In a twist of parliamentary events, government and opposition members find themselves embroiled in a clash as five Opposition MPs staged a boycott of Monday’s Finance Committee meeting citing dissatisfaction with the process.
Addressing this contentious issue at a hurriedly called press conference on Monday, Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, who is the member of Parliament for St. David, chided the main opposition New National Party (NNP) for what he views as their “deliberate” absence from the meeting, describing it as “reckless, and an abandonment of their duties as parliamentarians and as members of the Finance Committee.”
The original date for the Finance Committee meeting was November 17 but it was reportedly brought forward to Monday to facilitate the travel schedule of multiple Government members, including the Prime Minister.
In a press release prior to Monday’s Finance Committee meeting, NNP claimed that “the brought-forward meeting was scheduled with no proper documents, and…also clashed with another schedule by Opposition Leader, Dr. Keith Mitchell, the longest serving parliamentarian on the island.”
The NNP boss did not give details of his prior Monday schedule but it is known that he had to appear before High Court judge Justice Raulston Glasgow to deal with an injunction brought against him by his embattled wife Marietta in their Divorce proceedings.
Dr. Mitchell was accused of engaging in “acts of terror” in his efforts to evict the wife from their Matrimonial home at Happy Hill in his St George North-west constituency. Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell told reporters that “there has been no indication that the date was inconvenient to the members of the Opposition.”
He also said that the Finance Committee “does not require the presence of the Leader of His Majesty’s Opposition to be present,” adding that “whether he chooses to attend or not, is a matter for him.” According to PM Mitchell, serving as a Member of Parliament is a voluntary commitment, emphasising the fundamental obligation to attend scheduled parliamentary sessions. He asserted that any absence lies solely on the individual parliamentarian, unrelated to the government’s scheduling decisions.
“Each of us volunteered for the job of being a Member of Parliament. The Parliament is the highest institution in the land. It is the law-making body within the state of Grenada…when parliamentary calendars are scheduled, as parliamentarians, short of sickness or death, it is our fundamental obligation to make sure that we can attend… and so, if we choose to absent ourselves that’s on us – it has nothing to do with the scheduling of parliament,” said the Prime Minister.
The Grenadian leader pointed out that “there’s actually no obligation on us as the government to consult with the Opposition in the scheduling.” However, Opposition members have taken contention over what is perceived as the government’s refusal to ensure their participation in the meeting.
Addressing the issue at a press conference called by NNP in St. George’s on Tuesday, Dr. Mitchell, who often refers to himself as the ”Father of the House” likened the government’s actions to “sowing seeds of division.”Opposition Member of Parliament for the Town of St. George Peter David, who shared the same view, is also of the opinion that the Speaker of the Lower House, though appointed by government “must intervene in these matters to find a way to talk to us,” and not leave it up to the Leader of Government Business.
“The Speaker has a critical role to play… I understand that he was appointed by the government… and I know he’s indebted to them but he’s also indebted to the Constitution of this country, and good governance in this country.”
“He must step in and say to the Ministers of government and the majority members of parliament that while you have the power to do what you’re doing for the good governance of this country, let us work together,” MP David remarked.
He stated that “this action that we take is a wakeup call to our colleagues in Parliament…all of us are equal in the Parliament, and we need to treat each other in (that) way. They may be in a position now but (might) be in another position later.”
The Finance Committee comprises all elected members of the Lower House of Parliament. Despite the absence of Opposition MPs, the Finance Committee on the government side approved the draft 2024 Annual Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure during Monday’s meeting. The 2024 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure will be presented in Parliament by Finance Minister Dennis Cornwall on December 4.