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PM Mitchel address to the nation on the briefcase scandal
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Address to the Nation
By Prime Minister Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell
Wednesday, 19, 2004, 8 p.m.

Fellow Grenadians, tonight I address you on a matter of profound importance.
I am fully aware that during the past few days you have been bombarded with
some outrageously libellous statements from the political Opposition and
detractors of the Government regarding an investment promotion mission I
undertook to Europe in June 2000.

They have accused me without evidence. They have tried me in public without
evidence. Now, they seek to sentence and crucify me without evidence. They
have questioned my devotion to this Country and have accused me of cheating
on my people.

Sisters and brothers, for the past decade, I, as leader of your Government,
have devoted my political and intellectual energies to this beautiful
Country. I have devoted my efforts to promoting moral and ethical behaviour
in Public Office.

Your Government, during my tenure, has transformed the social and economic
landscape of this beautiful Country. Grenada is unrecognisable to returning
nationals.  We have a road network second to none in the Region. We have a
National Stadium that is enabling us to bid, successfully so, for the 2007
Cricket World Cup, and which has gained the acceptance of the international
sporting community.

We have new schools, we have refurbished schools and more of our children
are attending secondary schools.  We have strengthened our scholarship
programmes to open up opportunities for Grenadians to attain higher and
professional education.

We have a new General Hospital. We have a vibrant tourism sector. Our
agricultural sector is diversifying and is now much more robust. We are
producing more of our domestic needs with respect to fruits, vegetables and
poultry. Our water, electricity and telecommunications services can match
regional and international standards.

This did not happen overnight. I have devoted myself, as head of the New
National Partyıs team, to building and sustaining the positive image of
Grenada.

As I stated at the beginning of this address, I am fully aware that you have
been bombarded with some outrageously libellous statements.  These
statements are primarily designed to destabilise the Government and seize
the reins of power.  Remember the words of the Opposition that they would
make Grenada ungovernable and that the New National Party would not last
more than six months after the General Election of November 27.

Sisters and brothers, we are just about six months after the last General
Election, which can explain this most recent and decidedly desperate effort
at destabilisation.

I want to tell you that, based on instructions from my attorneys, I have not
commented on these scurrilous statements, or those published on the Internet
and elsewhere before. Now that the legal process is fully underway, and
court action is being taken on my behalf, I take the opportunity of this
national address to present the facts to you, the citizens of this Nation.
Other important facts will be forthcoming during the process of the libel
cases that are being filed on my behalf.

This latest attempt by the official Opposition to confuse and mislead the
Grenadian people is predicable, as it is reminiscent of previous attempts.
Some of you will recall the attempt to convince Grenadians that I stole an
airplane from the Government, sold it and kept the money. Some of you will
recall the attempt to put illegal drugs in my house to frame me. Some of you
will recall the statements on radio that members of my Cabinet and myself
had conspired to have former parliamentarian Dr. Raphael Fletcher
assassinated. Some of you will recall the attempts in 1993 by two masked men
to physically harm me by blocking the vehicle in which I was a passenger in
Perdmontemps.

Who was behind these attempts to destroy Keith Mitchell? It is, in my
opinion, the same people. Such practices continue, with the latest
fabrication about the resignation this week of some of your Government
Ministers.

As that old adage says, time will tell. Time has proven those accusations to
be groundless. Time will prove these latest allegations to be nothing more
than the work of an Opposition desperate for power.

And, sisters and brothers, let us not forget that there were similar power
hungry attempts, by many of the same persons, to destroy the character and
reputation of the late Sir Eric Matthew Gairy and the late Maurice Bishop
with malicious fabrications. Remember how they purchased a one-way airline
ticket in the name of Sir Eric Gairy, in order to spread the false rumour
that he was abandoning the Country on the eve of the General Election in
1990. Remember the false accusations of murder which they made against Sir
Eric and which so many believed for so long until the falsity of the
accusations became evident.

The same people with the same motive are still hard at work, taking a simple
fact and concocting it into an elaborate tale of lies and deceit.  Desperate
men use desperate measures.

But, let us forget the lies and deceit for the time being. As the statement
issued by our Government Information Service on May 10 states - Eric E.
Resteiner was appointed by Cabinet as Trade Counsellor for Grenada in 1999.

When plans were underway for me to mount an investment and promotion mission
to Europe and an Official Visit to Kuwait, Trade Counsellor Resteiner
offered to cover the expenses for Grenadaıs representative to the European
Union, resident in Brussels, as well as two Officers of the Royal Grenada
Police Force and myself.

The promotion mission, which took place in June 2000 ­ and may I remind you
he was appointed in 1999 - was arranged in collaboration with Grenadaıs
Permanent Mission to the European Union in Brussels and our Permanent
Representative to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural
Organisation - UNESCO  - in Paris.

The offer to cover the expenses was considered and approved by Cabinet.
There is nothing unusual or sinister about a Trade Counsellor, an Ambassador
at Large or a Honourary Counsel covering such expenses. There are precedents
for this. This procedure has been used by previous governments on many
occasions.

Nor is there anything illegal or immoral or wrong with a Trade Counsellor,
an Ambassador At Large or a Honourary Counsel, to arrange for the Prime
Minister, other Ministers of Government or Public Officers to meet with
potential investors.

During that trip, I visited France, England, Austria and Switzerland seeking
capital investments for projects to benefit Grenada, as well as other direct
assistance for our citizens.

Indeed, sisters and brothers, that trip was very important in realising our
dream for a modern cruise ship terminal in St. Georgeıs. It was during that
trip that I met and spoke with the senior officials of Zublin, the renowned
Swiss development and construction company that was to become the major
force behind the multi-million dollar cruise ship terminal.

The time I spent in Europe was extremely productive. Within days after
having reached an agreement in principle, Zublin presented the Government of
Grenada with its security for ten million US dollars. Within weeks, detailed
planning and discussions commenced with the Grenada Ports Authority and the
relevant Ministries for the new cruise ship terminal.

Now, four years later, some nine acres have been reclaimed, marking one of
the most ambitious infrastructural developments in the history of our
Nation. We are well on our way to having one of the most modern cruise ship
terminals in the Caribbean.

When I was in Paris, also, I met with representatives of Novelles Frontier.
As a result of my discussions and follow-up by the Brussels Mission and the
Ministry of Tourism, the French cruise ship, the Van Gogh, started calling
on Grenada in December 2000. This ship has brought thousands of visitors to
our shores, creating opportunities for our bus drivers, tour operators, taxi
drives and vendors.

As I always do when I am on an overseas visit, I sought assistance for more
training and scholarship opportunities for young Grenadians. Follow up
action on my request by our Brussels Mission resulted in a donation of two
hundred and thirty-three thousand dollars for support of the Government
Scholarship Programme.

I also requested that our overseas representatives donate gifts for our
needy children. As a result, more than 6,000 childrenıs gift items were
shipped to Grenada in December 2000.

            When I travelled on to Kuwait for the Official Visit, I was able
to secure a major agreement for the people of Grenada. Indeed, as a result
of that successful visit to Kuwait in June 2000, the Director General of the
Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development visited Grenada in July that same
year, and together, we signed a loan agreement for an additional sixteen
million dollars. While in Kuwait, I had pursued this additional loan in
order to assist with the reconstruction of roads and sea defence walls on
the West Coast that had been damaged by the storm surge of Hurricane Lenny
in November 1999.

Sisters and brothers, with that new loan agreement, the amount of monies
from the Kuwaiti Fund for infrastructural works on the West Coast totalled
some sixty million dollars.  I distinctly remember how pleased I was when
the Director General of the Fund visited Grenada. I stated at that time that
the relationship between Grenada and Kuwait was a ³new found friendship,²
since such support was forthcoming at a time when, due to globalisation,
traditional donors were cutting back on financing for infrastructural
projects in Developing countries.

Sisters and brothers, it is the practise for international agencies, such as
the World Bank, to provide cash to Public Officers and Ministers when they
travel on official business. This is a form of budgetary support and direct
assistance to the Country, which generally covers tickets, accommodation and
other daily expenses.

We have received such cash donations from international agencies, friendly
countries and other donors. This cash is made available when the person
travels, usually in the country or countries where it is to be used. This is
an acceptable form of budgetary support that saves the taxpayers money.

This practise is not new. It was not started by the New National Party
Government. Previous Governments operated in a similar manner. Indeed, many
Small Island Developing States, given our limited financial resources,
accept this practice as a way of alleviating the burden on taxpayers.

This is perfectly legal. It is moral and above board. There is nothing
irregular, immoral or clandestine about it, as much as the political
opposition would have you believe otherwise.

What are the issues in this particular case? I received approximately 15,000
U.S. dollars from the former Trade Counsellor while in Switzerland. I had
already travelled from Grenada to Paris. I had used my own Credit Cards to
finance the trip for my delegation and myself. This was in keeping with the
Cabinet Conclusion that the expenses would be reimbursed, in accordance with
the offer from the Trade Counsellor to finance the expenses of the
investment promotional trip.

Fellow Grenadians, I reiterate that the sum I received was approximately
15,000 U.S. dollars. This can easily be verified by the receipts, which I
have in my possession and will make available to my attorneys.

Regarding the fancy-named briefcase, I have never had it. Therefore, it must
be a figment of the imagination of my detractors. The only briefcase I can
speak of that I had in my possession was my own, which was already filled
with documents and personal effects for my Official Visit.

Fellow Grenadians, the question arises: Why has the political opposition
sought to libel your Prime Minister in such reckless and irresponsible ways?
It is clear they are not interested in the truth. They are not interested in
moral, ethical values.

It is certainly not out of concern for you, the citizens of Grenada,
Carriacou and Petit Martinique. In pursuit of their own narrow political
agenda, they are prepared to destroy the stability and development of your
own Country ­ of our Country, of your Country, sisters and brothers.

In the words of Julius Caesar: ³Men are nearly always willing to believe
what they wish.²

Fellow Grenadians, this allegation that I collected 500,000 US dollars in a
ŒLouis Vuittonı briefcase is certainly not true. It is utter nonsense.  If
those vocal members of the Opposition can produce any credible evidence that
I received 500,000 US dollars in a briefcase, or in any other way, then,
fellow citizens, I am prepared to put my political credibility on the line.

I am prepared to put the last 20 years as an elected Parliamentary
Representative of the people on the line.

I can assure you with the utmost confidence, fellow citizens, that your
Prime Minister will be vindicated. I wish to thank you, all you wonderful
people of this beautiful Country. Good night.

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