The constitution reform referendum, which was scheduled for this Thursday, 27 October, was pushed back to November 24, and that is a good thing for at least one reason. It removes from the table the argument, the complaint, of some Grenadians that they have not had sufficient time to study the bills on the proposed amendment to the Grenada constitution, which was adopted at independence on 7 February 1974.
These are 7 relatively simple bills that eligible voters nationwide are being asked to consider and support or not support; to pencil in an X either for “yes” or an X for “no,” on whether they approve the proposed constitution changes, including formalizing the name of the nation to be the State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. It also means, for example, that the passport will henceforth include the names of Carriacou and Petite Martinique on its cover.
We encourage all eligible voters to cast ballots on referendum day, Thursday, 24 November. All members of the editorial and management team of Caribupdate Weekly will be voting. As individuals, our positions on some of the bills are different; in other instances, there is unanimity among us.
For instance, none of our team members supported the idea of term limit for the holder of the office of prime minister, yet everyone committed to voting in favour of the bill. The feeling was that curbing people’s freedom of choice, on whom they would like to be their leader, is intrinsically undemocratic.
As well, there was a disfavour to the notion of possibly rewarding a failed candidate, whom the electorate rejected, by always having a leader of the opposition in parliament. However, we all — cognizant that the nation is bigger than both the individual and the feeling of the individual — have pledged to vote “yes’’ to this particular bill.
We hold strongly that the process of constitutional reform is a necessary step in truly establishing our independence, and in consummating our sovereignty. Independence and sovereignty are more than having our own flag and national anthem. They are deeper than that. They’re also about developing our own institutions and systems and having faith in them.
The referendum postponement — and its attendant explanation on the reasons for the delay and the political opposition’s casting doubts on those reasons, and the continuation of the discussions and consultation on the bills — were all big news in the past week. But, the nation also has just marked 2 significant occasions: 19 and 25 October.
19 October is indeed one of the saddest days in modern Grenada history. On that day in 1983, internal political strife within the New Jewel Movement (NJM) and People’s Revolutionary Government spilt into streets when ordinary Grenadians freed popular Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, who had been under house arrest. The prime and a mass group of supporters marched to Fort George, and it was there that Prime Minister Bishop and some of his supporters — including government ministers and civilians — were killed after a battalion of soldiers stormed the fort. Other people were injured in the soldiers’ gunfire, or hurt themselves after jumping to safety off the side of the fort’s wall.
The Fort George killings provided an opening for the United States, which always was determined to squash Grenada’s 1979 NJM-led Revolution. The Americans finally made their move on Grenada on 25 October 1983.
The US not only unleashed the might of its military on the tiny rock, Grenada but also set in motion its public relations machinery to justify its action. It was sold, variously, as a “rescue mission” and an “intervention’’; an attempt to stop the spread of communism, and an undertaking to avoid the use of the airstrip of the still unfinished international airport at Point Salines as a Russian military base. Today, the US government and the American public have dispensed of all those niceties. They simply called 25 October 1983, what it is and was — an invasion.
Grenadians, however, are still quibbling over the description of 25 October 1983. New words, such as “rescue-vasion” and “intervasion,” have even been coined as Grenadian descriptors for the US military action here 33 years ago. Our quibbling and word ambivalence are based, in part, on politics — whether one is NJM, Grenada United Labour Party, National Democratic Congress, New National Party, etc; and based, also, on how one was personally affected by the Revolution, and by the events of both 19 and 25 October.
What now is required, though, is for the nation to formally honour the Grenadian martyrs of 19 October and also those who made the ultimate sacrifice by defending the nation on 25 October 1983. All countries, including the US, honour their soldiers, whether they died in a just war or an unjust war. We, too, should do no less for our Grenadian soldiers and militiamen.
We should honour all our martyrs, beginning with the heroic Caribs, and include those of 19 and 25 October 1983.
Let’s pay tribute to them by establishing a “Heroes of the Homeland Day.”