Former Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has launched a scathing attack on the Public Service Commission (PSC) headed by female attorney-at-law Debra St Bernard that is now in place following the defeat of his New National Party (NNP) in general election held ten months ago.
Appearing on the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN) programme called “To The Point” on Tuesday, Dr. Mitchell who is now serving as Opposition Leader in Parliament said that there are some well-known persons who are politically close to the government who have been placed to serve on some state institutions.
“I am very extremely concerned about the composition of the Public Service Commission. I know that they are serious party hacks in some cases. I am not talking about all the members – those the government has chosen personally,” he said.
Dr. Mitchell excluded from his blistering attack the two persons selected by the Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) to help make up the 5-member composition of the commission.
Apart from St Bernard, the other two government representatives on the PSC are Bernard Antoine and Faye Thompson.
Of the three, Thompson is believed to be the only one who was seen actively engaged in campaigning with Congress in the June 23, 2022 general election.
Former Supervisor of Elections Judy Benoit was the nominee of PWU to sit on the commission while ex-school principal Jim Alexander who was attached to MacDonald College was sent by GUT to sit on the commission.
Dr. Mitchell accused the current Congress government of Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell of hitting what he called a “much lower level than we were” in its selection of persons to sit on state bodies.
“What we are noticing is that there is a tremendous fear within the public service that never existed in my time in government,” he said.
Under the NNP’s rule of Grenada, several persons known to be linked to the party were appointed to serve on the PSC.
The most notable was defeated NNP Candidate for the rural St Patrick East constituency Prescott Swan who also served for many years as Acting Head of the Commission.
Two other party activists who held PSC positions were the late Norris James, an executive member of the NNP and Educator Hudson Mc Phail who was a known political activist of the party for several years.
Under Mitchell’s watch, Sergeant of Police Carl Caton was introduced as a candidate for the party on the same day he resigned to contest the 2008 general election for the St. Patrick East seat against ex-NDC party boss Tillman Thomas.
Caton was readmitted into the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) when Dr. Mitchell returned as Prime Minister and Minister of National Security (RGPF) with oversight for the Police Force following the 2013 general election.
Under Mitchell’s tenure, Inspector of Police Wayne Wilson who was convicted of a criminal offence before a law court was brought back into service and given rapid promotion to reach the level of a Superintendent of Police.
The former Prime Minister acknowledged that under his rule as the island’s longest serving Prime Minister between 1995 and 2022, concerns were expressed about some of the persons appointed to sit on some statutory bodies.
“…There was a feeling that too many persons who appear to have friendly relationships with the government then were on different boards…”, he said.
“Maybe there was justification for those comments. I wouldn’t sit here and say we were perfect,” he added.
The island’s Opposition Leader also attacked the current composition of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) that was headed until the change of government ten months ago by Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Tafawa Pierre, the husband of his former Education Minister Emmalin Pierre.
Pierre has been returned to his substantive position of Superintendent of Police and placed at the Police Training School following the change of government.
According to Dr. Mitchell, workers are now “being hauled in” by the FIU and pointed in the direction of the female pubic officer who is under investigation for allegedly using her cellphone to snap a government document which ended up in the hands of an ex-senior NNP government minister and then onto a talk show host that is linked to his party.
Dr. Keith Mitchell told the GBN host: “There are changes there and FIU are calling in persons and threatening them and FIU is calling people and talking about leaks in government.”
“If you are doing the right in government why are you so consumed by leaks? No one has a right to leak private information in government but why are you so consumed? You never hear me talk about this – not that people weren’t bringing out information about the actions of government.”
“…If you are doing things that are right, why are you so worried that the public will find out or someone will leak? I find the over preoccupation with leaks is frightening. It takes you back to the period of the Revolution where people were frightened to even say a word about government.”
“We know that people were being hauled in and jailed without charge or trial and so on. There was a reason for people to be very fearful because it was a revolutionary government but we have a democratic government, duly elected by the people of the country and we have never seen this (fear in the society).”
Dr. Mitchell claimed that under his watch the FIU was being lauded in regional and international circles as “the best” in the Caribbean due to the quality of people working in the agency.
In the 1995-1999 first term in office of Dr Mitchell as Prime Minister he fired his Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health Grace Duncan after accusing her of leaking government information to the media.