By Lawrence A Joseph
It is most appalling how my name is being bandied about in a most despicable manner either because of political immaturity or because of expediency or because of both. Political immaturity refers to the situation where someone is a child in politics and needs to grow up. Expediency refers to the situation where it suits one’s purposes to do or say something despite the fact that it is improper to do so.
The 1 May edition of the “New Today” newspaper reported that the deputy political leader of the main opposition party, Mr Joseph Andall has called for the revocation of my appointment as advisor to government. The reasons which he gave for so saying were that “too much money is being spent on payment to (Dr Lawrence Joseph) to do absolutely nothing… (and that he)… does not see the need for the services provided by Dr Joseph”. He went on further to state that the government should “ask Dr Joseph to volunteer his expertise as and when needed.” I do have a contract with the government of Grenada from March of this year 2015. The contract requires me to be advisor to parliamentarians and to the Ministry of Legal Affairs. I am not a public officer and am not provided with an office.
I do not imagine that anyone will deny that I have had immense experience as a parliamentarian from since 1984. During those past thirty years or so I have been President of the Senate on two separate occasions (1984–1988 and 2013–2014), Speaker of the House of Representatives (2003–2008), cabinet minister holding various portfolios including Minister for Education, Labour, Legal Affairs and Attorney-General. In those capacities I gained much knowledge in parliamentary procedures and I participated in many parliamentary conferences all over the world.
I imagine also that no one will deny that I am adequately qualified to advise the Ministry of Legal Affairs. From 1974 to 1978 I toiled on factory floors in London in order to pay my school fees in my quest to become a Barrister at law. Out of my own savings and windfall from the sale of property I was able to obtain from the University of London my Masters Degree in Law (LLM) in 2006, a Certificate in Legislative Drafting in 2009 and my Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) in Constitutional Law in 2012.
I have had practical experience in the drafting of legislation. My most significant achievement in this area was the drafting of the Labour Code comprising the Employment Act and the Labour Relations Act of 1999. Prior to my input, these bits of legislation were in the doldrums for over twelve years. The Labour Code is still substantially good law to this day even after sixteen years.
The Legal Affairs Department in Grenada and especially its drafting unit is perhaps the smallest in the OECS. Contrary to what was said by Mr Andall, there will always be a need for more trained lawyers working for the government. By the advice they give, lawyers have the capacity of saving millions of dollars for governments. From the moment I hit the ground in March I became continuously occupied in dispensing my assignments. The allegation that I am being paid for doing “absolutely nothing” is a complete misrepresentation of what is actually taking place. Presently, among other things, I am completely immersed with reviewing and advising on the Bills for the proposed constitutional amendments and preparing for the referendum which is due before year’s end.
Whilst in England I turned down a job offer to be a lecturer at a prestigious university which offer would have compensated me with a salary five times more than what I am receiving from the present contract. Mr Andall allowed his imagination to take wings by speculating that I may be receiving $15,000 to $18,000 per month. Indeed this is the normal range of salary for people with my qualifications in many countries of the Caribbean. Many are working for much more than this. However, he will be surprised to learn that my emolument is less than half of the lowest mentioned figure. Moreover it is a “barebones” salary without any other emolument.
As Mr Andall appears to be bright I am giving him some homework to do. He can write it down in his exercise book. The question is: what is my overall salary if my monthly after-tax emolument is $4,900, bearing in mind that 30% of my salary has to go towards personal income tax? Another piece of homework for Mr Andall to consider is: If you were to become Prime Minister tomorrow, what will be your first priority? I hope that the answer will not be that he is going to jail anybody as was stated as the uppermost intention of a prior political leader. The lesson to be learnt here is: Think not about how much you can hurt your countrymen, but think about how much you can uplift your country. This represents true political maturity.