By Marcia Braveboy
ST GEORGE’S, Grenada — Grenada’s Prime Minister Keith Mitchell told a massive rally at the Grenada National Stadium on Friday night that they can rely on specific institutions that will keep the government in check – in the face of no official opposition. He told thousands of Grenadians the constitution can protect the country’s democracy, even where there is no opposition.
“Your constitution specifies there must be institutions to protect our democracy; even in the face of no opposition. One such is the Public Accounts Committee,” Mitchell said.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is a watchdog committee. In accordance with the standing orders of Grenada’s House of Representatives, the Public Accounts Committee has the authority to scrutinize state owned entities and the government’s financial statements.
An opposition leader is required to nominate three senators to the Senate and to spearhead the working of the PAC, said former attorney general and speaker of the house Lawrence Joseph.
He said this is not easily attainable with one party winning all 15 seats in the House of Representative.
What makes it easier is Section 62 (2) of the Grenada constitution, which states that the governor general may act in his own judgment without the advice of a leader of the opposition if a leader of the opposition cannot be appointed. As was done in 1999 when Keith Mitchell and the NNP also won all 15 seats, the governor general can, under the constitution, appoint three senators to fill the space of the opposition senators in the Senate.
Mitchell told the rally that he started holding discussions with his elected team about their responsibilities and reminded them that not everyone who is an MP will be given a cabinet post or even made a government minister. Mitchell also said there is a need for backbenchers whose functions will be known in a matter of days.
He quickly admonished the audience that all the MPs will be treated equally.
“Whether you are members of cabinet or not, you will receive the same salary. No one will be marginalized,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell also warned his executive team that no minister will be untouchable, referencing a situation in the Tillman Thomas-led NDC where there was the perception that a certain government minister was untouchable, even by the prime minister.
Mitchell also informed his MPs that a need may arise later in the operations of the government where he will need to reshuffle his cabinet, based on changing situations, an exercise that is allowed by the constitution.
An invitation was sent for all of Grenada to assemble at the National Stadium on Sunday, March 3, to witness the biggest swearing in ceremony the country has ever seen of its MPs-elect. Leaders from other parts of the Caribbean are expected to fly into Grenada to witness the event.
The idea of the public ceremony was born of Mitchell’s regional counterparts who wanted to be part of his historical sweep of all 15 seats in the February 19 polls. Given Grenada’s cash strapped position, Mitchell assured the crowd that the regional leaders promised to assist in footing the bill for the mega swearing in ceremony.
“Friends of the region proposed the idea and will help fund the function and attend,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said never in the history of the Commonwealth has a political party won all the seats on two occasions as he did. He thanked the supporters, told them they were good to themselves and to their country and reaffirmed that he will have a united, loving and respectful team that will lead by example.