(MENAFN- Caribbean News Global)
By J. K. Roberts
Grenada will mark its Golden Jubilee of Independence in the next two years, on February 7, 2024. The road to obtaining this 'independent democracy' along with a relevant national constitution was stony with confusion and casualties, and the climate on the arrival day for the declaration in 1974 was dark and dreary. After this historic crossroads, the results of the general elections on December 7, 1976, did not quench the political discontents which pervaded the nation, and neither was the anxiousness for a political change in the government.
The persistent situation spurred subversive schemes which led to the making of the first overthrow of an elected democratic government in the English-speaking countries of the Caribbean and the putting aside of its constitution on March 13, 1979, by the youthful-driven party of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) which had orientation towards the communist Marxism-Leninism governance philosophy.
Despite the restoration of democratic rule on October 25, 1983, the Grenadian-people have repeatedly been questioning the level of sovereignty, accomplishments and sustainability ever since obtaining Independence, and the proven reasons to be patriotic, proud and positive. Some influential individuals tend to verify that there is no need to be overly perturbed in deliberating on those issues, by claiming that Grenada is a young nation in an experimental phase and that the collapse of the NJM's regime may have hampered its revolutionary development.
Critical in the debate though, is the raising of clear malfeasances in the Government which has been longest served by the New National Party (NNP) under prime minister Dr Keith Mitchell, the citing of gross inadequacies in the Constitution to hold elected members of the House of Representatives accountable, and the despicable attitude of all of the leading politicians to shy away from working diligently and genuinely with the people to reach solutions on the chronic and evolving problems.
It must be of grave concern as to how could the endorsement of democratic principles, the right to vote and the constitutional provisions for elections in Grenada continue to cause the noted disappointments and questionings by its people, after forty-eight years and counting.
What are the signals for confidence that the upcoming general elections which are to take place by April 2023, would render the new breed of politicians having integrity and dynamism for good governance, which the people have long been yearning for; or would it be business as usual of the politicians (whether veterans or novices) robbing the people of real representation and deserved benefits? Would the people themselves remain ignorant, gullible and careless about exercising“the right to vote” and thus preferring to be abused by the political actors on entering into another fifty years of Independence?
It has been studied that people get the government they deserve; and this seems to have been echoed by Dr Mitchell, as it is said he allegedly indicts the voters for having his party form the government and for receiving the kind of governance which it offers.
Towards 'progressive and pleasing' government in the interest and desires of the people, the 1974 Constitution specifically provides for three different types of elections to be conducted under the supervision of the Supervisor of Elections (section 35), the procedures of the People of the Representation Act (Cap. 286A) and pertinent statutes.
Those voting obligations are for elections of members of the House of Representatives (section 32), elections for alteration of the constitution and certain laws (section 39) and elections for a local government for Carriacou and Petite Martinique (section 107). The elections of members to the House of Representatives take precedence, as this determines the order and quality of governance in the nation, in terms of the composition of the Parliament for the making of laws (sections 23 & 38) and of the Cabinet for executing of the laws (sections 57 – 60). Particularly; the cabinet of ministers is responsible for setting the tone, the stage and the pace for the socio-economic welfare including judicial and electoral services for the people, as well as for the arrangement and realization of the other polls.
Grenadians have been having to contend with the rhetoric and grandstanding in electioneering, the nonbinding political manifestos, the vexing repute of the office of the Supervisor of Elections and the gloom over electoral reforms towards“free and fair” elections for the functioning of the parliament and cabinet. This ploy of deceits, deprivations and disrespects is more pronounced concerning the elections for Constitutional Reforms and local government. The mysteries and expediencies in politics, so frustrating the enfranchisement of the people, become very evident.
Why should a conscious citizen be faulted for degrading and rejecting both of the major parties at least on the issues of constitutional reforms and local government? As a matter of fact; any more pronouncements by NNP, as well as the National Democratic Congress (NDC), on those issues for the purpose of elections should be considered 'hogwash and empty', since over the many years back and up to recently, pertinent statements in one form or the other, have been reoccurring in the manifestos. The parties' track records and doings speak volumes for themselves.
The NNP took Grenada into a controversial and ill-prepared constitutional referendum, for the very first time in the nation's existence, on November 24, 2016 and another on November 6, 2018, to advance the 'narrow and hidden' agendas of outside institutional forces on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), but without considering the sentiments and inputs of the local people.
This outrageous approach did not even render serious thought and reference to the extensive foundational works which began under the NJM's regime around June / July 1983, then the commissioning of reviews in 1985 and 2002, and leading to a draft constitution for Grenada in 2010 / 2012 by deceased Grenadian Professor Dr Simeon C. R. McIntosh. Recall the previously internet-circulated articles“Grenadians are Hauled to Vote in a Flawed CCJ Referendum” and“Grenada Constitution Reform: The Misleading Phenomena” (Part One and Part Two).
Thankfully; Grenadians were able to fail the devious pursuits of the powers-that-be on the two constitutional referenda. Unfortunately but as expected; the powers-that-be even to this day have been ridiculing, chastising and blaming the people for the results of the referenda, and are bemoaning, decrying and dismissing the value of the provisions in the Constitution for the verdict of the people on national policies of wide-ranging and long-lasting effects (subsection 39.5).
The NDC needs to explain the factors responsible for legislating Cap. 292A on April 5, 1995, the Saint George's Borough Councill Act to constitute Saint George's Town a Municipal Borough, to incorporate the inhabitants thereof, and to provide for the establishment, constitution, powers, functions and duties of their Borough Council as an organ of local government (Act No. 19 of 1995); but the party after winning the elections on July 8, 2008, was not able to meet the promise in its manifestos that“a form of Local Government will be introduced in Carriacou and Petite Martinique within 100 days of taking office”.
This is significant since constitutional lawyer Dr Francis Alexis, QC was intrinsically involved in the consultative process which may have lasted past 2010; he had been a lead associate of the People Labour Movement (PLM) which pledged also in 2008 to“provide in legislation for a system of local government as an important institution of people's participation in public decision-making, also an aspect of good governance”, if voted.
The height of mamaguyism and insults to the people of the sister isles was manifested when the NNP establishes the ministry of Carriacou and Petite Martinique affairs and local government on its return to the government on February 19, 2013, instead of implementing“a Council for Carriacou and Petit Martinique, which shall be the principal organ of local government in those islands”.
Moreover; the NNP-government bypassed this real issue for those territories and tried to convince the electorate to vote for writing Carriacou and Petite Martinique on the passport, via the Constitution of Grenada (Name of State) (Amendment) Bill, 2016. This political manoeuvring may or could have resulted in having the people of those islands defrauding themselves, by 'making null and void or removed and nonexistent' the original provisions for local government.
It should be telling how the political actors including analysts, within the fashioned two-party political scenario in Grenada, tend to be instilling the culture of 'mediocrity and superficiality' in the society. There are no serious efforts on the part of those influential persons to create a mechanism for lifting the governance bar, stimulating civil consciousness, facilitating people's empowerment and probing those vying for public offices, but instead, they are advocating for the people to vote the lesser of the two evils on elections day. Indeed; by such actions and/or nonaction, Grenadians are placed in a vicious cycle of corruption with impunity and the nation's loss.
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