He is lying – that is what he is doing.
Those were the words used by Opposition Leader Tobias Clement to refute claims made by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell on Monday night that the St. George North-east Member of Parliament had approached him to become his successor.
The Petite Martinique-born Clement charged that PM Mitchell was not being truthful when he told Parliament that he resigned as a member of the New National Party (NNP) last November because he was not afforded the opportunity to become a member of Cabinet following the March 2018 General Election.
Speaking publicly on the issue for the first time since Clement’s resignation, Prime Minister Mitchell told Parliament during his contribution to the 2021 Budget that the Opposition Leader had requested to be part of the Cabinet in an attempt to build his resume towards becoming the Political Leader of the ruling party and Prime Minister of the country.
“He (Clement) said to me,” Dr. Mitchell recalled, “that I am getting ready to leave Government and that he feels that he must be one of the persons to be considered to replace me as Prime Minister and if he goes into the Cabinet then his position of becoming Prime Minister is possibly enhanced”.
“…I was shocked because (I) never knew the member has such ambition,” Dr. Mitchell told Parliament.
The Grenadian leader went on: “I (told him), I do not have confidence in your behaviour right now, give a year work and show me you have changed. Next thing I know is that the member is telling people I say I have no confidence in him.”
However, Clement, dismissed the PM’s statement in an exclusive telephone interview with THE NEW TODAY on Tuesday, accusing the 74-year old leader of lying to the Grenadian public on the issue.
Clement said: “It is Keith Mitchell’s word against mine and who would take Keith Mitchell’s word against mine…he is lying – that is what he is doing, he is accustomed to lying for people in Parliament”.
“Let us go back into history – there were only two persons that ever undermine leadership in Grenada’s history, Bernard Coard with Maurice Bishop and Keith Claudius Mitchell with Herbert Blaize. So, who would want to believe that?
“He (Prime Minister Mitchell) is accustomed to lying to the Parliament and here we go again – in two hours of his presentation that is what he is telling the Grenadian people, come on”.
In an attempt to shed light on the issue, Clement, who was known to be at loggerheads with PM Mitchell on a number of issues including the decision to stop paying him a salary like in the 2013-18 period when he was a backbencher in Parliament while continuing to be engaged in a high paying job with St. George’s University (SGU), said, the emergence of a “creeping dictatorship” is what led to his resignation from the NNP.
Clement became an elected Member of Parliament in 2013 when he defeated then Finance Minister, Nazim Burke to win the St. George North East constituency which was once considered a stronghold of Congress.
The Opposition Leader did not mince words in making his concerns public in contributing to the 2021 budget debate on Monday.
The MP, who chained himself to the Parliament desk in an effort to ensure that he is given the respect he deserves as Her Majesty’s Opposition leader, told the Lower House that “mental slavery probably is the deepest scourge we have today even in Grenada.”
“Some of us may not be in chains physically but we are in chains mentally…but as I said before and I am saying again Mr. Speaker I will leave with my dignity and respect in this house,” said Clement.
The Opposition Leader was engaged in a battle in Parliament with the Speaker of the house, Michael Pierre and Prime Minister Mitchell on the 1-hour given to him to make a presentation on the 2021 budget instead of the customary 2-hours as provided for in the Standing Orders of Parliament.
In a face-saving manner after the Opposition Leader warned that the world is looking on at democracy in Grenada, the House Speaker did not prevent Clement from making his 2-hour presentation but declined to give him an extra 15 minutes that he requested to complete his presentation.
Pierre did grant MP’s on the Government side the extra time that they asked for in order to make their contribution to the 2021 budget.
In Tuesday’s interview with THE NEW TODAY, Clement touched on the specific issues that affected him as a Parliamentarian including the removal of the budget of Parliamentary offices from under Parliament to the Prime Minister’s Ministry.
The Opposition Leader branded it as a deliberate attempt by PM Mitchell to try and control the country’s Parliament which under the Grenada Constitution is recognised as an independent body.
“We have the separation of powers, the Parliament, the Judiciary and the Executive…Dr. Mitchell is trying to control all three branches of government, especially the Parliament,” he said.
“The Parliamentary offices cannot be under the Prime Minister’s Ministry…it should be under Parliament,” he added.
According to Clement, although the funds for the constituency offices and the Office of Leader of the Opposition are provided by the government, the two offices should be separately administered under Parliament based on the law.
“Imagine I am the Opposition Leader and (because the responsibility to administrate the office was removed from Parliament), the Prime Minister’s Ministry now is determining what happens in my constituency office.
“When Dr. Mitchell was the Opposition Leader (do) you think (former Prime Minister) Tillman Thomas could have controlled funding for parliamentary office? I mean what is our democracy coming to? We must stand up and say enough is enough.
The St. George North East MP charged that “if you look at the budget document, the Estimate of Revenue and Expenditure under the Prime Minister’s Ministry, you would see that it’s almost disguised as grants and other government services.”
Clement, who was not in a position to say exactly how much funds were allocated by the Keith Mitchell-government for the office of the Opposition Leader, recalled that “the last figure in 2012, when he (PM Mitchell) was Leader of the Opposition” stood at approximately EC$205, 000.
“…I think that number now is at EC$149, 000,” he remarked.
The Opposition Leader also took issue with the manner in which a contract was given to former private secretary of the Prime Minister, Cynthia Charles from his home town of Happy Hill “to see about the Parliamentary office.”
“If you have to give someone a contract, according to the laws here in Grenada it (is) supposed to go out to bid (but) that never happened (and) we never saw the contract,” he said.
Clement pointed out that an estimated “EC$150, 000 is probably going to the service provider every month to see about the Parliamentary Office.”
Over the years, Dr. Mitchell has often been accused of abusing the public purse at the expense of taxpayers in advancing his own personal political fortunes.