An ant’s nest has been raised among Grenadians over an unwise and insensitive statement made last week by Egyptian billionaire investor, Naguib Sawiris on the need to privatise the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MIBA) at Point Salines.
These unfortunate remarks at a function involving several government leaders including the Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell sent alarm bells ringing not only in Grenada itself but throughout several other countries in the Caribbean and in the Metropolitan cities where Grenadians are living.
The situation was compounded by the fact that the audience in attendance burst into loud applause and seemingly in agreement with the Egyptian business tycoon which led many to believe that the government officials present at the ceremony were giving tacit support to the utterances.
THE NEW TODAY welcomes the statement made by Minister of Tourism & Civil Aviation, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen on Tuesday that this issue is not on the agenda of the ruling New National Party (NNP) government and was never a discussion item among them.
However, well intentioned and sincere as Minister Modeste-Curwen might be, the fact of the matter is that reassurance should have come from Prime Minister Mitchell who many know is the dominant figure within the administration and usually has his own way on matters of policies within the regime.
If Sawiris was talking out of turn at the ceremony then he should be called upon to apologise for disturbing the peace in the country and misleading the government.
The current Leader of the Opposition, Tobias Clement who was associated with the NNP as a party for over 25 years has given us enough hints about the dictatorial tendencies of the NNP leader.
Dr. Mitchell demonstrated this in the lead up to the 2018 election when he reportedly told his colleagues at a session that former Congress General Secretary, Peter David will be the candidate in the Town of St. George constituency and they can call him dictator if they want but this will be the NNP representative in the upcoming national poll.
There is no hard evidence to link the Prime Minister with any scheme to give away the airport to Sawiris or any group of foreign investors as part of some sinister motive.
However, many Grenadians do not trust Dr. Mitchell and see him as someone who is always prepared to do money deals with foreign investors.
It is quite possible that someone in the NNP set-up might have engaged the Egyptian businessman with a deal for the airport in exchange for the cash needed to finance the ruling party in the next general election.
If this is the case then Sawiris should be extremely cautious and careful because MBIA is sacred territory and will not be put in the hands of businessmen that easily.
The airport has to be seen in the context of a gift to the people of Grenada by the 1979-83 revolutionary government of the late Maurice Bishop.
It was built to provide a service to the people in connecting the island directly with the outside world given the hardships that Grenadians often complained about especially over the treatment received at the hands of certain persons in neighbouring Barbados as they were often forced to overnight due to no night-landing facilities at the small airstrip at Pearl’s.
It is true that current Prime Minister Mitchell was not around when the airport was being built with massive support from Cuba which sent hundreds of construction workers to assist in the biggest infrastructural project being undertaken by a government in Grenada for centuries.
There are those around who can recall the frequent attacks that Bishop and the other leaders of the Grenada Revolution unleashed on the same Dr. Mitchell who was a former colleague within the New Jewel Movement (NJM) but was now operating out of Washington to help smash the revolutionary process.
There is no need for THE NEW TODAY to remind Grenadians of the labels often slapped on the current Prime Minister whether real or imaginary about his alleged association with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a member of the then Grenada Democratic Movement (GDM) to try and end the revolutionary process in the Spice Isle.
Dr. Mitchell has no first-hand knowledge of the People’s airport and the number of persons from deep inside rural Grenada who often contributed their labour voluntarily by taking part in transporting stone on a weekend to help in the construction of the project.
MBIA was not built like other airports in the region with a commercial loan from a financial institution but through the blood and sweat of hundreds of Cuban and Grenadian construction workers side by side each day of the week.
Prime Minister Mitchell might have only read about the hundreds of Grenadians, both inside and outside of the country who purchased bonds to help raise the millions needed by the PRG to build a people’s project for “The Masses” of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique.
As the longest serving governmental leader in the country, Dr. Mitchell had the opportunity to be singled out in history as the person who renamed the airport after Bishop but he failed to do so for reasons best known to him.
THE NEW TODAY has been told that some of the 1979-83 revolutionaries came to the assistance of the member of St. George North-west for the 1995 general election after he was in the political wilderness after winning only two seats in the 1990 general elections.
An alliance was forged under the banner of National Reconciliation after the blood-letting of 1983 when Bishop was executed in a power struggle involving his own colleagues, and Dr. Mitchell agreed to name the airport after the late revolutionary leader if he was elected into office with the help of the revolutionaries.
The promise was never kept but it was Tillman Thomas and his Congress party in office after the 2008 election that took the bold and controversial decision among many Grenadians to rename the airport after Bishop.
Today, a number of union leaders are being chastised for “selling out” public officers to Dr. Mitchell and NNP on the eve of the 2018 election by signing onto the promissory note for the Restoration of Pension that is a burning and vexing issue for those public officers who entered the service after 1983.
Again, Dr. Mitchell failed to deliver.
No Grenadian should sleep with eyes fully closed at night with PM Mitchell in charge and the status of MBIA now being under the greedy eyes of Sawiris and possibly a battery of Chinese investors lurking in the dark.