PM’S ADDRESS AT SWEARING-IN CEREMONY OF NEW CABINET
Written by George Grant on March 26, 2018
PRIME MINISTER DR. THE RT. HON. KEITH MITCHELL
MARCH 25, 2018
I am pleased to welcome all of you here today; Grenadians, patriots, all; as well as our friends and well-wishers.
All our partners in development; representatives of organizations and communities, all of you who come to the table with different mandates, but the same aspirations—we look forward to this fresh leg of this journey.
The many prime ministers and leaders around the region and the world, who have sent congratulatory messages and solidarity greetings in the last week and a half; other representatives of nations; and members of the diplomatic corps who have continued to extend their solidarity: we, one more time, extend our hand in friendship.
The members of this new cabinet, together, we have this historic opportunity to inspire and help all our people, especially the ordinary people, write their own stories.
Brothers and sisters, we are at this juncture where history greets the future, and reality crosses hope.
On the eve of the Ides of March, thousands of you voted to embrace tomorrow; rather than stumbling through drunken doubt and fear. Boldly, you stood up.
The supplication we made while on our knees, now leads to a march forward on our feet.
And so, today must be a celebration; a reverent carnival of hope, hinged on this parade of potential.
For the resentment of the defeated shall, in no way, devalue the redemptive power of the vote.
That patience that thousands of you exhibited, standing in long lines on Election Day, was steeped in your determination that the future must never be left to chance.
You upheld the lessons we have always taught our children—that performance must always be rewarded.
Through this cycle, we constantly repeated the obvious – that elections are about choices. And you chose decisively, in the most fair and open and incident-free poll in the history of this nation.
Collectively you made the choice, without fear or favor.
I repeatedly said on many platforms, throughout the entire campaign, that this was the least stressful campaign in which I had participated in my 34 years in politics; for my passion and determination were fueled and replenished by you, the people.
For on March 13, together, we re-wrote history; and we confirmed destiny. We affirmed freedom’s yearning through the ballots, and made a bold statement for both continuity and renewal; and for competence and potential.
Yes – continuity and renewal are the context and the sub-text of the configuration of this new cabinet. The members of the team who have taken the oath here today, represent some of the most dedicated and passionate men and women you can find in the country. They have entered this covenant with you, fully cognizant of the challenge ahead, but willing and able to face them head on.
For me, it is an honor and privilege, not just to serve for another term as Prime Minister, but to be able to lead such a team. For the fifth time in my life time, I had the opportunity to deliberate on the make-up of the executive of this country. I was particularly impressed and inspired by the many recommendations and the streams of comments and suggestions from all sectors of the general public.
I have done a lot of listening and intense introspection this last week and a half. And with humility, I have sought to give meaning to this new mandate. I had open group and individual sessions with the Senior Management Board – that experienced team of civil service professionals, whose ideas and service I always appreciate. Many of these fine men and women have provided solid advice during my entire tenure as prime minister, but particularly so since March 13, and without a full executive in place. We have spoken at length about what this new mandate means.
I told them, as I will tell my new cabinet at its first sitting, that one of the clear messages I heard throughout the campaign was a clamoring for change in how we operate in government; for greater efficiency and sensitivity, and curbing wastage and corruption in government services.
And while people were reasonably satisfied, there is a demand – and rightfully so – for better value for their buck. Those elected, and those so appointed, are not to be Lord over the people; but their servants.
The next few weeks will be a period of reassessment and reassignment in this perpetual desire to make government work better for people.
There will be certain changes that will be necessary to correct historic weaknesses at the ministerial level, as well as the level of Permanent Secretaries and Senior Executives. We shall pay homage to the ability to get things done for the benefit of the people, who have sent us to government offices.
In examining the levels of which I speak, it will call for a certain boldness. Life has taught all of us that fundamental change has never been made by the tepid or timid.
And so we must be willing now more than ever to embrace young talent – and to give them the opportunity to make their mark on history.
The average age of this new cabinet has dropped, and the appointments we are making through the senate and through some executive positions will further indicate our determination to refresh the leadership.
Since the elections, I had repeatedly spoken about the contribution of the young people through the campaign and in the vote.
And so, we shall move quickly to act in their favor, for unless we do so, we risk losing an entire generation to cynicism.
A nation only makes a down payment on anarchy and confusion if it fails to invest in dreams and ambitions.
There will be an expanded role for the new Ministry of Youth – and your new ministers have been given the charge for an aggressive and expanded agenda for youth engagement and youth empowerment.
Prior to the swearing-in here today, I have had the opportunity to speak directly with all members of the incoming cabinet.
I have stressed to each and every one of them the necessity to come to this job, and to govern with humility and with respect for the people. And that this must start with the very initial appointments that we make.
One such example must be the appointment of personal assistants. Together, we must take some time to consider these appointments, for we must look, not just to close friends and supporters, but to people with the necessary skillset and the mindset that will guarantee greater service to ordinary people, in particular.
Personal assistants are paid by the government and not the party; and must, therefore, be persons willing to serve ALL the people.
They must be able to oversee the execution of the people’s mandate, and to do so with a sense of fairness; respect and honesty.
The same demands we make of our MPs, we shall make of them. Transparency and good governance shall not be disposable concepts; but the very center of their tenets.
I repeat what I said at my swearing-in a few days ago – that while my party might have won all the seats, this winner shall not take all.
And so, we have already signaled our intention to broaden the social compact that we successfully implemented during the last term.
We shall give new meaning to it in this coming era of inclusion—extending the membership and embracing youth participation.
Once again, I invite every Grenadian to be part of this dialogue; and every organization to seek representation at the table, including the National Democratic Congress.
All ideas and contentions shall be welcomed, as we move forward together, in building a model society in the Caribbean basin.
Permit me also, brothers and sisters, to bring to this discussion two issues that will be fundamental to our sustained growth, and in improving the quality of life of our people.
And while government has a decisive part to play, all of us will have some level of individual responsibility. The two areas of which I speak are wellness and environmental management.
The high instances of non-communicable diseases in our society, in particular – as it is in the region – is a developmental concern. Most of these diseases are lifestyle-based, by the things we eat and drink; by lack of exercise and general inactivity; as well as the contamination of our environment. The issue of our lifestyle must be an urgent discussion we must have, because as the old saying goes “health is wealth.”
We cannot hope to build a prosperous nation when so many of our people are coming down with such diseases as cancer, diabetes and hypertension, most of which are highly correlated to obesity.
As much as the Ministry of Health must focus on medical services, which speak to what we can do when people get sick. A greater emphasis going forward, must be to prevent so many people from getting sick in the first place. The Ministry’s mandate will be to develop a policy framework that emphasizes wellness.
The Ministry of Education must also, in that context, look at the quality of meals that are being served in our schools, with the understanding that we need to reduce the intake of sugars and salts; and help to develop a taste among our young for healthier foods.
The issue of better management of our environment also goes to the core of the prosperous society we are determined to build. Our waste disposal practices still leave a lot to be desired.
We must move quickly from our dependence on using plastic and styrofoam material to carry our products and our foods, to using biodegradable material.
We must study the experiences of nations around the world, and we must consider legislation that will hasten our environmental sustainability, especially in this era of climate change.
On the macro environmental scale, the issue of climate change that the world community faces, will remain a genuine challenge of our time.
Part of our policy going forward, will be to build the kind of resilience that will help us survive the worst – upgrading our housing and our infrastructure; refusing to build communities in disaster-prone areas; having more respect for our environment; preventing the blockage of drains; better managing our waste disposal; lessening the dependence on such things as plastics that are bad for the environment; enforcing building codes and not tolerating shortcuts.
It is, therefore, not by coincidence, that we are setting up a Ministry of Environment and Climate Change that will deal with the issue of building greater climate resilience through climate adaptation and mitigation. This new ministry will be responsible for managing our natural resources; management of our environment and disaster management. These issues are some of the fundamental developmental challenges of our time.
Further, given Grenada’s role as Chairman of the Small States Forum, this new ministry will focus its efforts on tapping into the billions of dollars of resources that are available to help small developing states build resilience.
Already, I have announced that Grenada will now receive $125 million dollars from the Green Climate Fund and the German Government, for the transformation of Grenada’s water sector, addressing the issue of changing rainfall patterns resulting from climate change.
Sisters and brothers, I found it important to lay down these markers here today – about both wellness and the management of the environment.
In this coming term, we will also push for greater investments in the economy, for the creation of more jobs, in both traditional and emerging sectors, such as ICT.
We shall build an energy sector; expand the tourism and services sectors and encourage higher efficiency in modern agriculture that places emphasis on organic farming.
We will make more training and scholarship opportunities available for our young people; and we will make it easier for them to start up their own businesses.
We shall embark on a deliberate policy to turn the creative arts sector into a genuine industry with real futures for our young people; and we shall invest in sports as worthwhile endeavors that will open up additional opportunities for them.
But, all this will come to nothing if we have a poisoned environment and a nation that has to spend increasing sums on too many people getting sick from things that are preventable.
So, as a people, I want us to begin to see, and be appreciative of how interconnected those issues are.
As we seek to build a proud, modern society, the issue of fairness and justice must also be addressed in a holistic way.
We have to move away from an attitude that is eager to criminalize our youth, impose permanent punishment for forgivable offenses, and that ignores the effectiveness of rehabilitation.
The moral tenet of any society shall be based on the level of compassion it wants to dish out.
As each of us seeks to protect and save our children, we must also look out for our neighbor’s children.
And to the broader issue of justice – and as it also relates to our independence and to our national identity – we must open up a dialogue again, about our joining the Caribbean Court of Justice.
While most of the CARICOM countries are signatories to the Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ, which also functions as an international tribunal that governs the 15-member regional integration movement, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have signed on to the Appellate Jurisdiction.
To quote the Barbados Prime Minister on the importance of this issue: “We’ve all decided that we want to be independent and we were able to unite the population on those issues. I cannot see why on matters relating to how our disputes are handled and how our grievances are addressed, that we still believe that the former colonial master is better than people here in the Caribbean.” End quote.
All I shall say now is that this land of the Federation of T. A. Marryshow; that this land that gave birth to revolutionaries Julien Fedon and Henri Christophe; this land that gave birth to leaders who were fathers of Grenada’s independence and defenders of its place in the world, such as Eric Gairy and Maurice Bishop; this land must and shall do better than we have done on this issue.
Today, I call for a re-opening of the dialogue on the CCJ and the development of a united front in going forward – for this issue should not divide us along lines of neither party nor class.
In fact, unity of purpose must be our “watchwords” as we go forward. There are too many things that hold us together, for us to fall apart.
Let’s remain determined to achieve—because of two simple words.
And as a campaign now changes into a government, let this slogan evolve into a manifesto.
And let these two simple words be your declaration of faith and our execution of will.
Those two words are our clarion call; a statement of intent.
Those two words are simple, but powerful.
And they are what I leave you with today.
To this expectant nation; and from this humble and grateful Prime Minister, I say: Keep Moving!
I thank you very much.