Winston Garraway represents a clear and present danger to the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party government’s brand.
The Prime Minister may not necessarily, publicly admit it, but high-ranking party members think so. Garraway’s spate of highly publicised escapades combined with his internal tension-creating jostling for prominence within his ministry, have significantly daunted his prospects of upward mobility within the government.
In fact, his latest public spat with veteran female journalist, Calistra Farrier, may yet signal the start of his demise and the latest ministerial change is quite indicative. It very well may be the straw that broke the camel’s back since he again has succeeded in putting his government in a bad light.
Garraway’s efforts to deny Farrier from interviewing a senior government minister, who actually agreed to the interview, is a violation of press freedom. He has put his Prime Minister, who a couple decades ago signed the treaty of Chapultepec guaranteeing press freedom, in a conundrum, one which he himself cannot defend.
Garraway, by virtue of his overzealous exuberance, has also put his senior minister Simon Stiell under pressure to explain and justify in a public statement which contained several inaccuracies especially about the proposed media policy which could have been verified with proper research.
A few years ago, Garraway’s public comments at a media awards ceremony about Taiwan’s decision to forgive a debt to Grenada, forced an angry Chinese Ambassador Madam Oui to storm out of the Trade Centre in protest, thereby creating tension and uneasiness between St. George’s and Beijing.
Garraway, a pastor, is also now attracting more negative attention to himself and his government for a doctorate he accepted three years ago from United Graduates College and Seminary International (UGCSI), a Christian-based online college in the United States.
UGCSI is reported to be affiliated to the World-Wide Accreditation Commission of Christian Educational Institutions (WWAC) which has been identified as among the top 40 bodies in the United States offering fake degrees.
Prime Minister Mitchell is a shrewd politician who wanted Garraway in the Senate as the Pitbull to take on then Senator Nazim Burke of the NDC, and the clashes between the two in the upper house made great television watching.
However, Garraway’s position, particularly as a junior minister for information became untenable, and Dr. Mitchell knows this too well. There have been accusations especially from a local attorney that Garraway be removed from public office especially for his latest controversy.
But the problem the government found itself in is that dismissing Garraway immediately and outright would amount to an admission of guilt in the Calistra matter and would contradict statements from Minister Stiell.
Leave it to Prime Minister Mitchell then to creatively phase him out without generating the perception that his administration is at fault in the Calistra incident and that Garraway is being penalised for his latest public folly.
The presence of a largely inexperienced local media and a media association lacking the teeth to provide appropriate advocacy on this issue facilitates the process. Perhaps unknown to the general public, complaints against the Senator have been many and there was always internal speculation about his future. Garraway literally handed the Prime Minister a reason on a silver platter to finally move against him.
A government minister, Senator and pastor rebuking and scolding a female journalist in a vulnerable position on the floor, instead of reaching out to lend a hand, does not conjure a favourable image especially in this new social media and information era.
The late Grenadian journalist and friend of Prime Minister Mitchell, Leslie Pierre, would have been among those raising strong objections. Dr. Mitchell himself has had a plethora of run-ins with local journalists including lawsuits against them.
But he has skillfully managed to conjure positive relationships with many and in some instances his administration has provided temporary refuge for practitioners fleeing a diluting media landscape. Garraway’s move against Calistra was counterproductive to the administration efforts to forge a cozy relationship and curry favour with the press and the public uproar was not helping.
It is significant to note that Garraway’s role as Information minister was being reduced, following the Calistra incident, a development which has not been reported.
He normally appeared in the Ministry of Works conference room to monitor post-cabinet news briefings but has been noticeably absent from the last four, two of which he was out of state.
He no doubt would have received a strong reprimand for his actions. His position as Information minister was severely threatened and his behaviour in Government has not helped. Complaints against him from top advisors have been many.
The truth is top government advisors as well as the hierarchy of the NNP have been frowning on the histrionics of Garraway who has a supersize ego, is thin-skinned and has poor inter-personal skills.
He was removed as Public Relations Officer of the party due to incompetence and replaced by the then dependable Terry Forrester in the run-up to the 2013 general elections.
Prime Minister Mitchell rewarded Garraway with a position as a government senator but ignored close advisors who discouraged him from appointing the controversial pastor to ministerial positions after the 2018 elections.
Perhaps Garraway’s role was also needed as a link to Grenada’s religious community, which represents a large voting population. Garraway can blame no one but himself for his current predicament.
He has failed to fully and positively exploit the opportunities handed to him. His penchant for conflict is well known within party and ministry and as such the embattled pastor has now charted a declining trajectory for himself within the government. Indeed, time is starting to tell.