By Marcia Braveboy
Caribbean News Now contributor
ST GEORGE’S, Grenada -- Just 18 hours after he was declared prime minister-elect, Dr Keith Mitchell was sworn in as Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique’s ninth prime minister by Governor General Sir Carlyle Glean on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell. Photo: Mikey Hutchinson
Mitchell was inaugurated at the Trade Centre in Grand Anse on February 20, one day after the February 19 polls, in a ceremony that lasted about thirty minutes.
The office is not new to Mitchell, who governed Grenada between 1995 and 2008, and has been the tri-island state’s longest serving prime minister. The 66-year-old career politician, who aspired to stay at the helm for twenty years, lost the 2008 elections to the now defeated Tillman Thomas and the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Mitchell, who was congratulated by the governor general on his historic resounding victory, is the second prime minister in the Caribbean region to win all the seats in a general election and the first to have done it on two occasions. The first time he won all the seats was in 1999. This is his fourth term as prime minister of Grenada.
In addressing the packed audience at the Trade centre, Mitchell said he is humbled and grateful for the opportunity given.
“We will be eternally inspired, not just by the votes but for placing your dreams and aspirations in our hands,” Mitchell admitted.
Mitchell and his team was handed an overwhelming mandate by the people of the Spice Isle mainly because of high unemployment and a stagnant economy. Acknowledging this, Mitchell reckoned that the people had seen enough pain and disappointment, but quickly implored the people to accept that his government cannot wave a magic wand.
“We are not magicians, we cannot walk on water,” though he is happy the country believed in his leadership and in his promise to deliver.
Fixing his eyes on his winning team, he told them, “We must not let the people down.”
His first order of business immediately after his swearing-in was a meeting he dubbed an “emergency session” with executive staff members of the finance ministry to discuss the state of the economy.
He promised to work at coming up with an appropriate budget to meet immediate demands, such as paying public servants salaries at the end of this month. A feat the Thomas-led administration struggled to accomplish, as a cash-strapped Grenada had difficulty paying civil servants wages under the former prime minister’s leadership.
Mitchell cautioned his team against wastage of the country’s limited resources, saying he wanted every dollar better distributed socially. Setting an example, he vowed to have a smaller cabinet than the previous (NDC) government. He then issued a stern warning to the MPs-elect to not bicker about not being chosen to be part of the cabinet. Mitchell explained that this is necessary to bring the right synergies together to tackle the economic hardship that placed the country in a straitjacket.
Knowing the most daunting task is to lead Grenada out of its dark economic path, Mitchell assured the people that he is up for “the grand bargain”; which will see the economy being expanded, rising employment, a politics of inclusion – embracing every one and every idea to help take Grenada forward in an assigned project called “Project Grenada”; of which every citizen is a shareholder and must contribute to.
“No harassing of opponents, we do not care about political labels, just do the people’s work,” Mitchell implored the audience, and even decided to look at the manifestos of other political parties to utilize the ideas that are good for taking the country forward.
“It was a long and tough campaign; as you can see, winning was easy, governing will be difficult; but if we unite our collective human capital, we can do anything,” asserted Mitchell.
Finally, the prime minister warned his executive members against becoming arrogant, reminding them that the same people that voted them in government will vote them out.
“There will be no witch-hunting of public servants,” Mitchell remarked firmly, signaling his intent to work with everyone and demonstrating that he is the prime minister for all of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Mitchell declared two weekend days of national prayer for the country.
He appealed to the churches to organize for Saturday, February 23, the day Seventh Day Adventists and other religious organizations keep the Sabbath, and for Sunday, February 24, for all other religions to pray for Grenada.