The New Today

Letters

Has our democracy been hijacked?

A brief and succinct definition of democracy is “government by the people”, which finds expression in the inalienable right to vote in periodic free and fair elections to elect a government of their choice in the democratic governance of their country.

In this regard our constitution makes provision for this to happen by having an independent election office headed by a CHIEF ELECTION OFFICER (CEO) who does not share his authority with the Prime Minister or any other political actor associated with the incumbent party in office or in opposition.

From the evidence available it is crystal clear that the CEO is not an independent agent acting on behalf of we the people, but has allowed some critical functions of his office to be commandeered by the Office of the Prime Minister.

If Grenadians are minding their business, they would want to know how is it that the Prime Minister who is a contender in the election could be involved in the process of a free and fair election by having equipment belonging to the election office in the office of the Prime Minister.

There is a growing trend among populist politicians – what I would describe as the “trumptian urge” – a satanic inclination to be forever in charge – to control the machinery of government however undemocratic – in order to use the resources of the state in consolidating their greed for power on the unsuspecting masses as they remain continuously in a state of poverty and dependency – (Project Grenada).

Grenada’s next general election is constitutionally due in the first half of 2023 – that is less than a year and a half from now. Are the electorate satisfied that they would be participating in a free and fair election? To answer this question, it is necessary to examine a few relevant matters and to take appropriate timely and decisive corrective measures where necessary.

In the last two general elections held in 2013 and 2018 when the NNP “won” all 15 seats, the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the CARICOM Secretariat representatives who were observers in Grenada on the two occasions, made important recommendations in correcting certain aspects of the process which are inimical to a free and fair election. To the best of my knowledge these changes/corrections have not been undertaken. Are our opposition parties asleep, are they satisfied with the corrupt status quo?

On a more cynical note, let’s examine the fate of a few CEO’s, prior to the present holder of the office and to determine whether our DEMOCRACY HAS BEEN HIJACKED.

The first and most critical CEO to be given the axe was Ms. Judy Benoit.

According to the Wise One in his New Today article of Dec 4, 2021, “Benoit’s dismissal as Supervisor of Elections came against the backdrop of claims that she refused to implement a directive from Lana McPhail, the then Permanent Secretary in the office of the Prime Minister which she felt would have compromised the integrity of the electoral system.”

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The directive Ms. Benoit refused to comply with was a request to link the “Electoral Office with a communications system run from the office of the Prime Minister.”

The question therefore, that must be answered, how can this state of affairs result in a free and fair election – HAS OUR DEMOCRACY BEEN HIJACKED by the Prime Minister’s office?

Eight (8) years have elapsed since Ms. Benoit sought to get redress from the courts and it now appears – according to the Wise One’s Article, that she is about to “receive some token, semblance of compensation”, as a means of placating this disgraceful act of political victimisation.

Since Ms. Benoit’s summary dismissal as CEO, there have been others who came after her to fill the vacant post – such as Mr. Aaron Francois and Ms. Ada Holder – who for one reason or another submitted their resignations as CEO in quick order.

Those of us who keep a keen eye on the international circuit, would recall that around mid-December 2021, the President of the USA, Joe Biden convened a meeting with leaders of the so-called “FREE WORLD” to express their concern on the global assault on Democracy and the rising tendency towards Autocracy.

Grenada was represented by the Prime Minister who boldly stated to the world that his country has never had a problem with democratic handing over of office after an election. (Words to that effect).

In Grenada however, the problem is more subtle, as there is no new government to hand over to when your party “wins” every election. The Grenada problem is the electoral process which has been hijacked by the office of the Prime Minister, as the CEO from all appearances has become ineffective in upholding his independence under our constitution in a free and fair election.

The question therefore is – WHO WOULD BELL THE CAT? In sanitising the electoral process and to have an electoral office that is independent and is not prepared to jeopardise our future by playing politics with the government in office.

If this is not achieved before the holding of elections in 2023 it is like spinning a top in mud and Grenadians would be subjected to a ONE-PARTY STATE, the beginning of a de facto dictatorship. Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.

Norris Mitchell