By J K Roberts (Sound Public Policies Advocate)
The ‘attitude and approach’ of the powers-that-be on the exercise toward constitutional law reform as articulated in the 2013 elections manifesto of Dr Keith Mitchell’s New National Party (NNP) has been denounced as being despicable and deplorable from the start, and recent occurrences and utterances have being verifying this pronouncement. Throughout the exercise, from the ill-conceived establishment of the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) in January 2014 to the ill-conceived arrangement for the October 2016 constitutional referendum, there have been revelations of an apparent well-orchestrated thrust to mislead the Grenadian people. The thrust to mislead is to corrupt the noble cause for the exercise, to betray the sovereign will of the people and to despise moral and democratic principles. The thrust to mislead also encroaches on the legal correctness for the exercise; and particularly there are reasonable grounds on which an injunction can be pursued against the holding of the (re)scheduled referendum. Read previous articles, “Grenada Constitution Reform: Referendum in Question” and “Grenada Constitution Reform: Unconstitutional Acts”, for gaining an appreciation for knowing, upholding and defending the truth.
Grenada’s constitution reform project has been plunged by the CRAC into darkness with misrepresentation, misinformation and mismanagement on the pertinent issues; this is deliberate in an effort to mislead the people into an unknown socio-political destination. The darkness pervades the entire spectrum of the project, including the so-called public consultations and the so-called technically assisted drafting of the various legislative provisions. The intensity of the darkness and the destruction it poses, far surpass the dark epoch which surrounded the introduction of the 1974 Independence Constitution. In fact, CRAC cannot measure-up to the patriotic goodwill for ‘political governance of indigenous identity’ for Grenada, as illuminated with the spirit of intent of the June (July) 1983 Constitutional Commission headed by Trinidadian Senior Counsel Allan Alexander, the February 1985 Constitution Review Commission headed by Vincentian Queen Counsel Sir Fred Phillips, the 2002 February Constitution Review Commission headed by Grenadian Justice Lyle St Paul, and of the 2010/2012 versions of drafted new constitution for Grenada by Grenadian Professor Simeon R Mc Intosh.
The powers–that–be try to rely on the different ‘one-shot’ missions of review of the constitution to propagate the myth that the people have had good sensitization, participation, education and readiness for the referendum. Chairman of the CRAC, Dr Francis Alexis QC, also holds the view that the process has broad consensus and that this is a very impressive background to plans for a Referendum Day in Grenada in 2016. Despite this bluff, the legislative provisions for the referendum do not reflect the desires and sentiments of the people; neither would any endorsements by the people be reflected. Thus, the clause for the enactment of the Bills should include ‘by and with the advice and consent of the people of Grenada’. Moreover, the date on which the resultant Acts shall come into effect should be specified and not to be reserved at the fantasy of the Executive of the government. The people must be guaranteed that their expectations are not smashed with bogus excuses for failure to operate an implementation mechanism for meeting the provisions of the Acts. It is indeed misleading to claim that the process for the reform(s) in Grenada, “reflects the key realities of such a process” for a ‘noble constitutional’ undertaking; recall the article “Grenada Constitution Reform: Forms and Objects”.
Although the titles of the seven 7 constitutional Amendment Bills sound reasonably appealing, the bills are all deficient and misleading. They are loaded with ambiguities, abnormalities, errors, overkills, red herrings and extraneous inclusions to mask ulterior agendas. The concerns, controversies and challenges by the people on the bills are genuine but these are dismissed by the power-that-be as being antagonistic, politically motivated and a display of an attitude of arrogance. The Rights and Freedoms Bill would negatively affect the cultural and social norms, as well as the citizenship configuration and political dimension of the country. The Name of State Bill would negatively affect the sovereignty, jurisdiction and security of the country. The CCJ Bill would negatively affect the obtaining of pure and true justice, as well as the role of the people in decisions on national policies. The Fixed Date for Elections Bill, the Elections and Boundaries Commission Bill, the Leader of the Opposition Bill and the Term of Office of Prime Minister Bill would constitutionalize the travesty and tragedy of parliamentary democracy in the country. The bills are open-ended with unsaid languages or unwritten texts.
The Amendment Bills are actually traps for the unsuspecting and the non-objective; but the powers–that–be have also being misleading themselves by believing that every Grenadian falls in the category of those passive persons. For the analytical and patriotic minds, it is unmistakable that the primary motivation for the bills is to accommodate the requests, deals and conditions of ‘external’ persons; the social lifestyles, as well as the cultural, religious and political philosophies of most of these persons are foreign and offensive to the traditions of the locals. Particularly, the Grenadian people are threatened to a new form of neo-colonialization and/or a new form of dictatorship; and unfortunately, the people are swayed to license this new orientation by voting wrongly or by voting uninformed, on the bills. Thus, the right to vote and the qualifications for parliamentarians in the Rights and Freedoms Bill are not isolated from the ‘public island’ concept to the Name of State Bill and from the judicial redress environment under the CCJ Bill. The bills are all designed and directed to entrench and to protect the stakes of the external persons, over the local people. Then the local is lure by the authority to accept that the bills are imperative for Grenada to adapt to global trends; making special citations to the declarations of the Commonwealth, the conventions of the United Nations and the commitments to Caricom.
The Grenadian public is being misled to believe and to settle that the issues which are of concern and consequence for the referendum are limited to the seven Amendment Bills. However, critically germane to the integrity of the outcome of the referendum are the Constitution of Grenada (Restructuring) (Amendment) Bill which has been gazetted as Act No. 24 of 2016 and the Constitutional Referendum Bill which became Act No. 25 of 2016. These Acts were passed in Parliament in darkness and the people remain in ignorance, to the extent that there is no easy access and active discussions on those haphazard and hazardous Acts. The two extra related bills had deserved the same level of scrutiny for content, substance, technicality, application and implication as the Amendment Bills; the core of control of the referendum lies in the then Acts. Also review, “Grenada Constitution Reform: In Darkness” and “Grenada Constitution Reform: A One Sided Affair.”
The Referendum Act (#25 of 2016) makes provision for the mechanisms for the holding of the poll for altering the constitution and certain other constitutional instruments. Extensive regulations in the form of Statutory Rules and Orders accompany the application of the Act. Interestingly, the processes pertinent to the Act have further concretised the ugliness on the intent, the modus operandi and the credibility of the powers-that-be for the referendum. It is strange, questionable and disturbing that the Bill for this Act was certified as a Money Bill by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, pursuant to the provisions of section 47(2) of the constitution; this declaration by the Speaker seems to be a misleading phenomenon since it appears to be in contradiction to the definition and application of a money bill from section 49 of the same constitution. The cancellation of the writs for the referendum for 27 October and the publication of new writs for 24 November could be judged illegal, based on the provisions of the Act and on the reasons advanced for the postponement. Study on the Internet “Statement from the Government on the Referendum” and “24 November is the new referendum date”.
Attorney–General AK Cajeton Hood and CRAC’s chairman, constitutional lawyer Alexis, on 18 October 2016 at an ‘unplanned’ press conference, gave a surprising announcement of the postponement for the referendum. The officials expressed that given the magnitude and historical significance of the bills, the government has come to the conclusion that there are certain issues which need to be addressed more fully and has therefore decided that “it would better serve the public good if an extension of approximately one month be given for the education process to be completed”. It must not be missed though that in June 2015 Legal Affairs Minister Elvin Nimrod stated in the Parliament that the date proposed for the referendum had been changed three consecutive times already and this was only merely to accommodate a broader cross-section of the public and to give an opportunity to provide much more information and education to the people. This ‘education deficit’ seems to be the alibi for the missteps and apparent illegal steps in setting the referendum date; but definitely this situation is an indictment on the CRAC. Moreover, this latest slip-up presents a gross misleading phenomenon to the prime minister, which would thwart and jeopardize his plans for the constitutionally due general elections in 2018. Read on the Internet the article “Grenada Constitution Reform: Is Prime Minister Mitchell Fed Up?”
The miscalculation of the fixing of 27 October for the referendum, or whatever reason(s) offered for the new date, opens the possibility of finding a string of inconsistencies of the provisions of the Referendum Act and of its Regulations, with the general framework of the Representation of the People Act, including the fashioning of the ballot paper. It has already been proven that the principal Act was produced without due consideration, when within less than a month of its proclamation, it had to be amended by the Constitution Referendum (Amendment) Act (No. 26 of 2016). The point for warning for vigilance on the legislative and institutional conduct for the referendum is strengthened on the premise of the failures and reputes of the powers-that-be. This warning is to be taken seriously when the general perception on the (re)fixing of the date for the referendum is really about the apparent filing by Lawyer Jimmy Bristol for an injunction against the first Writs.
The accusation by Attorney–at–Law, Celia Clyne–Edwards QC, against Elvin Nimrod, particularly brings into sharp focus the credibility of Nimrod and maybe of the government, on issues of the referendum. Nimrod has been accused of misleading the Grenadian people on two far-reaching national matters. This is in terms of the JURIST pilot project which is geared at reducing the backlog of court cases and the Legal Profession Act which is purported to govern the behaviour of lawyers. Google to read the article, “Nimrod accused of misleading the public”; and note how the female Queen Counsel (QC) laments that it is wrong for the Honourable Minister to play politics with judicial matters. This scolding on Nimrod may have prompted Dr Mitchell to withdraw Nimrod from speaking further on the referendum, as Nimrod is noticeably absent from subsequent press conferences and is noiseless on the embarrassing episode on the reissuing of writs for the referendum.
Astute persons may have already concluded that Honourable Nimrod has been apparently tagged as the Misleading Minister. Nimrod is referred to as the Deputy Prime Minister of Grenada, a title which is not constitutional; and he has been also designated Minister for Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs, and Local Government, even when there is no semblance of local government as provided for in the constitution. In the article “Grenada Constitution Reform: United Nations Position”, the point is made that it has been most unfortunate and disgusting when Legal Affairs Minister Elvin Nimrod misled the Honourable House of Representatives on 19th June 2015, and by extension misleads the Grenadian people when he sought to explain the changes to the proposed date for the referendum. Nimrod had failed to express that the need for more participation, consultation and preparation for the referendum has been advised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and that UNDP is calling also for a better organized and formalized mechanism involving civil society to accomplish this noble exercise. Is conscience conditional and contextual?
Regrettably, Nimrod may have even misled the General Debate of the Seventy-first Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September 2016 in New York. The statements by the minister on the issues of the so-called broad constitution reform are not conveying a genuine and clear picture of the sociopolitical status of Grenada. Grenada has been portrayed as an uncivilized and undemocratic society in which the people have not being enjoying basic human rights and thus the reform(s) are now trying “to embrace opportunities to consolidate democratic values and practices in civic life”. It is outrageous to send the impression that Grenada is plagued with forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, children have being denied universal education, eligible persons are denied the right to vote, and with other predicaments including lack of affordable healthcare, food security and clean water and air. Is the constitution hostile to or inapt for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals? Also google to study, “General Assembly of the United Nations/General Debate/Statement by Honourable Elvin Nimrod Minister for Foreign Affairs of Grenada”.
It is misleading and unbecoming for Legal Affairs and Foreign Affairs Nimrod to state to the United Nations that Carriacou, together with Petite Martinique and Grenada, makes up the tri-island state of Grenada and to further aver the possible change in the name of the State at the upcoming referendum so as to better represent collective identity of the nation. The fact is that Grenada is not officially or is not even geographically a tri-island state. Nimrod seems to be confirming and asserting the ‘controversial’ public island concept for the Name of State Bill, when he should be aware that Grenada is better described as an archipelago, in accordance with the Interpretation and General Provisions Act which declares that “Grenada”, “the island” and “the State” include Carriacou, Petite Martinique and the adjacent islands, and all territorial waters adjacent thereto.
Could the conscience of a sober voter be misled to approve a grievously misled constitutional referendum?