The New Today

Commentary

Halls of Justice coming in August?

On one of my walks post June 23rd, I noted what appeared to be a billboard of sorts – Grenada Halls of Justice: Coming in August – located at the exit of the former Government House grounds. I wondered about its appearance. It was not there prior to Elections on June 23rd.

There were no identifying logos or text. Who/what had put it up? Was it intended to impress and who? The art work included some human figures. I looked closely. People in black suits, the lawyers? There also seemed to be a couple foreign figures.

Frankly, the figures seemed more representative of citizenship by investment agents and possibly their clients!! Where the hell were John and Jane Public, We the People??!! Weren’t these Halls of Justice ALSO for us? We the people had better remind all concerned that the bill will be eventually paid by us!!

Announcement by Minister of Legal Affairs
Then, on today’s National Report, with this art work in the background, we the people heard from the Minister of Legal Affairs/Attorney-General, that this project was prioritised, given the inadequate, deplorable conditions faced by judges, court staff and the public.

At least, we the people were mentioned, even though it seemed that the artist thought that we the people were not important enough to be featured on the artwork!!

According to the National Report, the Halls of Justice initiative began in 2010 with discussion about building “ on the land which once housed the official residence of the Governor-General”.

In 2018, the Hon. Peter David, under the NNP regime, headed the sub-committee responsible for plans/diagrams and funding for the Halls of Justice. It is understood that the legal fraternity was also represented on that Committee. The Minister committed to following up on the progress to date with a view to completion. The financing arrangements were not mentioned.

Financing – BOLT Arrangements
At a post-Cabinet briefing of July 2nd, 2021, the former Attorney-General Dia Forrester advised of approval of plans and the proposed BOLT financing arrangements to be negotiated – the facility to be built and operated by a third party who will lease it to the government for a fixed period, following which it will be transferred to the Government.

Observations/Queries
Hurricane Ravaged Government House: Will the Halls of Justice be built on this site? If yes, will there be any level of restoration and building on the foundations there? The Willie Redhead Foundation has been advocating for years for the restoration of Government House, an important heritage building. Have both Members of Parliament representing the Town of St. George been “mamaguying” the Foundation for the last ten or more years?

Related:  The plan to develop a “Green Space” in the Lagoon

BOLT Arrangements: In 2021, the former Attorney-General confirmed that the financing arrangements were to be facilitated by BOLT arrangements. We the people require FULL DISCLOSURE in respect of these negotiations/the outcome of these negotiations. That information must be clear and upfront. We the people must ensure that we get value for money, unlike that showpiece that we call the Parliament Building.

Appropriateness/Risks: Are BOLT arrangements the best financing arrangements for such an important piece of infrastructure essential to functioning of the third arm of government? This is essentially private, commercial financing. What are possible risks with BOLT arrangements in cash-strapped, debt-ridden economies like our own.

The following examples will suffice:-

Grenada’s Experience with BOLT Arrangements: Let us not forget that it was the National Stadium and the Ministerial Complex BOLT arrangements, and Grenada’s inability to meet payments in a timely manner, that begun Grenada’s slide into the DEBT MORASS in which we are all struggling. Is it possible that, in respect of the Halls of Justice, a DEAL could be/will be arranged – what will be the exchange? In exchange for the ownership of the Halls of Justice will the BOLT developers assume ownership and control over certain other national assets? Just thinking out loud!

Barbados’ Experience with BOLT Arrangements: Back in 2018, when the Barbados Water and Authority defaulted on its lease payment, the BOLT operator threatened to lock out staff and “removed community tanks from critical, water-scarce parishes”.

One hopes that Grenada will learn its lessons from the past and from others. The Halls of Justice are intended to provide a very important, essential service to the people of Grenada. Notwithstanding the artist’s impression, it is OUR business.

We wish the Minister well as she follows up on this work in progress to deliver for Grenada. We the people must do our part, mind our business and be vigilant on behalf of Grenada.

Sandra Ferguson

Editor’s Note: The billboard was erected in the week of the June 23 general election under the watch of the former New National Party government of former Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.