One month ago, it was not even a thought that I would be here this morning.
Those words were uttered by newly appointed opposition Senator Matthew Joseph who made his debut speech in the Upper House of Parliament at a sitting on Wednesday after taking the oath of Affirmation.
The St. John resident told colleagues, “there are those out there who really do not know me, there are those who do (and) are watching me right now with a degree of confidence (and) there are those who are watching me with a degree of apprehension because to some folks out there, they are watching a stranger (but) Mr. President, the hands of faith brought me here and it is my intention to deliver.”
Sen. Joseph, who has a decorated background of public service, particularly in the areas of Education and Culture, expressed the desire to add “value (and) color” to future debates in the Upper House, noting that “serving at the Executive level is not a very common feat.”
“…Those of us who are selected or elected to serve at that level, our responsibility is great Mr. President and our load is very heavy, though I know that we all have broad shoulders and we are able to carry the weight,” he told the House as he encouraged his colleagues to put country first and not self.
“Mr. President, I would like to say to my colleagues here this morning – it’s Grenada first…my life as a teacher has been about objectivity. I may be on this side of the House and members are on the other side of the House but we all are in the House (and) it is my humble view that the right should be supported and the wrong should be condemned…,” he said.
“I think we are seen Mr. President as politicians but we are also human beings and we are not here just simply to play politics but we are here to serve and when you are honorable you don’t have to sell yourself, the people who are watching, they know you are honourable”, he added.
Sen. Joseph also used the opportunity to express concerns over what he described as “a very spirited debate” held recently in the Upper House on “the use of parliamentarian offices for other purposes.”
“I just thought it important and necessary to just raise this concern but what I observed from sitting (at) home listening and watching, I realised that sometimes we lose it a bit…and I thought it very strange (because) I don’t think we are naive or we have had no knowledge or we still have no knowledge of what goes on in these offices,” he said.
“The offices in the past were used in a multi-purpose way, for its purpose and also for other purposes and sometimes Mr. President and I am making the point to say, if something is not right we correct it and we move forward and that’s the way I see it Mr. President. The bobbing and weaving and ducking and making excuses sometimes is just not right.” he added.
Sen. Joseph went on: “So, Mr. President, as I said, I want us to be objective in our deliberations…my old teacher said one time, when you are in doubt always speak the truth (and) the truth can be, I know I don’t know, I will find out…and I do hope that in this honourable House we will follow this simple idea because politicians have a way of creating their own truths but that truth normally does not last very long.”
Speculation is rife that Sen. Joseph was referring to the use of government-paid Constituency offices by the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to engage in party work.
The new Senator also expressed grave concerns over the governance style of Prime Minister Mitchell and the NNP regime and referred to what he described as “troubling signs,” and referenced a document “where it says that approximately 30% of our population is living under the poverty line.”
“Mr. President, I am concerned, a large percentage of the population … are concerned (and) Bob Marley once said, in the abundance of water the fool goes thirsty (and) that’s a very powerful statement (because) it appears Mr. President, that we have quite a number of fools in this country,” he told the sitting.
“…We should never go thirsty on this noble land, never (because) we have the people and we have the ocean…we have resources, the resources have to be harnessed and the leadership of this country has a responsibility for setting direction,” he said.
“That is our responsibility as leaders,” declared Sen. Joseph who noted that “to be living under the poverty line in Grenada is to be very poor, very poor.”
“And the question is, with so much water, water in abundance – should we have that situation, he questioned but soon added, that “this situation did not just appear (but) was created over time.”
“As Senators we all have to work to turn this around (because) Grenada deserves better than it’s getting presently. We all have to put our hands (and) ideas together and try to get this country out of that situation (because) Mr. President, if we continue down that path, we will be heading towards a failed state.
Sen. Joseph also addressed what he sees as a lack of respect shown in society for those who are in authority.
“There is evidence in society that points to the lack of respect for authority,” Senator Joseph told the sitting, recalling several instances where in his view, Prime Minister Mitchell’s behaviour was not fitting for the office which he holds.
“Mr. President, the Honourable Prime Minister said in a sitting (of the Lower House) that the Jab Jabs were singing a particular song, saying this and saying that and the question is why, why the disrespect, but Mr. President, when the Honourable Prime Minister could go in a rally and refer to people as ‘macco man’ and ‘macco woman,’ this is unprimeministerial (and) this does not have a place at that level
“…When he (Dr. Mitchell) can refer to a male person as Arlene, Mr. President that is disrespect…when he can say that what matters is paying WRB (for Grenlec Shares) and not where the money comes from…where are we going Mr. President? We need to rebalance, Mr. President – we need to take a look.”
The opposition member told Senators that he “would drive through Gouyave and my students, who are in their 50’s would say (refer to or call) me Mr. Joe. Why? Because they have respect for me…”
“Now, Mr. President, respect is given where respect is due and as leaders we have to set the pace, if we don’t exercise respect, respect would not come to us…as political leaders we are Statesmen and we ought to behave like Statesmen and I am not too sure that we are doing that all the time but we should do it all the time without exception and Mr. President, sometimes I think our leader is caught wanting (and) I don’t know if it’s emotional or if it’s just a careless slip of the tongue,” Sen Joseph said.
Prime Minister Mitchell is Grenada’s longest-serving Prime Minister with stints at the job from 1995 to 2008 and again from 2013 to the present.