Grenada’s outgoing veteran prime minister Dr Keith Mitchell must be naturally saddened, shocked and shamed with the defeat of his long-led New National Party (NNP) at the June 23, 2022 premature general elections, after been enjoying consecutive sweeping of the polls on February 19, 2013 and on March 13, 2018 and with considerable margin-wins in most constituencies at the last occasion.
The defeat is definitely of ‘severe sorrow and setback’ for the NNP’s leader, when this comes at the closing phase of his political career. Keith Mitchell may thus display Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when he realizes that the defeat was self-inflicted, especially being drunk with “one for the road” campaigning on possibly aiming to escalate or to act out his true colors; and this effect sets for a dramatic episode with him as Leader of the Opposition in Parliament.
The ‘hopes, gains and stakes’ for Keith with the 2022 elections were ‘high and great’. The October 2021 circulated article “Grenada’s Keith Mitchell Credited For Taking No Chance On The Electoral Mechanism”, raises; “Would Grenada’s 74-years old prime minister choose to be ‘complacent and cool’ about his prospect in the next general elections which he has the prerogative to call … when considering the efforts by his opponents for a “coalition of political forces” to unseat him and the closing of his ‘ecstatic and unmatched’ political reign? … Would it escape Dr Keith Claudius Mitchell to cement his record as the parliamentarian in the English-speaking Caribbean to have served the longest, to have been prime minister the longest, to have been the oldest prime minister in office, and / or to have resigned proudly as prime minister after an elections? … Would an apparent ‘frail and worried’ Mitchell relinquish the quest for accolades and fame on his legacy, due to the disgruntlements and pushbacks by the public to his management of the COVID-19 epidemic, especially on the socio-economic deprivations from mandatory vaccination, on entering the elections?” However; was Keith so oiled, attacking and penetrative this time?
Was Keith really serious about winning the elections; or was he politically fatigued and empty on issues, as well as frightened and cautious about attacking during the campaign? Did Keith really feel possessory, triumphant and indispensable for Grenada, despite the many reckless decisions taken and damage made; or did he feel that the extravagances, eulogies, entertainments and enthusiasms during the campaigning would offset and overshadow any past detestable doings? Had Keith really thought that he has the capacity and leeway to re-calculate and re-strategize and to recharge and reinforce for reconciliation and recovery with the people, towards an effective campaigning amidst the prevailing socio-economic troubles and unsettled industrial climate in the nation and the annoyances, alienations and turncoats developed against him? Particularly; the records would show how the constitutional provisions such as on the Judiciary and the Public Service have been ‘neglected, insulted and battered’ and about how Grenada was questioned and degraded internationally on matters such as Ease Of Doing Business and Corruption Perceptions Index.
A critical case involving the economy and the reputation of Grenada is the debacle of Keith’s NNP-government with the international developer and principal of True Blue Development Limited, Warren Newfield, a South African Jew residing in the United States of America. Mr Newfield was assigned as an Ambassador At Large and Consul General for Grenada in May 2015 under the Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programme, with his construction of Kimpton Kawana Bay Resort funded by the selling of Grenada’s passports and with his pledge of attracting investors to the nation’s agriculture, tourism and education sectors. Newfield resigned the diplomatic appointment in May 2021, and in June 2021 he registered a claim against the Government of Grenada at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes regarding an anti-business environment and breaches of the agreements on his CBI resort-project. The five-star resort was launched in January 2017 and was halted due to the unfortunate incident after about eighty percent of completion, ninety percent of the condominiums negotiated for purchase, and hundreds of jobs created.
A local newspaper reported “PM Mitchell attacks his ex-envoy”. The story said that Keith in Parliament accused Newfield of not wanting to accept Grenada’s sovereignty, of wanting to change the government, of going all over (‘the world’) campaigning that nothing should come to Grenada, of wanting to see the end of its CBI programme, of waiting for his (Newfield) new (‘government’) leader, and of him (Newfield) being a racist. An opposing party definitely will capitalize on such gross diplomatic fall-out between Keith and Newfield, and in fact some of the NDC’s executives may have already been in contact with Newfield and other business-partners on the basis of being official local CBI agents and strategic advisors to the then NNP-government.
It should be of interest though to realize the approaches to be taken for credibility and viability of the CBI programme by the present NDC-government when considering that those executives may have contributed to the tremendous liabilities and losses brought on the Grenadian-people by the political expediency, administrative transactions and legal defense of CBI-clients, and that its 2022 elections-manifesto has not clearly identified this economic source for special focus, except to state that it will audit and report on the National Transformation Fund.
Although he was not able to forge a political accommodation with the NDC for the 2022 elections, the resignation of parliamentarian Tobias Clement from the NNP in November 2019 and then he becoming the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in April 2020, boosted the rationale and momentum against Keith. Mr Clement advocated for challenging the leadership of the party, for new ways to conduct the nation’s business and for a democracy to save; recall the previous internet-circulated article “Could Grenada’s Democracy Be Saved?” It must not be missed though that Keith is no stranger to having teammates disassociating from his postures, policies and practices and in having to combat with concerted efforts of opposing parties to unseat him at elections. A typical reference, the late Dr Raphael Fletcher resigned on the grounds of alleged corruption by Keith’s June 1995 eight seats NNP-government and so triggering the January 1999 elections which the party won overwhelmingly by capturing all fifteen seats, but this full slate in Parliament was short-lived when Michael Baptiste resigned in 2000 and became the Leader of the Opposition. The recent reality features many of Keith’s past Cabinet members and party executives campaigning against his person, and joined in vengeance voting at the 2022 elections.
With varied indicators stacked and counting against him, should Keith have forever relied on his past political survival from the litany of alleged mismanagement, phony projects, unresolved investigations, and failed promises? How far had Keith thought to continue in duping the electorate for cooperation, trust and loyalty, as has been the case with public officers on the restoration of State pensions? Should the March 1991 Worrell Report on the inquiry into the conduct and management of certain key government bodies attached to the Ministry of Works under the first NNP-regime, in which many of Keith’s affiliates including his trusted ‘political deputy’, Gregory Bowen, were highlighted prominently, be ignored or be dismissed as being irrelevant, particularly about the concerns as to whether or not “the national interests were best served”? Instructively; around the period of this investigation by Lindsay Irwin Worrell G.C.M., Keith was the Responsible Minister in the ministry and was fired in 1989 by Prime Minister Herbert Blaize. Were there any remedial measures on and radical deviations from the damning discoveries of the September 2007 Cheltenham Commission Report which surrounds an inquiry into the Allegations of Financial Impropriety by the Prime Minister of Grenada and Related Matters, during Keith’s NNP-regime?
The reduction in the popular votes for the NNP from an approaching thirty-four thousand in 2018 to about twenty-nine thousand in 2022, speaks to the failure of Keith to impress the new voters as well as its base voters. Moreover, whilst some of NNP’s ‘loss votes’ may have rallied with the NDC which rose from about twenty-three thousand votes in 2018 to about thirty-one thousand in 2022, it may be sound to conclude that many of NNP’s stalwarts preferred not to vote at all, since there is also a reduction in the percentage voter-turnout in 2022 with over twenty-six thousand enrolled voters casting no vote. In fact, the 2022 elections-results may prove that the impact of the era of the teacher trade unionist, turned politician for the NNP, Claris Charles, which helped to catapult and maintain Keith in Government from 1995 to 2008 has elapsed. Similarly; the voter-swing from NDC to NNP which was engendered by the ‘favourite revolutionary comrade’ Peter David, to propel Keith back in power in 2013 seems to have been collapsed. With reference to the pertinent past article “Grenada’s 2018 Elections Win: Keith Mitchell Or Peter David?” has the defeat of Keith jeopardize any political compromises anchored with Peter and his allies?
In reflecting and recuperating from his ‘astonishment and anguish and anger’ of the loss, Keith owes the nation as-a-whole serious explanations regarding the pronouncements and persuasions made at the various sessions leading up to the elections, such as on the June 20, 2022 “Beyond The Headlines” programme of the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN) and on the NNP-party’s choreographed “’Ask Doc’ open forum” on June 18, 2022 via social media.
Would Keith have any misgivings and regrets about his approach to the Government and to his party, as well as about the timing of calling the elections and the manner of campaigning? Would the immediate past ministers and the elections-candidates of the NNP forgive Keith for crushing their political fortune, especially for presenting to its young parliamentarians forlorn hope in light of the absence of any ‘known’ succession-planning mechanism in the party; whether or not this was done inadvertently? Is the apparent dreary political demise of Keith inevitable, as a consequence of what has been said to be the proverbial notions uttered by the foundation leader of the 1984 NNP and late prime minister, Mr Blaize, been laden with ‘disappointment and grief’ in coming to terms with the perceived treacherous endeavours by his ‘young star confidante’ Keith? The sayings are ‘what goes around comes around’ and ‘the worse kick one can get is from a dying horse’.
Some individuals would favour and understand the emotional position of Keith from the 2022 elections, on the basis that the results defy the outlooks and predictions of many political pollsters and analysts; and indeed, this nine-seat loss will as usual continue to unfold Grenada for political attention and lessons. During the GBN’s prime-time interview on June 20, Keith poses, “How do you (‘host and people’) explain the scientific results that we (‘he and his strategists’) have seen that the NNP after two terms and two fifteen (seats) is still looking for that possibility or close to that (‘of winning the elections’)?” On the verge of the elections, Citizen Keith Ventour published a two-part educational account on “Grenada’s Election Cycles 1990-2022”, which summarizes that the likely outcome of the June 23, General Election in the absence of a 15-0, is NNP will win the elections comfortably with NDC winning possibly 1 to 3 seats.
Accepting that it was imperative to save Grenada’s democracy and / or for the ushering of a new evolutionary phase, was the defeat of Keith’s NNP as the elections overall happened because of a seismic shift with the votes or as a result of a spiritual intervention in the governance of Grenada? Whatever the ‘extraordinary reason’, Dickon’s NDC needs to prove that it deserves the sovereign power granted for “Transforming Grenada”, with the understanding that the parameters and deliveries for winning elections are much more different and demanding for governance, especially in the context of ‘spontaneous and uncertain’ global challenges and trends; recall the article “Is There Any Substantial Choice In Grenada At Elections From Now On?” Anyhow, Keith and the NNP must be satisfied that they have responded to the loud calls of the people for ‘active and honourable’ debates and accounts in Parliament.
By J K Roberts, Sound Public Policies Advocate.