The New Today

Letters

How sound is Grenada’s new NDC government transformational push? – (Part 1)

A few hours after ‘swearing in’ of the so-called members of the Cabinet of Grenada, in the afternoon of Thursday 30 June 2022, involving the appointments of elected and non-elected individuals to ministerial duties, discussions and admirations filled the airwaves especially on the inclusion of a Transition Lead to most of the ministries as an aspect of the transformation platform of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Designated Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell conducted the first post-Cabinet Press Conference on Tuesday 12 July 2022, which elaborated amongst other issues on the ministers’ appointments and the realignment of ministries and transfer of Permanent Secretaries.

Whilst special mention was made of the creation of a new ministry, Ministry of Mobilisation, Implementation and Transformation, there was no highlighting on the role of the Transition Leads.

Despite, careful ‘approach and application’ is imperative on the institutionalising (covertly or otherwise) of those Transition Leads, especially in terms of constitutionality and in light of disturbances to the Public Service’s bureaucracy, as the experiences with past political administrations including the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) should teach.

At the outset before directly analysing the ‘significance and impact’ of the Transition Leads; the question of the validity at this point in time of the functioning of the Ministers of Government needs to be raised and explored for corrections accordingly.

The consciousness must be cultivated in the people that the institutionalisation and continuation of a custom over many years do not make this trend ‘ethical and proper’.

It should be clear that the absence of any constitutional challenges to Government’s actions and legislations on particular issues, does not mean that all of such incidents are ‘right and constitutional’.

Moreover, acceptance of the position that once a system seems working with no wrongs being identified and protested about, even if there is evidence of ‘mediocrity and inefficiency’, should not ignore the value to transform this system.

In fact, no political culture or system should be ‘taken for granted’, and to delay needed ‘transformation and advancement’ of the system may just be for exploiting expediency.

Recall the previously internet-circulated article, “Is The 2022 Elections Manifesto Of Grenada’s Main Opposition Complete?”, which inquires on the extent and to which end is the NDC ready and hopeful “to lead a path of Transformation that will change Grenada positively for the benefit of all”, without the explicit mention in its 2022 manifesto of the fundamental issues on the Constitution.

This concern seems to start taking relevance, with the ‘embraced irregularity’ of the proceedings after general elections, by the ‘opposition NDC’ which won the related 23 June 2022 polls.

As a pointed issue which persists for clarification – what takes precedence in the governance of Grenada, is it the Cabinet or the Parliament?

The Grenada Constitution Order 1973 which is the ‘supreme governance authority’, dictates in section 23 for “a Parliament of Grenada which shall consist of Her Majesty, a Senate and a House of Representatives”, and in section 38 that the Parliament may “make laws for the peace, order and good government of Grenada”; section 45 is also noteworthy, regarding the mode of exercising this legislative power.

Although there have been calls to transform this setup involving the ‘power of and allegiance to’ Her Majesty, sections 19 and 57 explain that the Governor-General (GG) shall be Her Majesty’s representative in Grenada.

There is a consequential apparent wrong with the ‘timing and manner’ of the ‘implied’ assignments of those individuals to the Senate and House of Representatives (HoR) on June 30th.

At what point is a Parliament constituted?  At what stage does an elected member to the HoR officially becomes a member of the House – is it an automatic realisation as soon as being elected?  Should the elected and non-elected Ministers be ascribed the ‘Honourable’ title before Parliament is convened?

The ‘blurred separation’ of the Cabinet and Parliament in the Constitution should not allow for misuse.

A Parliament does not exist in perpetuity; its closes on the dissolution by the GG and a new beginning comes “as soon as practicable” after general elections, according to section 53 of the Constitution, under Part Three which addresses the Summoning, Prorogation and Dissolution of Parliament.

Could the GG “appoint a member of the House of Representatives who appears . . . likely to command the support of the majority of the members of the House” as a Prime Minister (subsection 58.2) and make “appointments to the office of Minister . . . from among the Senators and the members of the House of Representatives” (subsection 58.4), without the due establishment or the opening of the Parliament?

Shouldn’t the considered context of section 40 which instructs that every member of a House of Parliament shall not take a seat in the House unless having taken and subscribed before the House the Oath of Allegiance, be that the member is not officially recognised and functional as a parliamentarian until such fulfillment; and is there any relation of this oath-requirement to the existence of a Parliament?

Sections 28, 34 and 41 on presiding in the Houses of Parliament should also be of bearing to this concern. Constituency representatives are elected primarily to perform as lawmakers in the Parliament which is the ‘accountable forum’ for deliberating and questioning the far-reaching businesses of the people.

The Parliament also serves as the source for the functionaries of the Cabinet of Ministers which fashion the Executive of Government as described in Chapter IV of the Constitution.

Related:  How sound is the new NDC government transformational push? - Part II

The elected candidates to the HoR (sections 29 and 35) are often also referred to as parliamentary representatives who may include opposing members to the ruling political party.

The opposing members are usually led by a Leader of the Opposition (section 66) who has tremendous overseeing rights and roles in the ‘Government’, as well as a significant part in completing the Senate (section 24); although the Senate and the HoR can act with vacancies (section 50).

Parliament may determine the offices of and assign portfolios to the Ministers (sections 58 and 60); and understandably therefore, the Cabinet “shall be collectively responsible to Parliament” (section 59). Should a Cabinet operate in ‘usual mode’ with no Parliament being summoned?

Is the experienced attorney, Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, exposed to the endangerment of the authenticity, reputation and survival of his elected NDC-administration?

Has the GG, Dame Cecile La Grenade, erred with the issuing of the instruments of appointment as Government Ministers to those recipients at the Ceremony, realising that Parliament stood dissolved from 16 May 2022 even to present which contains the time of the issuances.

Could former Prime Minister Keith Mitchell claim entitlement on behalf of himself and the immediately past Cabinet colleagues to the Instruments issued on June 30th, on the basis of subsection 58.5 of the Constitution (Parliament “is dissolved”); and/or was the GG’s action ultra vires (subsection 58.9 on conferred powers of “own deliberate judgment”?

In the absence of a Proclamation for the specific purpose of declaring a new Parliament, isn’t the occasion of the State Opening of the First Session with the First Sitting of Parliament (Senate and HoR jointly) after general elections, fundamentally herald the ‘summoning and opening’ of the new Parliament (section 51) and as is the case for all new sessions, lays the foundation for the presentation of the national budget later on?

Should Grenada be brought to face a constitutional crisis on the account of the critical concerns? What are the purposes and interpretations for the constitutional provisions, towards respectable adherence without much ‘perplexities, misgivings and unpleasant consequences’?

There is a school of thought which may be ‘misleading and misrepresenting’ about subsection 51.2 of the Constitution, by concluding that the recently elected and ‘installed’ Administration has a six-month interval up until a corresponding date in November 2022 for the next sitting of Parliament, which would actually be the opening of the Eleventh Parliament, since the last sitting of Parliament before the elections was sometime in May 2022; this provision however seems to be rather relevant to an already existing Parliament.

Subsection 52.2 defines an election cycle, or the normal life of a political administration or of a Parliament, as five years from the date of the first sitting of that Parliament; and this provision should also assist in giving greater focus about the essence of the preceding 51.2.

In fact; subsection 52.2 could be seen as giving allowance for a ‘preparation period’ between an outgoing administration and an incoming administration, from the date of holding the elections to the date of the first sitting of Parliament after the last dissolution, from this last time the GG is virtually in ‘total control’ of national governance consistent with subsection 62.1.

Why would parliamentarians sworn to “honour, uphold and preserve the Constitution”, then function with ‘naiveties, betrayals and disappointments’?

As another case in point, should it be ‘comfortable, uncontroversial and business as usual’ with the ‘invented designation’ of Minister of State instead of employing the constitutional stipulation of Parliamentary Secretary (section 64, Constitution); like the continued erroneous practice of ‘officially’ referring to the Chief of Police (section 89) as Commissioner of Police which can cause serious liability or cost to the Government, especially when the 2016 and 2018 ‘flawed’ constitutional referenda register its rejection by the people and the need to correct the defect.

It is instructive also, to relate the requirements for the tabling and the passing of the Government’s annual budgets in the Parliament, to the importance of the acknowledgement and substantiation by the Parliament of the status of the various ministries and the appropriation of monies for the several programmes for an ensuing financial year, which is in effect about parliamentary authorisation for use from the Consolidation Fund and other public funds.

Within this strict legal framework, unless for certain conditions under Chapter V of the Constitution on Finances (sections 75 to 82), the operations of the incumbent NDC-led administration should be subjected to the 2021 Appropriation Law which itemises the Estimates of Revenues and Expenditures by the electorally-ousted administration of Keith Mitchell’s New National Party; no Parliament has been summoned since elections.

How ‘appropriate and smooth’ then are the transactions including payments and pledges within the new realigned ministries? Of particular interest is the Ministry of Mobilisation, Implementation and Transformation – is this new creation lying dormant until the next Budget Statement and how long should such an ‘awkward’ situation be tolerated?

Meaningful clarifications concerning the hypotheses or the assertions pertinent to the Constitution transmitted herein, ought to be manifestations of goodwill by the State’s powers-that-be, to cherish transparency, accountability, integrity and good governance to the Grenadian people.

These are also the fundamentals of a sound transformational push, and of which ‘conceit and contempt’ should be atypical!

J. K. Roberts