FOUNDER of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Sir James Mitchell is 100 per cent behind Leader of the Opposition Dr Godwin Friday when he says a parliament building should not be built at this time.
Parliament last month approved a loan of US$20 million from the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC) to be used for the construction of a modern parliament and hall of justice/ high court complex.
The US$20 million will be divided among three components — US$10 million for the hall of justice/ high court complex, US$7 million for the modern parliament and US$2 million for the refurbishment of the current courthouse and parliament building. A US$1 million contingency is also included in the project.
During the parliament debate, Dr Friday said a loan of that magnitude for that purpose at this time of COVID-19 is “rather daunting” and the project should be suspended for the time being.
Speaking on radio last week, Mitchell said, “How can this government have the effrontery to say they want a new parliament building and they not allowing a no confidence motion to go through?”
“I am concerned about democracy and I will support democracy in this country and I will go all the way to ensure that democracy thrives in this country and I would be silent when I choose to be silent and I will speak when I want to speak,” Mitchell told BOOM FM’s OMG in the Morning radio program with Dwight “Bing” Joseph.
He said that during his tenure in Parliament, former Prime Minister Milton Cato wanted a new parliament building at Independence and the British were prepared to fund it. He said the consultants came to see him at his home in Bequia and presented proposals.
“And I say, what you have here is not as elegant as what we already have and when I form government I am going back into the old building and use this one as a magistrate court…that buried it,” Mitchell said.
He said that such a project should be a competitive process in selecting an architect, a construction firm etc. just as he did with the financial complex.
Three architects are shortlisted to enter a competition to design the modern parliament, Trevor Thompson of TVA Consultants, Moulton Mayers of Moulton Mayers Architects and the Architectural Department of the Ministry of Transport and Works.
Submissions from the design competition were due on July 6.
“At this COVID time we should be subsidizing the people that need help. The barbers who have not made a dollar, the hairdressers, the people who run the little health spas and the people who try to do things at home in the kitchen making their jams and jellies etc. These are the kinds of people we should be helping.
“It is sad that in this moment of crisis that there is not a parliamentary committee of oversight in using the taxpayers’ money,” Mitchell said.
He said that government could use some of the money available because of COVID-19 to do things like cut down the price of electricity bills and stockpile medicines, “and that would help everybody.”
“…Not lumber and galvanize, priority in the use of government money. We have to be sensitive to that,” Mitchell said while noting that businesses are closing, and persons are having a rough time with jobs.
Mitchell said that despite agreeing that a new parliament building should not be built at this time, he thinks the government is handling the COVID-19 situation well.