How Independent is The Office of Governor-General?

By Dr. Lawrence A. Joseph

     The Grenada Constitution in section 57 provides that the executive authority of Grenada is vested in Her Majesty. This provision conforms with the monarchical system of government that Grenada has. The executive authority may be exercised on behalf of Her Majesty by the Governor-General either directly or indirectly through the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers. In this context the Governor-General is regarded as Head of State and the Prime Minister as Head of Government.

     The executive is usually recognized as that arm of governance which is responsible for the implementation of policy initiatives on behalf of the state. The other arms of governance are the legislature, which is mainly responsible for making laws after policy initiatives are given the go ahead by the executive, and the judiciary which is responsible for adjudicating on legal issues which come up from time to time.

      Whilst section 57 of the Constitution refers to ministers as “officers subordinate” to the Governor-General, can it be said then that the holder of the office of Governor-General is independent and even more powerful than the Prime Minister and his Cabinet? As a means of addressing this question sections 19 and 20 of the Constitution may be examined and analyzed.

      Section 19 of the Constitution establishes the position of Governor-General which holder must be appointed by Her Majesty and must hold office during Her Majesty’s pleasure and who shall be Her Majesty’s representative in Grenada. In reality, it is the Prime Minister and not an incumbent Governor-General who makes a recommendation to the Queen as to the person being nominated to be an incoming Governor-General. It is only after this nomination is made that the Queen appoints. It is not normal for the Queen to disagree with the nomination of the Prime Minister.

      In similar vein, if there is to be an acting Governor-General in accordance with section 20 of the Constitution, although the Constitution provides that “those functions shall be performed by such person as Her Majesty may appoint”, it is the convention, that it is the Prime Minister and not the substantive holder of the post of Governor-General (the Queen’s representative) who would nominate someone to fill that position.

     The above mentioned conventions are aptly supported by section 62 (1) of the Constitution which states “in the exercise of his functions the Governor-General shall act in accordance with the advice of the cabinet or a minister acting under the general authority of the Cabinet except in cases where he is required by the Constitution or any other law, to act in accordance with the advice of any person or authority other than the Cabinet or in his own deliberate judgment.” This provision emphasizes the fact that it is the Prime Minister and his Cabinet who are really in charge.

      Therefore, in as much as neither sections 19 nor 20 made the exception that the Governor-General should act in accordance with the advice of any person or authority other than the Cabinet or in his own deliberate judgment, the responsibility for making the above mentioned appointments rests with the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. With regards to the appointment of a Deputy to the Governor-General as distinct from an acting Governor-General, section 22 of the Constitution makes it clear that an appointment has to be made upon the advice of the Prime Minister.

      Notwithstanding the above, section 108 of the Constitution provides that where the Governor-General is required by the Constitution to perform any function in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister or any other person, the question as to whether the Governor-General has received or acted in accordance with such advice shall not be enquired into in any court of law. In other words, a lot depends upon the integrity of the holder of the post of Governor-General as no court action is possible in the circumstances.

     Despite the above, there are many functions which are exercisable by the Governor-General’s reliance upon his own deliberate judgment. These include the appointment of the Supervisor of Elections (s. 35); the appointment and removal of a Prime Minister in certain prescribed circumstances (s. 58); the appointment and removal of the Leader of the Opposition in certain prescribed circumstances (s. 66); and the appointment of three Senators to the Senate where there is no Leader of the Opposition      (s. 62 (2) and s. 24).

      It may be concluded therefore that in certain respects, the independence of the Governor-General is guaranteed by the Constitution however, the overall governance of the country generally rests in the hands of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.

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