A few weeks ago a man drove his vehicle into a crowd in Tiananmen Square, China, killing a number of Chinese nationals. After an investigation by the Chinese authorities, the incident was labelled a terrorist attack. The Chinese authorities blamed Islamist radicals from the Xinjiang Uyghur region. A number of people were arrested and the head of the Chinese security forces in that region was dismissed as a result of the incident. The use of vehicles to carry out terrorist attacks is not a new phenomenon. Such attacks have occurred in many countries in the Middle East. In 1983, the United States embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, was flattened by suicide car bombs resulting in the death of hundreds of US marines.
Terrorist attacks can take a number of forms, including the use of car bombs, suicide attacks or mass shootings, as was the case of the West Gate Mall in Kenya. In today's world no country is immune from acts of terror. From Manila in the Far East to Boston in the West, acts of terror have been committed against innocent men, women and children. The international community, led by the United States, since 9 /11 has been aggressively engaged in a global war against terror. This fight is against domestic as well as international terror.
Every leader in a democratic society has an obligation and a responsibility to ensure the safety and security of its citizens within the borders of their respective countries and abroad. The president of the United States, Barack Obama, as Commander in Chief of the United States, takes this responsibility extremely seriously and so does David Cameron of Britain. Failure of these leaders to ensure the safety and security of the citizens of their respective countries will certainly result in their demise. Barack Obama was severely criticised for allegedly not providing adequate security at the US consulate office in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the death of a senior diplomat and three of his colleagues. Responsible leaders act responsibly in defending the rights and freedoms of the citizens of the country of which they are the leader. These leaders take an oath to do so.
Following the incident at an NDC rally at Snug Corner on the private premises of a citizen and the subsequent response and attitude of Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, the people of Grenada should think twice about the personality and attitude of the individual acting in the capacity of Prime Minister. Here some political fanatic and idiot using his vehicle as a weapon of mass destruction allegedly attempted to run over former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and other senior members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Dr Mitchell as leader of the country should condemn such a desperate and fanatical action by a supporter of his party, the NNP. He instead turned it into a comedy and a big childish grin. Even before the RGPF could complete their investigation into the alleged terror attack on the former prime minister, he prejudiced the investigation by claiming that the twisted individual didn't do anything.
How is it possible for the prime minister of a democratic country be so irresponsible and not be held accountable for his actions by the media and civil society? Is the prime minister telling his supporters that is it fair play to commit acts of terror against his opponents ? Is Dr Mitchell deliberately restructuring the RGPF so that he can influence their actions when such incidents occur? Prime Minister Dr Mitchell is playing a very dangerous political game with the citizens of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Has the prime minister seriously considered the implications and perceptions that his attitude and actions have on potential investors, world institutions and leaders? How can any reasonable and responsible leader “laugh” at such a serious incident against a former prime minister and other innocent and peaceful citizens? Dr Mitchell has abdicated his responsibility to the citizens of Grenada and therefore isn't fit to be prime minister.
Having the portfolio of minister of national security, Dr Mitchell has overall responsibility to ensure the security and safety of every citizen of the country, whether they support him politically or not. He also has responsibility to ensure the safety and security of people's private property, the property of the state and foreign investors. Is Dr Mitchell subtly telling his supporters that is it fair play to terrorise his opponents or investors who invested in the country under the NDC administration? Terror is terror, whether it is committed by a man carrying a suicide vest, a pressure cooker or a pick up van. Prime Minister Mitchell needs to be extremely careful of the message he is sending to his supporters. It is a well known fact that whenever the NNP is in office there is an increase in the breakdown of law and order. Many supporters of the party think that they can do what they want and get away with it. These supporters feel empowered to break the law at will and the prime minister seems to be supporting these twisted individuals by defending their actions even before an investigation is conducted.
Dr Mitchell may be looking for a way to get himself and the NNP out of the pit that they have dug over their years in office. As he prepares to sign the letter of intent for the structural adjustment program with the IMF, the prime minister has become more and more agitated. Condoning acts of terror, which could have lead to civil unrest, is too much of an extreme measure and shouldn't be an option of the prime minister. Had such an incident occurred at a PNP or JLP meeting in Jamaica, this fanatical supporter of the NNP would be deceased. However, the political leader of the NDC Hon Tillman Thomas and the supporters of the party are law abiding, decent, respectable and peaceful citizens of the nation.
Hon Tillman Thomas as prime minister valued and took pride in the independence of the judiciary and RGPF. Had this terror attack occurred under his watch, he would have condemned it in no uncertain terms, irrespective of who carried out this gruesome action. Such is the nature, maturity and personality of Tillman Thomas. He remains a leader that is unblemished and incorruptible . He is still a soldier for Christ in politics. Had he lost his life on that fateful night, God forbid, he would have become a real Grenadian martyr.
Dr Mitchell needs to take his responsibilities to the nation seriously before it is too late. He has this tendency of promoting gangsterism and tribalism by using sentences that seemingly promote violence against his opponents. As the country enters the structural adjustment program and with the expected fallout from the severe austerity measures soon to be implemented, the flow of adrenaline will be at its peak. Dr Mitchell needs to manage himself, his party, cabinet and supporters to avoid inciting civil unrest and acts of terror. There will be heightened competition among the people as they struggle to survive, which ultimately will create some conflict and confrontation. Humans naturally defend themselves by attacking their prey and so the prime minister has to be ever vigilant about his tone and actions.
Recent allegations that the government has invested in two very expensive bulletproof' vehicles is a step in the wrong direction. While the prime minister has denied these allegations, he didn't provide proof to the nation that these allegations are false. If these allegations are true then the prime minister is expecting the worst, knowing full well the history of the Grenadian people. One million bulletproof cars can't stop massive people's protest of civil unrest, as evidenced in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria. Dr Mitchell mentioned in a recently held press conference that Grenada is not the Middle East, but since he is in daily contact with the former MP for the town of St George he ought to remember the events leading up to the 1979 revolution and the invasion of 1983.
The perception that the people and the international community are getting from the allegations of the purchase of these bulletproof vehicles is that the country and its leadership is insecure .There is a high level of fear and so the leaders have to take additional security measures. The nation is aware of what happened following the passage of Hurricane Ivan when Trinidad sent troops to Grenada because the then Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell feared for his life, thinking that there was a plot to overthrow him. Documents from Wikileaks also indicated that he contacted the US embassy in Barbados informing them of such plots. If Dr Mitchell does the right thing and delivers as promised to the Grenadian people, then he has nothing to fear. He can walk from Sauteurs in the north to Point Saline in the south and not a single mosquito will bite him. If, however, he continues to lie, mislead, and attempt to hoodwink and fool the Grenadian people, especially the youth, then he has his conscience and himself to fear because inside his bulletproof vehicle will be himself, his security and driver.
Once again, Dr Mitchell and the NNP are squandering the gains made by the NDC, and the opportunity to unite the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. 2014 will define his legacy and the future of the country. If he continues with his current attitude, then the country will be doomed if the people fail to rescue themselves from an irresponsible leader. The verbal attack on Hon Nazim Burke is only for political mileage; however, Hon Burke is right and Dr Mitchell is wrong. Grenada deserves better leadership. Our spices are too sweet for the nation to be led by corrosive and pungent minds. Wise up, Grenada, better late than never.