After mixing with watching and measuring Dr. Keith Mitchell politically for over three decades, and was given the envied opportunity in 2013 and in 2018 to represent the constituency of St. George North East in the Parliament, Hon. Tobias Clement on 20 November 2019 officially distanced himself, referencing the dictatorial doings of Mitchell as the leader of the New National Party (NNP) and the Prime Minister of Grenada.
With the decision to withdraw from NNP, Clement assured his constituents that he will continue to serve on their behalf; and being constitutionally qualified he was appointed Leader of the Opposition on 14 April 2020 when declaring that he has “a democracy to save”.
Clement has not detailed publicly the areas and approaches for attacking and achieving his self-ascribed ‘duty-bound’ sovereign declaration, but sometime in June 2021 he articulates that his “lead role” now is to “bring opposition forces together” to remove the NNP from office.
It is astounding and should be very alarming that none of the leading entities including Hon. Clement who are advocating for the coalition of forces which is generally alluded to as of a political model, has been raising any serious concern and proactive protest about the manner of observance, or the non-observance, of the ‘foundational and fundamental’ principles for sustaining Grenada’s democracy.
Those principles have generated ‘moderate provisions’ which are contained in the Constitution for respecting the sovereign people, propelling a thriving national economy, reflecting good governance, ensuring natural justice, and for the enrichment and enjoyment of Grenadians.
Particularly, none has ‘directly and cooperatively’ embraced motions and initiations for the strong show of an impetus by the people, against the obscure state of affairs of the electoral mechanism.
Without prejudice though, tremendous tribute must be given to the two relatively ‘poor in means’ small parties for endorsing and participating in the limited assault staged so far; the 2017 Grenada Empowerment Movement (GEM) of Earl Joseph Maitland and the 2003 Grenada Renaissance Party (GRP) of Martin Washington Edwards.
“At least three determinants are imperative to be resolved, in order to attempt a ‘principled, meaningful and successful’ coalition of forces for the next elections …. issues of political leadership, the electoral mechanism and the developmental thrust.”
The fact though is that all efforts for winning would be futile, even if all is excellently taken care of, but without the electoral mechanism. Why ignore the operations at the Parliamentary Elections Office (PEO), or why the sluggishness and superficiality on this matter, when it should be ‘clear and certain’ that the process for “free and fair” elections is the core of democracy and is the gateway to governance?
Local and global accounts, past and present, teach about the ugly consequences of a ‘messy and mysterious’ electoral mechanism, and moreso when it also involves unregulated political campaigning.
Many analysts pose that Prime Minister Mitchell and his NNP can be likened to Eric Gairy and his Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) of during the 1970’s; pertinently in terms of impressive elections wins, autocratic governance tendency, perceived monopoly over the electoral process, and range of threats from media gag to welfare denials to restraining laws.
The past circulated article, “Is Grenada’s Prime Minister Responsible For The Parliamentary Elections Office?” focuses on heightening the need for keen vigilance, for timely objections including legal measures as the case may demand, and for significant advancement towards the integrity of the electoral process.
It must be realised that the challenging reality now is about the evolving sophistications in seeking “free and fair” elections, and thus in engendering pleasure and confidence in the process. These problems requiring vigorous combatting, ascend mainly from the applications of digital technology, from foreign influences such as involvements in the form of Cambridge Analytica and such as interferences in the form of Russian connections, from the legislative provisions for the recipients of the Citizenship By Investment programme, as well as from political maneuverings and intimidations which would be severely employed especially in this COVID-19 pandemic State of Emergency.
In valuing his experience regarding he being ‘apt and willing’ to unite the opposition parties and to bring “that machinery together” for “a successful campaign”, Clement boasts of being “part of three general elections”. What then is the carrot or the asset on winning elections that Clement possesses and is eager to share?
Is this the favourable reason that the main opposition party, the 1987 National Democratic Congress (NDC) is seeking to capitalise on in “striking a deal” with Clement “to join forces for the next general elections”, as reported in the 14 August 2021 New Today E-paper?
Is NDC fascinated by knowing that Clement was prompted, empowered and equipped to defeat its former political leader, Nazim Burke, in the 19th February 2013 and 13th March 2018 elections using devious behaviours? The St. George North East constituency has been regarded as a NDC stronghold, with Burke securing it on the previous occasions; elections of 27th November 2003 and 8th July 2008.
At least two factors might account for any ‘desperate dependence’ of the Executive, Advisors and Senior Members of NDC on someone of the political quality like Clement; whilst most of them take offence with and relegate some people who give public reprimand to the party on certain things.
Firstly, the message deduced from the sentiment of a stalwart who in refusing to venture any explanations, uttered cordial respect but total disagreement for the personal claims about the electoral mechanism, and / or about the inadequate stance of NDC on dealing with the grievous elections-issues.
Secondly, Clement would reveal any secrets and give pertinent evidences existing at the PEO, since in responding to the comment of an individual on the chance of the party winning at the polls to form the Government again, during the 16 March 2021 “To The Point” of the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN), an NDC’s official testified, “…. everything is a secret, everything is hidden and if you take legal actions you have to go to the court with evidence …. “.
At what cost would be the contribution(s) of Clement, or any other political collaborators, in the “striking a deal” with NDC on the coalition of forces? Is it about replacing ‘the person Keith Mitchell’ so as to realise covetous, selfish and vindictive ambitions; especially when glamourising the ‘opportunistic motto’ of choosing “the lesser of two evils”?
Former confidant of Mitchell and NNP’s executive and now a member of NDC, Terrance Forrester, is hoping to represent the St. George South constituency. Do the electoral experiences and as Her Majesty Opposition carry any weight in guaranteeing Clement a leadership position in NDC? Would it be NDC’s wise reasoning, based also on empirical examples, to have Clement as its candidate in St. George North East, since he is the sitting representative?
On a point of reference, does Hon. Clement have the political background and strength as Hon. Peter David who was dismissed, along with other political heavyweights, on 30 September 2012 from NDC and then were welcomed into NNP’s camp on 20 May 2014? Whilst every case must be treated on its merit, political astuteness and diligence would demonstrate comparative analysis on context, chances and costs.
The Grenada Movement (TGM) of former Advisor and Ambassador for Mitchell’s government, Patrick Antoine, may be one of the other political organisations, groups and individuals which NDC is engaging in its “serious recruitment drive” on a coalition of forces; refer to the Joint Press Conference of Opposition Leader and NDC on 11 August 2021.
It should be obvious that “striking a deal” with TGM would not be ‘simple and quick’ relative to Clement’s case, since Antoine comes with his “new development agenda” ideas and a contingent of key personnel similar to David’s scenario, on whose behalf he also has to negotiate.
Whilst the three Opposition Senators may not push for vying in the elections, TGM is stocked with politically-minded members such as Kerry-Velon Simmons, leader of The Progressive Party, and Terry Noel, the resigned Senator stressing to have a “sense of patriotism” demanding active participation.
Critically though, which constituency would be most ‘feasible and certain’ for NDC to allow Antoine to run so as to ensure he becomes the Prime Minister of Grenada? The NDC does not only need to be conscious of what could play at its Convention with the influx of new intakes (typically old NNP-runaways and the young ‘Change Activists’), but also what if the Coalition fails to win the polls outright.
The NDC could be the greatest casualty if the Coalition fails, which would lay TGM as a ‘real force’ in the political landscape. How is it though that Antoine has not had any telling pronouncements for responding to the disturbing issues regarding the electoral mechanism, with the passionate and profuse tones that he radiates regarding his ‘lead reason’ for transitioning TGM from a Non-governmental Organisation to a political outfit?
Notwithstanding, it would be foolhardy for NDC, or its “United Alternative”, to take ‘comfort and hope’ for victory, on the basis of the great result of the opposition St. Lucia Labour Party on 26 July 2021; without they having a sound study of at least the political and electoral environment, party’s organisation and preparedness, and the collaborative efforts of pertinent players there.
It would also be ‘ludicrous and untamed’ for NDC to be delighted in having ‘special closed talks’ with the PEO, when such occurrences had some ‘cumbersome and convoluted’ amendments to the Representation of the People Act (RPA), which helped to the party’s loss in 2018.
Has anyone grasped how ‘unchecked’ Regulations and Amendments can pose loopholes for frauds and failures? Concerning the RPA, shouldn’t it be for questioning the ridiculous provisions, for those wishing to register to vote, on giving “Proof of ordinary residence” (Amendment, Act 13 of 2018)?
Moreover, have there been any efforts to connect with the legal activists in Dominica who are addressing the technicalities and applications on Election Offences, particularly Treating (RPA part VII, section 89)?
The similarities of the constitutions and laws throughout the English Caribbean, and particularly on the vexing mamaguyisms and manipulations in the electoral mechanism, should cause concerned Grenadians of status to chase solidarity, insights and know-hows.
Should NDC continue to remain ‘naïve and passive’ on the electoral mechanism, despite also taking confidence in the widespread disgruntlements towards the Government and the efforts towards the coalition of forces? Would Mitchell remain ‘complacent and cool’ about his prospect in the elections, in light of the efforts for the Coalition and the closing of his reign?
Mitchell has never backed down from being active, alert and astute about the electoral mechanism. He has taken nothing for granted or left no stone unturned, whether when in office or out of office, but always making preemptive strikes (warranted or not) which usually bring him strides.
How dedicated and supportive is NDC and the other leading entities including the Social Partners on undertaking a holistic approach on the electoral mechanism? There is no refuting of the misleading communications and conducts of the PEO, no spurring for the recommendations by the elections’ observer teams, and no heeding on the related articles including “An Open Appeal To Grenada’s Governor-General On The Parliamentary Elections Office” and “Patriotic Grenadians Assist In Suing The Supervisor Of Elections”.
In fact, it appears that it is not expedient and in its interest for NDC to associate with the Grouping of Civil Society Organisations on combatting the electoral mechanism, even if, it (NDC) has been calling and levelling responsibility to everyone on the Cause.
Could anything more be said for persuading all and sundry that a coalition for the outstanding assault on Grenada’s electoral mechanism is most crucial! Particularly for the NDC as a political organ, what more than to remind that the lack of being ‘clinical, precise and updated’ robbed itself from forming the Government in 2003, at least via the Carriacou & Petite Martinique constituency with attorney George Prime, on a ‘trivial’ RPA matter.