THE NEW TODAY has seen correspondence from the Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG) on what appears on the surface to be a position being adopted by the incoming National Democratic Congress (NDC) towards the local media.
In his capacity as Prime Minister and Minister of Information, Dickon Mitchell needs to clarify for all and sundry whether it is the intention of the government to ask journalists to submit two questions prior to the holding of press briefings.
It is doubtful that is the policy as it just does not make any sense and for all practical purposes it cannot work.
This will be a drastic and sudden shift from the norms of any press conference held under a democratically-run government.
A government minister should be prepared to answer any question from the media on matters that fall under his/her portfolio at a press briefing.
The minister has at his disposal a Permanent Secretary and technical personnel in his ministry to be adequately and fully briefed on the happenings in the ministry in order to face up to the scrutiny of the local media.
The minister can also politely inform the journalist that he needs a little bit more time to do the research and get the relevant information for any question asked if it is not readily available.
The NDC ministers must not be seen as timid and weak and asking for questions to be presented to them in order to come back with well-prepared answers.
The current occupants at the Ministerial Complex at the Botanical Gardens should do nothing to give the nation the impression that the Number One priority when it comes to facing the media and their questions is solely about controlling the narrative and to engage in the spin doctor approach at all times.
This was not the case during the campaign when the Political Leader and now Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell was able to impress the Grenadian electorate at those Town Hall meetings as being ready for “prime time” with the manner in which he dealt with all of the questions thrown at him.
This played a tremendous part in setting him up for the job of Prime Minister of the country from the veteran and ageing leader Dr. Keith Mitchell who was seemingly afraid to expose himself to questions and also public scrutiny.
The current leaders of the NDC cannot abandon course when it comes to the media and not picking up from where former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas had taken the party and government during the 2008-13 period in government.
Mr. Thomas took the bold step to remove from our law books criminal libel which was a weapon in the arsenal of the defeated Keith Mitchell who was prepared to use it against journalists who did not fall in line with the NNP style of governance.
The NNP regime created its own Special Prosecutor, the controversial Jamaican attorney-at-law, Hugh Wildman who was prepared to put his legal skills at the disposal of Keith Mitchell to threaten members of the profession who were prepared to challenge the one-party dictatorial state that was in the making in Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique.
It is unfortunate that the time spent in office by former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas was cut short by those power-hungry men of the 1979-83 era and he was not given the opportunity to pass the Freedom of Information act that would have empowered journalists and put them in a far better position to question our government leaders.
A critical component of this act is that a journalist can take to court any member of the government who refused to provide information in a particular timeframe on his stewardship of the people’s business.
This law is enforced in places like Jamaica and government leaders understand the consequences of trying to deny journalists access to information in the national interest.
THE NEW TODAY is hopeful that Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell would soon move in this direction as part of his Transformational Agenda, as the free and independent media is key to the success of democracy and will serve as a stumbling block in the way of future dictators in the Spice Isle, with much emphasis on free and independent media.
Another issue which is of utmost concern is the need for the new administration to invite most likely the British to assist in rebuilding the badly damaged image of the Public Service and to help with the forensic auditing that is so badly needed to arrest the corruption and wrongdoing that took place especially in the past nine years since 2013.
The limited probe that was done by the Integrity Commission into the Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB) and the subsequent report that was released this week is again testimony to the need for forensic accountants to be brought in to get at the bottom of many of the suspicious activities that took place in this particular statutory body and several others.
The MNIB fiasco is just the tip of the iceberg in the operations of many of the social programmes that were initiated by the previous rulers whose main concern was giving out dollars for votes in order to keep them in power.
There have been denials about “ghost payments” in the SEED programme but after the elections information surfaced about “ghost companies” that were set up and benefitted from thousands of taxpayers’ dollars to achieve political ends.
Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell is fully aware that the Director of Audit and Staff have many limitations and cannot do justice to the type of forensic auditing that is needed to get at the bottom of the barrel to dig out the evidence and bring to justice those who preyed on the public purse.
Let us stop wasting time and invite the British to help us fulfil a worthy cause for generations of Grenadians and this must be the legacy of Dickon Mitchell and not wanting to stay in power at all cost like his predecessor who lost his way and started to treat the people in a manner which suggested that Grenada was his own little private estate.