The New Today


Constitutionally reset Grenada at the 50th Independence Jubilee

In keeping with the feeling and objective of the previous article, ”Open Call To National Celebrations Committee On Grenada’s 50th Jubilee”, it will be spectacular and substantial for Grenada to unveil an indigenous national constitution during the Independence ceremony of its Golden jubilee on 07 February 2024.

Isn’t it conducive, opportune and compelling for the powers-that-be to activate or to dictate the undertaking of the noble and sovereign project for a ‘brand-new’ constitution?

Indeed, the rationales and platforms have already been reasonably set, by means of the lobbying and sensitisation and meetings of the past, for boosting and advancing towards the genuine pursuit and success on this patriotic venture.

Further to the controversies and disturbances which surrounded the 07 February 1974 ‘questionable’ ushering-in of the 19 December 1973 Grenada Constitution Order, under the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP), and which spawned the suspension of the ‘Scheduled Constitution’ on 13 March 1979 by the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), the call and thrust for a ‘new and different’ constitution have been noteworthy.

The institutional indicators on this unresolved matter range from the June (July) 1983 Constitutional Commission headed by Trinidadian Senior Counsel Allan Alexander; to the February 1985 Constitution Review Commission headed by Vincentian Queen’s Counsel Sir Fred Phillips; to the 2002-2006 February Constitution Review Commission headed by Grenadian Justice Lyle St Paul.

There was also the 2010/2012 versions of a drafted new constitution for Grenada by Grenadian Professor Simeon R. Mc Intosh; to the January/February 2014 twenty-one (21) categories of the past Recommendations by Grenada Constitution Review Commissions, as collected and combined by Dr. Francis Alexis for the 2013/2014-2016 Grenada Constitution Reform Advisory Committee; and to the eight (8) Constitution Amendment Bills for the United Nations Development Programme supported Grenada’s first two constitutional referenda of 24 November 2016 and of 06 November 2018.

Moreover, continually repeating and revealing are the serious loopholes and deficiencies which exist in the ‘presently-used’ Constitution, especially for dealing with malfeasance regarding sovereignty, patrimony and democracy.

A prominent criticism about the February 1974 Independence Constitution is the lack of having parliamentary debate for its officialism in Grenada.

This ‘unfortunate’ situation may have arisen largely due to the industrial crisis and political upheaval which were prevailing in the nation then, and which have further prompted the ‘anxiety and hastiness’ by Premier Eric Gairy for securing assertiveness, expediency and fame for Grenada to be first in the smaller territories of the English-speaking Caribbean to obtain Independence; following the big countries of Jamaica (1962), Trinidad and Tobago (1962), Guyana (1966), Barbados (1966), and The Bahamas (1973).

And so, there is the outstanding desire and need for Grenada to boast about, and/or to acknowledge, a constitution which has been endorsed by the citizenry, although Constitutional Attorney Lawrence A. Joseph PhD, has firmly held and publicly defended that the Constitution “was properly patriated and remains valid”, as posited in the February 2017 article “Was Grenada’s Constitution Properly Patriated?” on the NOWGRENADA News website.

Dr. Joseph also relates any questions or doubts about the ‘officialism’ of the Constitution to the ‘officialism’ of the Independence and establishes in the 03 February 2023 Grenada Informer E-paper on “Has Grenada’s Independence Status Stood Up To Scrutiny?” that the Constitution “has held up (‘served’) well”.

Interestingly, whilst he declares that Grenada’s Constitution “has held up well” and its Independence status “has generally stood up to scrutiny”, over the last forty-nine (49) years of governance; Member of Parliament (MP) Peter Charles David laments that the Constitution brought ‘tribalism, divisiveness and partisanship’.

In the House of Representatives on 16 December 2022, Mr. David says : “ …. a trick has been worked upon us by the British. They gave us a very partisan political system, so we are forced to be different by nature of the system …. and yet they set up a mechanism to change it that …. requires us not to be tribal.

David went on: “So they make us tribal and then say …. to change this tribal system, I have constitutional reform; you have to not be tribal. But the tribalism has become so instinctive to us that – I am urging a new approach on it in the future – we tried to make some constitutional reform; and I remember one MP at the time …. saying, yes but not with that side; meaning the tribalism came between what they agreed on and what was not to be done.

David also said: “I urge as we go forward, we determine what we agree on and what we disagree on; not based on the fact that we have to disagree, but based on what is best for the country. If you disagree, fine. If I disagree, fine. We can live with that. People disagree all the time and you know it is in that space that a lot of progress is made …. so I urge that we revisit at some point during the course of this Parliament, the issue of the things that we can do to institutionalised bipartisanship ….. “.

With satisfaction and thankfulness, Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell and Leader of the Opposition Keith Mitchell, in the 2023 Independence Messages, have hailed the past years as having brought “significant progress” for Grenada; the occasion was observed with the theme “The Journey to 50: Reflecting on the Past, Planning for the Future”.

It would indeed be a blatant ‘distortion and failure’ by Dickon and Keith, as well as by the National Celebrations Committee in planning and setting the stage for the Golden jubilee, to ignore or to play-down the brutal events surrounding the attainment of the 1974 Independence, under GULP led by Gairy (now ascribed as “the Father of Grenada’s Independence”), and which intrinsically led up to the 1979 military overthrow of GULP, by the New Jewel Movement (NJM) to form the PRG of which Peter David was a member.

Related:  Grenada's year long Golden Jubilee within proper perspective

The Revolution, the first in the English-speaking Caribbean, resulted in Grenada ‘experimenting’ with the Marxist-Leninist doctrine from March 1979 to October 1983, under the ‘unconstitutional but ruling by decrees’ PRG led by the afterwards ‘palace coup’ slain Prime Minister Maurice Bishop on 19 October, 1983.

Grenada seems to be yet on a pathway for an apt ‘political and governance’ philosophy, as a One-party State Project Grenada has been touted from 2013.

The NDC and the New National Party (NNP) have constitutionally formed the Government most, in the post-independence era, and have proven to give ‘lip-service and disingenuity and rhetoric’ about the real and deserved issues of Constitution Reform.

None of those political parties has been generating in the nation any buzz for a 2024 Grenada Constitution. In particular, Dickon’s NDC could be considered culpable for having to dodge this pertinent matter, with its presumption or its excuse that the people have no appetite for changing or improving the Constitution and that by highlighting the matter would have put a threat to its possible victory at the 2022 polls.

Or, is the NDC also on a strategic path of conspiracy against the sovereign constituents to have ‘narrow’ reforms for self-serving persons?

Nothing said by the politicians about ‘empowering and uplifting the people’ should be taken for granted; as Dickon had shared convincingly when vying for Prime Ministership, on the 18 January 2022 Grenada Broadcasting Network’s “To The Point” programme, that the existing constitutional arrangement is outdated and counterproductive to democracy and doesn’t lead to good governance but it exploits the system for political advantage.

On Dickon getting State power, Constitution Reform is now not a priority. Shouldn’t it be troubling and questionable about the ‘meaningfulness, genuineness and fullness’ of the “Transforming Grenada! Let’s Move Grenada Forward” agenda of the 23 June 2022 elected administration of the NDC; since the Administration has not displayed any indication or any intention of having the constitutional governance of the country rectified and/or elevated, in a true people’s enlightenment, involvement and empowerment manner?

It must be acknowledged and demonstrated that a national constitution is fundamental in defining, inspiring and in enhancing the people.

Recall the posted article, “How Sound Is Grenada’s New NDC Government Transformational Push? (Part IV)“, making reference to some of the major pertinent issues raised by the party when in Opposition; but unfortunately now, some constitutional breaches and hitches by the Administration could be identified.

It should be instructive for Dickon Mitchell and every conscientious Grenadian citizen to analyse and/or to absorb the position aired by Keith Mitchell on 13 April 2023 during a special interview on Meaningful Television (MTV News GD).

Keith has been the first and only to order a constitutional referendum, and spoke pertinent to ‘the prospect, approach and success’ for another attempt.

Referencing the past two referenda, the former Prime Minister expresses : “ …. that constitutional change is pathetic. We (‘NNP-administration’) somehow failed to get the population to understand a lot of these old parts of the constitution …. you know, does not make sense ….

“Every single initiative on that …. constitutional motion failed …. that clearly has to be a big regret, and I indeed made the point …. well there goes my period of service as far as constitutional change (‘is’) concern …. it would be left to somebody else to take up that challenge.

“What I would say, and I made the point. People take a principled position on anything when they are in government; when they are in opposition, not thinking of what is best for the country. I would say this.   If any serious initiative of any government comes forward that deals with serious change for the country, I’m in opposition, they would have my support.

“…. I’m thinking of the children and the future of this country are going to be the beneficiaries of that change and that’s how that decision will be made. I cannot speak for my whole political party, but I’ll certainly use my influence in getting support …. for any serious change. So I am saying maybe, maybe it might happen during my time in opposition“.

There are also the current trend and workings in the Caribbean for constitution reforms, with the main focus for acceding to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final appellate court and for achieving Republican status; although the context and approach are generally peculiar for each of the territories.

Dominica in February 2015 joined the three (3) long-standing countries (Belize, Guyana and Barbados) of the fifteen (15) Caribbean Community member states to adopt the CCJ in its entirety, using both the Original Jurisdiction primarily for trade matters under the CARICOM Treaty and the Appellate Jurisdiction for civil and criminal matters.

Barbados then became Republican in November 2021; and Jamaica, and Antigua and Barbuda are determined and hopeful to follow suit in short order on these two concerns.

It may be rather late for ensuring a ‘pleasant and rewarding’ Golden Jubilee reset for Grenada; principally because of the lack of ‘goodwill and visionary planning’ by the powers-that-be.

However, critical to decipher are what is Grenada’s political trajectory, what should constitute a paradigm shift or reset for Grenada, and could Grenada sustain its Independence and Democracy for another fifty years, especially in the light of the making of a ‘new’ World Order featuring the influence of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and with the historical and geopolitical understanding of the February 2022 Russia’ invasion of Ukraine?

J.K Roberts