Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Mitchell has spoken out about last week Monday’s Finance Committee meeting to approve the 2024 Budget, amplifying the discord surrounding the Opposition’s controversial boycott, citing dissatisfaction with the process.
Addressing supporters on the weekend at a constituency meeting in St. Mark, a stronghold of the New National Party (NNP), Dr. Mitchell took issue with remarks made by Prime Minister, Dickon Mitchell in response to questions posed at a hurriedly called press conference in St. George’s regarding his absence from the meeting.
Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell had criticised the opposition’s non-attendance, branding it as “reckless” and accusing them of shirking their parliamentary responsibilities. He noted that “the Finance Committee does not require the presence of the Leader of His Majesty’s Opposition to be present,” and that “whether he chooses to attend or not, is a matter for him.”
However, the Opposition leader expressed the view that the ruling administration was reluctant to have him present at the Finance Committee meeting to avoid scrutiny on financial matters.
“… The ignorance of the Prime Minister when asked about that said, the Opposition leader don’t have to be there…it’s not a constitutional matter that he must be there,” quipped Dr. Mitchell, who defended his absence, arguing that it was not merely a constitutional matter but a question of practice, principles, transparency, and good governance.
He honed in on the proposed increase in the allocation for the Parliamentary office, amounting to “millions of dollars,” questioning the necessity of such funds, particularly in the absence of an impending election. “No wonder why they didn’t want us in the Finance Committee meeting because I would’ve asked some serious questions – what all this money for?,” queried Dr. Mitchell who pointed out that his absence from the meeting prevented critical inquiries into the allocation.
The former Grenada Prime Minister was forced to miss the Finance Committee meeting on November 13 since he had to appear in court as a defendant in Divorce proceedings with his wife Marietta who is seeking an injunction against what she labelled “acts of terror” in seeking to remove her from the Matrimonial Home at Happy Hill.
Speculation is rife that the Congress-led government is planning to bring in the December 4 Budget a proposal to increase the salaries for elected Parliamentarians from EC$1,200.00 to between EC$5,000.00 and EC$5,500.00, while Senators are earmarked to receive about half of that amount. Dr. Mitchell, told NNP supporters at the public meeting that he is not in support of a raise for government MP’s, who he contends already have high paying jobs.
“It seems to me that if you increase the salary for parliamentarians who are not members of government or Ministers, and give them a decent salary, five or six thousand dollars will be acceptable… because they have to perform a task of representing their constituents.
So, they have to increase the amount for Parliamentarians but we ain’t supporting no further increase for government MPs – you making nine and EC$10,000.00 already, live with that,” the Opposition leader declared.
Dr. Mitchell, who is the Member of Parliament for the constituency of St. George’s North-west since 1984 rallied his supporters, urging them to be vigilant with the Voter’s list amidst concerns of external influences, signaling a need for grassroots efforts to protect the democratic process.
“We have to start the work with the voter’s list…because if they attempt to bring in people from outside to force them on you, to make sure they could win an election because they are in the sky every minute, it means that they have a plan,” he warned. Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell has until 2027 to call fresh general elections.