is that even if Parliament passes this bill into law on Wednesday certain aspects of the bill will not stand the test of constitutional oversight.

Further, the essence of the bill is to cover actions that have already been taken over the last few months and serves to create additional confusion in the laws of Grenada. Every law student, even those still doing their LLB program, knows that you cannot pass a law which has the power to give retrospective effect to penal laws.

An offence is only effective if the act done contrary to the offence was done at a time when that offence had been properly created. I repeat that this bill ought to have been brought to Parliament at the start of the crisis in February and not now when we have no cases of the virus in Grenada. Instead of that, our Prime Minister and his group panicked and simply put us all under house arrest using some irrelevant and inapplicable law.

Our Prime Minister’s statement is now testimony to the fact that he knew all along, and was advised accordingly at the time, that he did not “have a legal status for any such law that is implemented” at the time. How can we continue to trust Keith Mitchell and his administration to lead our democratic state of Grenada when he has no qualms about usurping the power of Parliament just to have his way?

I am rallying all my colleagues and comrades in the legal fraternity in Grenada to rise up and challenge this draconian and unconstitutional law. We, as lawyers, are the true custodians of our democracy and our Constitution.

A disregard for the law and the courts
One thing that is pellucid about our Prime Minister is his hatred for the law, lawyers and the court system. This is really what is behind this move to have a permanent state of emergency, it is the greater exercise of power, the greater liberty to do as he pleases. It has nothing to do with protecting people from being infected.

In a democracy where 3 co-equal arms of the state are intended to exist, Keith Mitchell wants to believe that he is above the law and therefore will not respect the law or the decisions of the Judiciary. He gripes continuously about the decisions of the courts and deeply resents the fact that the decisions of the courts are binding upon him and create a check to his wanton exercise of power.

He now controls the Executive branch of government (Cabinet), he is in complete charge of the Legislative branch of government (Parliament) and so the only branch that he does not dominate is the Judiciary, but he uses his executive power to frustrate the exercise of the power of the Judiciary.

I have heard my friend Stanley Charles say that Keith Mitchell is not a dictator but just a strong leader. Needless to say, but I respectfully disagree.

After taking money from the St. Lucian company for Grenada bonds, after failing to pay and then entering into an agreement to schedule the payment, after failing or refusing to honor the agreement to pay and his Permanent Secretary refusing to attend court to defend the government, Jimmy Bristol became public enemy number one when he went to court to enforce payment via mandamus and garnishee proceedings. Keith Mitchell is public enemy number one for his mismanagement!

After rejecting legal advice regarding how to treat with Gemma Bain-Thomas, after refusing to pay a public servant of over 30 years her just and due retiring benefits and after losing the court battle he just refuses to assess and pay the damages incurred.

Now he goes public and tries to relitigate the matter in the court of public opinion claiming that Prime Minister Tillman Thomas “was wrong to appoint her as Cabinet Secretary”. An experienced public servant of over 30 years, who Keith Mitchell confesses was not well known by Tillman Thomas, was appointed, meaning that it was definitely not a political appointment! Our Prime Minister wants to “eat his cake and still have it”.

Yes, you can retire Gemma in the public interest, as you were advised time and time again, but you must pay her what is due to her. He has said plainly that he does not want to, will not pay her!

After being a part of a Cabinet that infringed the rights of Dorset Charles, causing the court to order the payment of the damages, after the government accepted the ruling of the court and started to pay, Keith Mitchell has spitefully and wickedly stopped the payment of damages and has said openly that he will not pay Dorset. Now he goes public and tries to relitigate the matter in the court of public opinion claiming that Dorset, “was a squatter”. Is this the wanton, unfair and arbitrary manner that we want our country to be ruled?

I can go on and on with examples of the conduct of Keith Mitchell. Garvey Louison, Richard Duncan, yours truly Anthony C. K Hood and many more have all been made early pensioners due to the spiteful, reckless and arbitrary conduct of Keith Mitchell.

Since the year 2001, I am being paid pension and retiring benefits as if I had attained the age of 60 years, all because of the fact that Keith Mitchell acts as if the treasury of Grenada is his own private bank account and he can do whatever he wants as Prime Minister. Then, worse yet, he does not have to pay for his actions because it is all of us who must pay through the Consolidated Fund.

A true permanent State of Emergency
But look at it in truth, Grenada, have we not been in a permanent state of emergency for years now? Wake up Grenada, that is where we have been! From one emergency to the other!

Let me show you some of the major ones:

(1). Sensational collapse of our off shore and international business profile and passport selling program and the First Bank scandal and bad name for Grenada.

(2). International scandal with the money received by Keith Mitchell in the briefcase in Switzerland. Keith Mitchell said it was “approximately 15 thousand “dollars in “expenses” (US$?). The other side said it was a US$ 0.5 million bribe. Keith said he would sue but no suit was filed. Keith then said it is his money and he “shoulda take more”. So, in saying that he confessed to the fact that it was not about expenses, because then he could not have taken more because the accounts couldn’t just grow magically! Have we no shame, Grenada?

(3). Remember the State of Emergency brought about in 2004 by the passage of Hurricane Ivan over Grenada when Keith was in a state of panic and became a refugee on a ship and began to discuss the formation of some form of true national collaboration and governance? We need this more than ever at this time and not just because of COVID.

(4). Continuing international scandal this past year about selling diplomatic passports and swindling and corruption in CBI project failures like the shrimp farm, amid accusations of corruption at the Physical Development and Planning department.

(5). The further collapse of the Western Main Road amidst further accusations of corruption at the same Physical Development and Planning department. Remember that the Western Main Road section in the area of Palmiste has remained in a state of disrepair for decades now.

(6). The historic judgment of over EC$200 million on behalf of WRB/GPP caused by lies told to us about GRENLEC for over 20 years. Now this NNP is trying to ignore and stifle the grim reality of our electricity sector. Proclaiming a State of Emergency cannot buy time and suspend the application of interest on the sum awarded by the ICSID tribunal.

Playing the ostrich and remaining silent about it does not make it go away; it is just a continuing insult to the integrity and intelligence of all Grenadians. Keith now has an excuse. He will say that he could not pay because of COVID and the interest should be suspended because of COVID. More money wasted by a poor, indebted country all because of the deceit of its Prime Minister.

(7). How does a leader justify the use of his powers as Prime Minister to promote a serving public servant in his ministry with whom he has an open intimate involvement, and in the same ministry he has appointed his son to a public service post, reporting to him? This is not the United States of America where the President’s powers are different to those of a Prime Minister in Grenada. Even in the United States, Bill Clinton was forced to answer the questions in Congress in public about Monica Lewinsky and was impeached for lying. He could not have dismissed the matter by saying, “don’t go there”!

I can go on and on about our STATE OF EMERGENCY, which has been going now for decades! We are truly already in a real State of Emergency in Grenada. This administration is now truly clueless about how to govern Grenada for her true growth and revitalisation. Our Prime Minister is only now acknowledging that he has made Grenada bankrupt and is trying to blame the COVID crisis for all of his failures.

Go ahead sir and cause more chaos. It must become worse before it gets any better, but you will pay for your misdeeds.

(Cajeton Hood is an attorney-at-law and served as Attorney General in the 2013-18 period in government of the New National Party of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell)

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