by J K Roberts (Sound Public Policies Advocate)
7 constitutional amendment bills have been passed unconscientiously and dishonourably by both the Upper and Lower Houses in the Ninth Parliament of Grenada during its Fourth Session, in June/July 2016. Those bills are now pending the verdict of the people on Thursday, 27 October 2016, at a constitutional referendum. Any of the bills which can be proven to be misleading and mischievous is sufficient for the people to reject all of them and to condemn the powers-that-be. The range of the bills associated with the referendum and the treatment given to them by the powers-that-be are addressed in a previous article “Grenada Constitution Reform: In Darkness.”
One of the amendment bills is the Constitution of Grenada (Name of State) (Amendment) Bill, 2016. This bill has its basis in the call over a number of decades by the residents of Carriacou and Petite Martinique for the names of their territories to appear on the passport of the State. The State has been officially referred to as Grenada and described as being tri-island, giving recognition to mainland Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique amongst a number of smaller surrounding islets. The smaller islets are under the jurisdiction of the State of Grenada; most of them are used but are not inhabited, except for Calivigny Island which is being advertised as a private island destination. Unfortunately, the arrangement on the occupancy of Calivigny Island is not clear to the Grenadian people, especially in terms of ownership, taxation and security. Further, Isle De Ronde and Isle Cailles could be on the verge of been ascribed “independent autonomy” from Grenada, as Development Projects seem to be pursued.
Meaningful discussions have not been had to ascertain the reasons for the call of the residents of Carriacou and Petite Martinique to have their names on the passport, and to analyse and rationalize their case. In fact, it would be of interest to know of any reports on legal challenges and travel embarrassments faced by the residents, when using the official passport as present. Could it also be that the residents want to be assured on whether or not their islands are part of the tri-island State or that they belong to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), when considering the pertinent allusions coming from officials and other persons of SVG, including Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, on the issue of lands lying between latitudes 12 31’50”N and 13 23’30”N and longitudes 61 07’30”W and 61 28’00”W.
More than the length of time of the call for the names on the passport, there has been strong advocacy for cessation of the sister isles of Carriacou and Petite Martinique from mainland Grenada. Son of the soil, Lawyer Anslem Clouden, resurrected this aspiration in 2006, as highlighted in the article “Greater Autonomy for Carriacou”. Having a feeling of neglect by the governing administration of the State and remoteness from the affairs and amenities which mainland Grenada enjoys, on the one hand, and having a sense of possessing the capacity and resources to prosper and survive without depending on mainland Grenada, on the other hand, must have prompted the residents of the sister isles to make their claims. Moreover, the grievances of the residents ought to be understood and credited in terms of the disregard by the Government to fulfil the provision for a local government council for Carriacou and Petite Martinique under section 107 of the 1974 Constitution.
The extent of the requirements and implications of adding Carriacou and Petite Martinique on the passport has not been thoroughly considered and evaluated. Even at this juncture, there is no enlightenment and settlement as to whether the adding of Carriacou and Petite Martinique is a mere administrative procedure or a constitutional change requiring a referendum. Notwithstanding, meeting the call is about re-branding the State and this has the tendency of a national reformation. Re-branding or reforming the State for the purpose promoted will be very costly and far-reaching; this is not only for the local people in terms of an increased price for a new version of the passport, but there are also regional and international impacts such as for new Eastern Caribbean currencies.
The Name of State Bill seeks to enact an Act to alter the Constitution of Grenada to change the name of the state from “Grenada” to “Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique”. The Explanatory Memorandum states that the bill would amend the constitution for one object, namely, the changing of the name of the State. The memorandum also declares that “it is desirable to change the name of the State from “Grenada” to “Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique”; for purposes of inclusion, embracement and identity. The proposals to achieve the stated object would form eight clauses of the Act, but there are indications that those clauses reflect a tangent from the object. It has never been anticipated that the response to the call for the inclusion of the names of Carriacou and Petite Martinique on the passport would generate so much controversies, trickeries and political manoeuvrings.
The state definition as well as the geographical expanse of Grenada is not mentioned in the 1974 Independence Constitution. The meaning of Grenada as exist presently, follows the assignment given in the Interpretation and General Provisions Act (Cap 153 of the continuous revised edition of the laws of Grenada); and this meaning may have been adopted from the Interpretation Act 1889 of the United Kingdom, consistent with subsection 111(15) of the constitution. Subsection 3(1) of Cap 153 provides that “Grenada”, “the island” and “the State” include Carriacou, Petite Martinique and the adjacent islands, and all territorial waters adjacent thereto; this declaration would be consistent with international laws and treaties on territorial boundaries and economic zones. Undoubtedly, the smaller islets with Calivigny Island, Isle De Ronde and Isle Cailles are included as part of the State of Grenada and contribute to the asset and heritage of the State; this position the people must jealously guard.
A clause of the Name of State Bill proposes to introduce the definition, ““Grenada” means Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique”, within the Constitution under section 111. Most apparent is that this clause goes opposite to and even beyond the object of the Act; it promotes disentitlement and restriction and re-configures the public domain for the Grenadian people. This is a reasonable conclusion and the clause deserves pointed clarifications otherwise, especially since the explanatory memorandum to the bill also declares that Grenada, as the State, comprises three public islands, which are Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. This new definition tends to classify and differentiate constitutionally, public islands and private islands. Many questions and problems arise, which the people cannot afford to ignore; the writings should already be on the wall with the passage of the Possessory Titles Law of 2016 which will also give private occupiers and foreign investors legal titles to State-owned properties.
It becomes more and more imperative to analyze the Amendment Bills clause by clause, to get a true understanding of the intent, content, substance, technicalities and implications therein. Moreover, the bills must never be analyzed in isolation. The experiences on governance policies and practices must be brought to bear on making a conscious and informed decision at the referendum. The national address by Prime Minister Keith Mitchell on Tuesday 28 June 2016 with his reference to the referendum must never be taken lightly. Mitchell made the point that the reform is needed for complete transformation to take place; he said, “It is that reality that has influenced the nation’s push for constitutional reform, which will set a more relevant legal framework for the advancement of our people, the enhancement of our dignity and the future of our children and grandchildren”. However, if the Name of State bill, in its present construct, is to appraise the real push for the reform then the transformation is unpatriotic and treacherous to the future sovereignty, welfare and sustainability of Grenada.
Emerging questions on the Name of State bill surround legitimizing the corrupt governance syndrome; the threat to the nation’s resources, heritages and sovereignty; the mortgaging and swapping of the people; and the New Economy Vision for Grenada as set-out in the We Will Deliver 2013 manifesto of Mitchell’s New National Party. The onslaught on the people with the one-party autocratic state Project Grenada, the troubling Citizenship By Investment programme, the first-class citizens Blue Growth Coastal Master Plan, the haphazard National Sustainable Development Plan 2030, and the austerity measures of the International Monetary Fund Home-Grown Structural Adjustment programme is being devised and presented skillfully for sanctioning by the people in the referendum, and as such removing all forms of culpability from the powers-that-be for any crises which would result from the bills as well as from the onslaught. Despite, the people must be prepared to derail all such conspiracy hatched.
The powers-that-be have been presenting simplistic views to the people on the Amendment Bills. Particularly, the emotions of the residents of Carriacou and Petite Martinique are being abused to fulfill the narrow interest of the powers-that-be. The residents are told that voting for the Name of State bill would realize improvements to their social and economic prosperity, and the names on the passport would promote marketing to attract tourists to their islands. This fallacy is ridiculous and appalling when there is evidence of no interest by the powers-that-be for better governance and autonomy for the residents, in terms of the local government requirement in the constitution after forty-two years.
Consultations on changing the name of the State are not exhausted and do not have consensus. Constitutional Lawyer, Sir Lawrence Joseph, gives a perspective on the issue in his internet-circulated article “What’s in a name? (Reviewing the Constitution)”. Moreover, many alternative names, such as Grenada and the Grenadines, other than Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique have been presented for consideration, but the powers-that-be have not entertained them purely for political expediency. The late Grenadian Jurisprudence Professor, Simeon Randolph Mc Intosh, advanced in the 2013 revised draft new constitution for Grenada the designation, “Grenada is a sovereign, democratic, republican State which shall be known as The Commonwealth of Grenada.”
If the name of the State proposed for the referendum is to be applied then the stated single object for the Act can be realized without all the gimmicks and confusions now involved, by taking a pattern from the Constitution of SVG. That is, “St Vincent (which comprises the inhabited islands of St Vincent, Bequia, Union Island, Canouan, Mustique, Mayreau, Petite St Vincent, Prune Islands and all other inhabited or uninhabited islands, islets, cays or lands lying between latitudes 12 31’50”N and 13 23’30”N and longitudes 61 07’30”W and 61 28’00”W) is henceforth to be styled St Vincent and the Grenadines.” Moreover, it must be deduced that once constitutionally established, the form of the name of the State on its passport could be different from the form of the name outlined in its constitution.
Section 2 of the Name of State bill reads, “This Act shall come into effect on such date as may be appointed by Proclamation issued by the Governor-General and published in the Gazette; and different dates may be appointed for the various provisions of this Act”. Notwithstanding this provision may be of standard format for the enacting of laws, there must be special cases which for example would fit the purpose and circumstance of a referendum. A fixed date for realizing the change in the name of the State should be explicit, without any open-endedness and left to the wishes and fancies of the powers-that-be. Ensuring an exact date would give more hope to the residents of Carriacou and Petite Martinique and prevent any non-compliance as for the constitutional obligation for local government. Laws are often enacted, without the mechanism to implement and enforce but with disadvantage and mockery to the people; and so every effort must be made to have no afflictions from the Amendment Bills.
All goodwill peoples everywhere and particularly those of mainland Grenada do respect the aspiration and determination of the residents of Carriacou and Petite Martinique for inclusion, embracement and identity, as well as for a local government council. These peoples and including the residents of Carriacou and Petite Martinique however, would not tolerate any inclination and resemblance of loopholes and irregularities in any proposal which purports to achieve a noble cause.
It is of eager interest to know what will be contained in the final Name of State amendment bill to be used for the constitutional referendum. The puzzle on the ‘attitude and approach’ of the powers-that-be for the constitution reform project has been highlighted and became prominent when it was discovered that the said bill been passed on its second reading in June 2016 in the House of Representatives is of a different content to what was tabled firstly in December 2015. This discovery gives further proof of the arbitrariness, hastiness, inconsistency and uncertainty by which the bills are drafted and by which the referendum is scheduled. Thus, Grenadians with conscience will discredit the integrity of all the bills.
Read the document of the grouping of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), “CSOs on Name of State Amendment Bill”. It is the first part in a series of presentations to be publicized after having thorough review of each of the amendment bills. The presentations will help to sensitize the general public as well as to formulate facts sheets. Although a member of the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC), CSOs have being constantly lamenting the process undertaken for the referendum and the need to have the involvement and bonding of the people with a proper process.