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The Paymaster’s ‘Contempt of Court’ and everyone else

Look at the time in the lives of Grenadians. Listen to the crude expressions of power by the Prime Minister. Lament the state of public affairs in these fair isles.

Let the ordinary Grenadian citizen be very clear about a few things. Firstly, while the Government cannot instruct the court, the court can instruct the Government. This is elementary Constitutional Law. Secondly, the provisions at section 85 of the Grenada Constitution have been applied by every Prime Minister, barring Maurice Bishop, since 1974.

Prime Minister Mitchell has used it more times than any other Prime Minister of Grenada and his use of it has not always been just or fair. Neither he nor anyone else can contradict that. Thirdly, the constitutional provision that Parliament must make laws for the peace, order and good government of Grenada implies that the policies and general conduct of the Government (the Executive) must also meet that standard. The issue of “good government” in practice includes the treatment meted out to the citizens.

The appointment of Gemma Bain-Thomas to the post of Cabinet Secretary was not achieved through subterfuge or coercion of the Public Service Commission and the Governor-General by then Prime Minister Tillman Thomas. It is not open to PM Mitchell to say that Thomas’ recommendation was improper or morally wrong. Take careful note that the range of adjectives used by PM Mitchell on July 22, 2020 to characterise the appointment/confirmation of Bain-Thomas as Cabinet Secretary do not amount to nor have they ever been recognised as a standard to be applied in the appointment of a Cabinet Secretary. If they were, then PM Mitchell has indicted himself several times over.

Bain-Thomas won at the Court of Appeal against the Government, (pointedly, the Prime Minister) in a matter that was found to be unjust and unlawful. She was awarded compensation for the wrongs suffered at the instance of the Prime Minister who had activated the PSC and the Governor–General to interrupt and displace her career in the Public Service.

While the Prime Minister had a right not to retain her as Cabinet Secretary, he did not have a right to cause her to be treated improperly and unconstitutionally. He made his move against her recklessly. He failed. By that failure, he cost the taxpayers big, big dollars.

Today, the very Prime Minister tells the nation that he respects the Court’s decision but does not agree. Let us unpack his declaration and strip it to its bare bones. For starters, to say that to the public is to establish a false basis for the ordinary citizen’s perception of and attitude towards the Court.

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The PM has no power to change or amend or vary the Court of Appeal’s decision, but he can give the Treasury certain instructions in relation to the payment or non-payment of the Court’s awards. The fact that Bain-Thomas has not been paid since the judgment in her favour over two years ago, demonstrates that the PM has given such instructions to the Accountant General.

He has the opportunity to do so in the exercise of his cash management functions as Minister of Finance. But now, because he has told us he does not agree with the Court’s award and taking into account the fact that no money has been paid to Bain-Thomas, one is entitled to conclude reasonably and with a high degree of certainty that the ‘Paymaster’ has decided to nullify the effect of the Court’s ruling.

Effectively then, when the Prime Minister says he respects the Court he cannot be speaking the truth and is only intent on irresponsibly setting-up the public. His conduct might well form an additional basis for ‘contempt of court’. He cannot contend that by refusing to pay he is protecting the public purse. No sensible Grenadian will buy that line.

To think that the Treasury is being used as a burial ground for monetary awards against the State, as it pleases the Prime Minister, is beyond frightening, it actually burns the conscience.

Others may wish to deal with examples of abuse of power, reckless and costly decisions including the Lewis-Hamilton deal for Grand Beach Hotel one day before the 2008 elections which Mitchell’s NNP lost. Things have been rotten in St. George’s for a very long time.

COVID-19 has imposed a break on everyone, but for the time being, it is clear that it has not broken the will of Prime Minister Mitchell so as to cause him to treat the citizens with fairness and respect.

‘Huff n puff’ leadership has no place in ‘The New Future’ that beckons us.

William Joseph

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