ST GEORGE’S, Grenada -- The two highest ranking members of the Grenada administration, Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and his deputy, have said that the prorogation of parliament has nothing to do with a no-confidence motion that was pending debate in the House of Representatives.
MP Karl Hood, who resigned in May as foreign minister, had filed the motion with the clerk of parliament, accusing the government of failing to “fulfill its promise to implement programmes that were marketed to deliver economic and social development to the people of the State of Grenada.”
Hood, now a government backbencher in parliament, also claimed that the “dismal mismanagement of the economy” had resulted in joblessness rising to “astronomical levels”.
He and three other government backbenchers, as well as the four opposition MPs, have been pressing for parliament to reconvene. and there have been strong suggestions that most parliamentarians were ready to support the motion.
However, in a two-paragraph statement on Monday, Thomas announced that he had requested Governor General, Sir Carlyle Glean, to prorogue parliament.
The action puts an end to the current session of parliament and the house can remain on recess for up to six months. It also makes null and void all bills and motions that were due to be tabled for debate in the just-ended session.
Thomas, who had charged the opposition New National Party (NNP) with instigating Hood’s no-confidence motion, said Monday that the people who want to see its passage in parliament are not concerned about Grenadians.
“It’s a game they’re playing,” said the prime minister, adding that supporters of the motion are also trying to “stall” the National Democratic Congress because the ruling party is “forging ahead”.
For his part, Finance Minister Nazim Burke called Hood’s motion a “weak attempt” to replicate one that was filed in May by the parliamentary opposition but which was defeated.
Burke, who is also NDC deputy leader, said the motion by the former foreign minister is a document of “no quality”, and there was “no need to prorogue parliament to defeat it”.
Opposition leader and former prime minister, Dr Keith Mitchell, condemned Monday’s formal suspension of the current session of parliament.
He said it further complicates a difficult situation already facing the country.
“It can only go from bad to worse,” Mitchell said.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Burke has dismissed reports that he had lost the portfolio and had walked out of a cabinet meeting on Monday.
“For the entire duration of that meeting, I was there in my capacity as the Minister of Finance,” Burke told the Government Information Service in response to the reports that were posted on social network sites popular with Grenadians.
“It is really said these hopeless and desperate newsmongers have to spend so much time trying to mislead people,” added Burke.
The finance minister and NDC deputy leader, who rarely hosts press conferences on the economy and hardly grants interviews with reporters from the local independent media, said his focus is to “keep the Grenada economy functioning and productive.”
Following the 2008 general election victory of the National Democratic Congress, Thomas appointed Burke Minister of Finance, Planning, Economic Development, Energy and Foreign Trade.
Burke, whom the prime minister has often commended for his management of the economy, has faced criticism from segments of the population over the country’s high jobless rate and failure to implement promises of large capital projects.
Questions have also been raised about the late payment of salaries to government employees twice in the past three months.
After examining Burke’s record, well-known Grenadian journalist and political commentator, Hamlet Mark, described him as the worst finance minister Grenada has had in nearly 40 years.
“If running the Ministry of Finance was boxing, then we would have had a good man in place. This current one is an expert at bobbing and weaving – and getting out of the way,” Mark said.
According to Monday’s reports, Burke was being replaced in the Ministry of Finance by Senator Franka Bernardine, the current Minister of Education and Human Resource Development.
Burke said he, too, had heard the “rumours” and the untruthful claims that he was dropped as finance minister, and that other government ministers – Glynis Roberts, Denis Lett and Alleyne Walker – had resigned their cabinet positions.
“I am the minister of finance until advised otherwise by the prime minister,” said Burke.