Grenada is only five days away from one of its major milestones in the short history of this independent nation.
February 7 will see Grenadians celebrating their 50th anniversary of Independence from the former colonial power, Great Britain.
The authorities on the island have put together quite elaborate plans to mark this feat for a tiny and small island that has been beset by more than its fair share of political turmoil in recent years.
The independence was marred by uncertainty as those persons who were known to be strong opponents of the Premier of the day, Eric Matthew Gairy as they came together to mount protest action aimed at removing him from power on grounds that he had become repressive and was often terrorising his political opponents.
The darkest period came on October 19, 1983 when Marxist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and three Cabinet colleagues were executed at Fort Rupert as a radical wing within his New Jewel Movement (NJM) that was linked to Bernard Coard and his OREL Group attempted to take control of the revolutionary process in the Spice Island.
As Grenada inches to Landmark 50, THE NEW TODAY is putting out a challenge to the new Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell to take up the mantle and follow in the footsteps of some of the past leaders of the country who gained regional and international recognition for their stands on certain issues.
The two past Prime Ministers who stood out are Gairy himself who is referred to as the “Father of Independence” and the late Bishop who was responsible for the first and only change of government by the use of force in the English-speaking Caribbean.
Critics will often paint Gairy as eccentric due to his controversial speeches at the United Nations calling for global research into Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO’s) and the rise of the so-called Mongoose Gang to beat up opponents.
However, Gairy has contributed significantly to what is now modern Grenada with his foresight in bringing St George’s University (SGU) to the island back in 1976.
The school was vilified by opponents including Bishop’s Marxist-oriented New Jewel Movement (NJM) that overthrew Gairy on March 13, 1979 in a coup d’état and the institution is now a major contributor to the island Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Today, thousands of locals depend on SGU for their livelihood especially in the area of job creation, as well as through real estate, vehicle rentals, and in the supermarket business.
Gairy brought Expo ’69 to Grenada in an area known as True Blue which has since become the home of SGU and several well-to-do Grenadians.
In the case of Maurice Bishop, he gave a major boost to the island tourism industry with the construction of the airport at Point Salines which was eventually named after him by the 2008-13 Tillman Thomas-led Congress government.
Bishop was a recognised regional leader who advocated for the Caribbean to be declared as a Zone of Peace.
The PRG also assisted in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa by allowing top members of the African National Congress (ANC) of the late Nelson Mandela to use Grenadian passports to travel around the world in their struggle to free South Africa.
Today, the Caribbean is facing a serious problem with the illegal drug trade and has become a major transshipment point for “the goods” coming out of South and Central America and also the issue of the creeping gun-related culture of violence.
Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell as one of the younger generation of leaders in the region should put up his hand and take the lead in the fight back against the gun-related violence in our hemisphere.
The Grenadian leader will have an international audience on Wednesday at the National Stadium at Queen’s Park and should seize the opportunity to reset the clock for the rest of the leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to send a strong message to those behind the illegal gun trade.
There should be an announcement from St George’s that decisive action will be taken against anyone especially artistes who promote and advocate gun-violence in their lyrics.
THE NEW TODAY is calling for no work permit to be given to any such artiste coming to Grenada whose lyrical content is aimed at contaminating the minds of the population especially the young people.
Prime Minister Dickon should also use the opportunity to call for the Treaty of Chaguaramas to be altered to allow member states to take action in their national security interests to keep out undesirable elements who promote gun violence.
The new Prime Minister must also back up his stand on gun violence by impressing upon the government’s own Legal Department to work overnight and bring to Parliament legislation to increase the penalties for persons caught in possession of illegal arms and ammunition.
It’s time to stop talking about the ills of guns and ammunition and start to take decisive action.
The Security Forces must also be better equipped to dismantle and disrupt the link between drugs and the gun business because some people with deep pockets are obviously behind the financing of the business.
As retired high court judge Lyle St Paul used to often say in his court, it is time for the police to stop bringing only the small players in the drug trade for action to be taken against them but start hauling in front him “the big fishes” who are the real financiers of these illegal activities.
THE NEW TODAY would like to take this opportunity to wish all citizens a Happy 50th anniversary celebration and to give each and every person who is visiting our shores for the occasion the best possible Grenadian hospitality and treatment that is fitting on this historic and momentous occasion.
Happy 50th Independence to all and sundry who are descendants from the many tribes that came out of the African continent out of the hope that Grenada will chart a new course for the next 50 years.