The New Today

The usual deception!!!

Tuesday night’s national address by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell became “null and void” due to his own utterances.

The Prime Minister engaged in his usual deception and throwing of “red herrings” when he tried to hoodwink the people of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique on the issue of pension for public sector employees like regular civil servants in government ministries and departments, as well as nurses and police officers.

It is true that the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Dr. Mitchell went to Parliament in 2003 and passed a Special Pension Act for people who were hired in the service prior to 1985 and did not qualify for a public sector pension as recognised by the Grenada Constitution.

The deception from our leader came when he uttered the following words, “Although this Act was not considered by the High Court Judge, its constitutionality may now need to be considered”.

THE NEW TODAY is suggesting that this act was not relevant to the case that was brought to court by the three public sector unions – Public Workers Union (PWU), Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) and the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) to get an order that their membership were entitled to pension in keeping with the Constitution.

The issue before the court was whether the Pension Disqualification act as passed by the 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of late Marxist leader Maurice Bishop was null and void and in violation of the constitutional rights guaranteed to civil servants for their pension before the Grenada Revolution.

It should be noted that the PRG had suspended the Constitution within hours of overthrowing the Eric Gairy government in a coup d’etat on March 13, 1979 and ruled the island through a series of People’s Law that emanated from Cabinet and not Parliament as this law-making body was not in existence anymore.

The current Prime Minister had ample time over his long stay of over 25 years as head of the government of Grenada to resolve the constitutionally-guaranteed pension issue but did nothing about it.

Dr. Mitchell was a senior member of the first NNP administration headed by late Prime Minister H.A Blaize that restored constitutional rule of law to Grenada in 1985 and therefore the Pension rights of public officers.

It is clear that the NNP government of Blaize/Mitchell and others did not want to pay civil servants any money in accordance with the 1958 Pension act which became part of the Grenada Constitution when the island attained independence from Great Britain in 1974.

The proof of this came from their very own action in Parliament by seeking to validate and give life to the Pension Disqualification act as passed by the PRG and not leave it in the dustbin of history.

The Blaize/Mitchell NNP regime added salt to the injustice of public officers when they moved the same Parliament to give government ministers and senators a Pension after serving only two terms in office whereas civil servants had to wait 26 years to qualify for a State pension.

The current Prime Minister had numerous opportunities over the years to correct a historical wrong that the PRG did to public officers on Pension.

However, he compounded the situation in the days leading up to the 2018 general election when he hoodwinked two of the three unions into signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Pension Restoration which was nothing but a sham and ploy to be victorious at the polls.

Prime Minister Mitchell is the holder of a doctorate and therefore seen as a very educated and intelligent man who should understand quite easily that his 2003 Special Pension act had a threshold to meet in order to fall in line with the Pension act as recognised by the constitution.

Did his so-called new act provide a pension to public officers that was the same or even greater in financial returns as the one enshrined in the Grenada Constitution Order?

It was not and in retrospect would have failed the test that any reasonable law court would use to come up with a ruling.

The Prime Minister has boxed himself in a corner at the moment given the high-handed manner in which he has presided over the affairs of the nation since coming into office in June 1995.

Dr. Mitchell has been rather rude and insulting to Grenadians when he literally told them that it was not their business to know where and how he laid his hands on over EC$200 million 14 months ago to pay the U.S Company WRB Enterprises to buy back the majority of shares in the Grenada Electricity Company (GRENLEC).

He is known to have always found a way to lay his lands on money to do the things that he wants done for the NNP government.

The public officers are only interested in the roll out of a pension payment plan in keeping with Glasgow’s ruling and not “ole talk” that the monies owed to them can cripple the economy and result in job losses to Imanis, Traffic Wardens and Debushers.

One thing which came out clear from Tuesday night’s address by the Prime Minister is that he is seeking to buy some time before addressing any possible payment to public officers with the establishment of an Advisory Pension body involving the likes of trusted NNP lieutenants Dr. Linus Spencer Thomas and the reborn Dr. Patrick Antoine.

It is clear that the message directed to the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique is that the government is seeking a solution to the Pension issue and that some time should be given for the exercise to be completed.

THE NEW TODAY is suggesting that this so-called Advisory body on Pension is incomplete due to the fact that not one single member of the other major political force in the country – The National Democratic Congress – has been invited to make any input on the issue as a major stakeholder.

Which one of the five members of the committee is qualified to deal with Pension issues?

It is our contention that the Prime Minister will set the date for the election within the 3-month period with the hope that the public sector unions will not be able to agitate in any meaningful and significant way on the issue.

Let’s hope that the Keith Mitchell gamble does not backfire as the public officers and their families have the most potent weapon in their hands – the right to place the decisive “X” on Election Day in a particular column and away from the “Green House” of the NNP.

This national address was just about nothing as PM Mitchell should be asked to answer the following question – what can this so-called advisory committee do to the court ruling except find a way to honour the judgement and pay the pensioners their money.

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