One of the hallmarks of a thriving democracy is the existence of and respect for the rule of law.
The rule of law means that everyone, including those in leadership is subject to and must abide by the laws of the land. In the absence of adherence to the rule of law, there is chaos, even though things may appear orderly on the surface.
The price of corruption is not only measured in dollars and cents. Democracy is under attack when those in authority do not abide by the rule of law.
The public and police service are governed by laws and regulations, necessary for their orderly operations. In the case of the police service, the regulations are subsidiary to the Police Act, Chapter 244 of the 2010 Laws of Grenada. Section 136 of the Police Regulations provides that the maximum number of vacation days an officer may accumulate is 180 days. Any leave accumulated above the maximum must be taken or is lost.
Because of this “take it or lose it” policy, it is common for relevant police officers and public servants, who have accumulated excessive amounts of leave, to receive letters from the Public Service Commission, directing them to proceed on vacation.
There is good reason for the take it or lose it policy. The public purse must be protected from abuse and corrupt practices. So government does not pay salary in lieu of vacation.
The Prime Minister’s security detail comprises members of the Royal Grenada Police Force. Being members of the RGPF, not some specially appointed elite group, the Prime Minister’s security detail is subject to the same rules and regulations as all other members of the police force.
Recently, information reaching the public exposed that members of the Prime Minister’s security detail are being afforded special privileges not enjoyed by their peers in the police force.
By conclusion dated 8 April 2019, Cabinet approved an illegal payment of $221,000.00 salary in lieu of vacation for 14 members of the Prime Minister’s security detail. When asked to explain this, Mitchell said that he knows what the law says but that he decided to do otherwise. He went on to say that he does not trust anyone else.
When a country reaches the point where its leader openly states that he is above the law and therefore if a law is inconvenient for him, he can just break it, then a corrupt dictatorship is in full effect. Only collective determination and a willingness to fight and sacrifice will save our nation.
The Prime Minister then brazenly used Tafawa Pierre, head of the FUI and husband of MP Emmalin Pierre as an example admitting, that Pierre was also illegally paid in lieu of vacation because, without him, the FIU will collapse. What complete and utter nonsense!
All the experts in the area of anti-corruption intelligence say that it is a major red flag when people in key positions do not take vacation. Usually, they are afraid that if they do, wrongdoing will be exposed in their absence. Take note Grenada.
The FIU law at section 15 specifically says that because he is a politically exposed person being the husband of a minister, Mr Pierre is “disqualified” from holding the position of head of FIU. Yet, he has illegally held that position since 2014 and on top of that, is illegally collecting vacation pay.
The RGPF is filled with intelligent and capable men and women. It is an insult to all of them and especially to the Commissioner of Police and his top brass for the Prime Minister to suggest that there are none within the ranks who can be trained to provide security for him or to head the FIU. What Mitchell is doing is using public funds to purchase personal loyalty and this is corrupt.
If the Prime Minister and his Cabinet do not respect and uphold the law, how do they expect the rest of society, especially the young people to?
Grenadians are urged to guard against Mitchell and his conniving ways. Whenever he is the biggest culprit, he tries to distance himself, blame others and deflect. Mitchell alone is responsible for the illegal and corrupt payments to members of his security detail. Mitchell as Minister of Finance and Sheldon Scott’s boss is responsible for the cell phone scandal.
Most alarming was the despicable act of the President of the Senate when he stifled debate on the issue. Many watched in horror as Chester Humphrey stopped Senator André Lewis in midsentence. Chester shamelessly and falsely claimed that the matter was too sensitive to debate in the Parliament. In so doing, he showed openly how he is prepared to use the highest institution in the land to facilitate and cover up wrongdoing.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations recently said, “corruption robs societies of schools, hospitals and other vital services, drives away foreign investment and strips nations of their natural resources.” The repeated exposure of corruption in so many areas of government will certainly have long-lasting and devastating consequences for our country. We are all responsible for fighting systemic corruption and corrupt politicians. One does not have to be part of a political party to do so.