A political campaign based on a transformation agenda is not absolutely new; it is all about marketing for votes with a ‘plausible and palatable’ tagline and is a technique universally applied.
A transformation agenda presented by an opposition party is of much more ‘appropriateness and traction’ than by a ruling party; it is really about providing alternative governance policies and approaches to what has been existing.
Nonetheless, it is not conclusively true that general elections are won on the basis of a transformation agenda or that all aspects of the agenda are esteemed and endorsed by the whole electorate; various circumstances and sentiments come into play or take center stage for a victory, such as a ‘burning and bitter’ desire to get rid of the incumbent administration due to a breakdown in relations.
It is one thing for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to celebrate and claim that the return to State Power at the 23 June 2022 elections was due to the party’s transformation agenda, featuring and spearheaded by “another generation” Executive.
However, it is quite another consideration for the NDC administration to define and confine the transformational trajectory and dimensions of the nation to the transformation agenda of the party, exclusive of any progressive policies already regulated and enforced.
Of particular curiosity is the positioning of a dedicated ministry (called the Ministry of Mobilisation, Implementation and Transformation) and a specialised mechanism of Transition Leads as the ‘advocate, custodian and executor’ of the transformation agenda.
Despite losing, the New National Party (NNP) is expected to form a substantial and formidable opposition with its six seats of the fifteen-seat Parliament and there is no reason for the Grenadian people to recline and allow the application of a transformation agenda without having it being checked, challenged and counselled suitably; ‘democracy must be saved!’
The first two parts of this article point to some apparent constitutional irregularities being perpetuated and some concerns of conspicuous missteps by the new NDC administration, which does not favourably signal a sound transformational push; and pertinent clarifications are sought.
It may be proving embarrassing along with ‘could have been avoided’ pressure for the Administration at this stage, because of its premature transfiguration of the ministerial configuration of Government; that is, without firstly having a full analysis and grasp of the functioning and atmosphere within the governmental system, especially as relates to the 2022 Estimates of the Revenues and Expenditure of Grenada which is the ‘core synopsis’ about the various agreements, transactions, resources and personnel.
Was the NDC trying to be impressive and resolved about keeping campaign promises; or was it confused and duped by poor and misleading advices? Is NDC trying to escape the condemnation and legacy faced by its 8 July 2008 to 19 February 2013 Administration?
Is NDC patterning a prompt radical stance as has been the case by the Marxist Leninist, communism doctrine of the New Jewel Movement which suspended the 7 February 1974 National Constitution and set a new governance and legal framework when it formed the People’s Revolutionary Government with the military overthrow of the democratically elected Grenada United Labour Party on 13 March 1979, towards the One-party State Project Grenada?
There is no constitutional provision for a transition process involving an outgoing political administration and an incoming party; however, any new administration especially when being ‘inexperienced and unacquainted’ must undergo extensive preparation and lay a solid foundation before taking far reaching decisions and imposing its brand.
The Public Service (Chapter VI, Constitution) forms the vital institutional link with its ‘rich and treasured’ repository for the continuity of Government, as the title of Permanent Secretary should also imply; that is, according to section 67 “ …. every department of government shall be under the supervision of a public officer whose office is …. a Permanent Secretary”.
It is thus wise for an incoming party to employ a systematic approach on its entry to Government, for a ‘smooth and splendid’ successful reign.
Fortunately or unfortunately; it seems that Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell is not too perturbed about the veracity and sustainability of decisions made even being early in Office, but is adamant about effecting the philosophical context of the process of transformation which NDC campaigned on.
Mitchell’s attitude has been accentuated during the 12 July 2022 Cabinet Brief referring to the implementation deficit in the Public Service, the need for actions in accordance with “We Are Moving Forward” against the malaise of over-analysing of several reports of consultants, and he is prepared to “face the heat” for any policy or decision taken from advices given by technocrats.
Definitely, it is not a pleasant impression about the NDC-administration resulting from the alleged number of individuals of the Public Service who have received dismissal letters, within one month of the installation of the Cabinet of Ministers to portfolios.
Barring that it is not about victimisation or about vengeance by the Administration, are those letters fake or is there evidence of sabotage or spite against the Administration?
If the allegation is official and unless it can be profoundly defended or rationalised otherwise, then no issues of qualification, competence, performance or discipline should cause the dismissals without due process and moreso without realising the ‘good substance and good faith’ of the transformation agenda.
To raise and rely on precedents by previous administrations in treating political appointments is contrary to a sound transformational push; especially when those affected are not in the managerial category of income, influence and threat and may not be fitted for the calls coming from certain quarters of the society to “drain the swamp”.
Is the situation about escalating poverty rather than eradicating poverty as reflected in NDC’s 2022 manifesto which also proposes to “Regularise the status of persons operating within the public service.
This includes public officers on acting, probationary and temporary appointments, as well as persons holding contracts of various types, but, carrying out the duties of public officers … train and retrain public officers and other government employees”?
The Grenada Constitution is also silent on the period between the date of the holding of elections and the first sitting in the first session of Parliament thereafter; the old Parliament having been dissolved for the elections (section 52).
The ‘closest reasonable guidance’ for the required beginning of the new Parliament comes from subsection 53.2: “As soon as practicable after every general election the Governor-General shall proceed under section 24 …. to the appointment of Senators”, and shouldn’t be using subsection 51.2: “There shall be a session of Parliament once at least in every year, so that a period of six months shall not intervene between the last sitting of Parliament in one session and the first sitting thereof in the next session”; the latter reference speaks about when there is the continuation of a particular Parliament in operation.
Is the lack of a specific instruction on the summoning of Parliament give a window of opportunity to venture on political expediency with activities which can have serious legal, financial and socio-economic consequences?
A responsible political administration with a transformation agenda would not engage in exploiting any constitutional inadequacy or constitutional loophole for unsavoury deals, nor encroach on the constitutional entitlements of the citizens; but in fact, it should seek to enhance or reform the Constitution.
The phrase “as soon as practicable” must be taken to mean that the calling of elections also initiates the process for Senators by interest groups involved.
The preparatory or foundational phase before an incoming administration takes drastic decisions should also involve ensuring ready arrangement for the opening of the next Parliament.
Almost two months ever since the elections on 23 June and with the NDC being at the helm of the Government undertaking its transformation agenda, there is an ‘urgency and correctness’ for the opening of Parliament which stands dissolved from 16 May 2022.
The Parliament is the constitutional forum for legitimising and concretising the priority policy directions of an elections manifesto, and thus there is the need for NDC’s Administration to table its programmes for parliamentary attention and thereby also declaring accountability on the deliveries and services thus far.
Typical unsettled issues requiring parliamentary treatment involve the ‘allocation vote’ for the existence and transactions of the transfigured ministerial configuration, especially regarding the created Ministry of Mobilisation, Implementation and Transformation, the determination to honour the March 2022 Glasgow Pensions’ Judgement for payments to retiring public officers, and to increase the salaries and benefits for Government’s ministers.
There are also great ‘expectations and excitements’ by the population for the activation of the next Parliament. The population is anxious to have generated ‘robust, objective, purposeful and rewarding’ parliamentary debates on any review done and any resolution devised by the new Administration about the status of the governmental system.
Indeed is the need for the NDC-administration to report fully on the state of the critical affairs of governance including about the statutory bodies and diplomatic posts; the infrastructural projects such as the St. Patrick’s Breakwater, the Molinere land slippage on the Western road corridor, and the Airport Upgrade and Refurbishment of Maurice Bishop International Airport by the Chinese; the Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programme with the National Transformation Fund; and about the national economy especially the financial debt, as left by the NNP-administration.
Moreover, it should be ‘appropriate and reasonable’ for the Administration to find answers on the critical issues which have been eluding “We The People”, as well as to assure Grenadians whether or not pertinent inquiries toward criminal charges, recovery of national assets and renegotiations of deals will be ensued regarding any malfeasance of corruption including with illusive ‘ghost’ businesses discovered.
Considering that a sound transformational push would actually begin when a party is in opposition, not limited to the production of a manifesto but by the establishment of key working committees on governance, and that significant advancement has been accomplished over many years on certain Good Governance issues for which former Prime Minister Keith Mitchell was vilified; then there should not be any excuses by the NDC-administration for not passing pertinent legislations during the first session of the impending Parliament.
In fact along with a reconstituted Grenada’s CBI committee there should be submission to Parliament of “substantial changes to the CBI laws” which NDC has been demanding when in opposition, detailing making it a criminal offence, punishable by long jail time, to sell diplomatic passports; making it mandatory for the names, addresses and countries of origin of all persons and their dependents applying for and obtaining CBI status to be published; making it illegal for government officials to invest in CBI approved projects; requiring stringent due diligence that is not influenced by government officials; removing some of the powers of the Minister into the hands of independent, qualified personnel; and barring persons acquiring CBI status from being able to vote at elections.
As a ‘new and transformative’ Government and furthermore recognising that now is the time for the next budgetary cycle which spurs special attention by the economic sectors of the nation, it is also imperative to receive the Throne Speech by the Governor General for the Eleventh Parliament, highlighting the legislative initiatives and developmental thrusts for the upcoming fiscal year.
Apart from public views in formulating the budget, efforts need to be started for the passing of at least Bills for Local Government for Carriacou and Petite Martinique, the Cannabis Industry and Freedom of Information act; this should not be restricted to special interest groups but with the various constituencies of Parliament.
J. K. Roberts