It was a signing ceremony with a difference. The signing ceremony of the 5th Code of Political Conduct to Guide the Election Campaign, which took place on Monday, 6 November at the conference room of the Public Workers Union, featured performances and messages from young people to their would-be leaders.
The event featured a rendition of the national anthem by Spice Strings of the St Andrew’s Learning Centre and featured a message by 13-year old Jada Glean, poetry by young artistes, Darmarlie Antoine and Benedict Brathwaite, and a dramatic satire by Russell Antoine.
Participating in the public signing were 6 political parties and 1 independent candidate. The National Democratic Congress was represented by its chairman, Vincent Roberts. Three of the parties are new to the political scene: Gem Empowerment Movement led by Earl Maitland, The New Beginning led by Rollins Duncan, and the Grenada Progressive Movement of Terry Forrester, former Public Relations Officer of the New National Party. Also participating were the Renaissance Party represented by Washington Edwards and the Movement of Independent Candidates represented by Lawrence Amede. There was one independent candidate, John Fletcher. Following the signing, each representative was presented with signed copy of the code by Archdeacon Christian Glasgow, Chairman of the Conference of Churches, Grenada.
The event opened with the invocation by Archdeacon Glasgow, followed by the national anthem and welcome remarks by Joshua John of the Grenada Bar Association, remarks by Judy Williams, the Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Code of Conduct Process and presentation of the code by Sandra Ferguson. In her remarks, Williams noted that the Code of Political Conduct was an initiative to ‘lift the bar’ of the election campaign. It was grounded in the Constitution of Grenada which enshrined fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens and in the CARICOM Charter of Civil Society which acknowledged the role and responsibility of the people in the governance process of their respective countries.
The Code of Political Conduct sought to have candidates taking responsibility for their behaviour during the campaign and facilitating the creation of an environment of inclusion and meaningful participation of the electorate so that persons could make informed decisions. Williams observed that those candidates and parties which chose to dismiss the invitation to sign the code were sending the wrong signal.
In making reference to recent vehicles and other equipment received by the police force, Williams appealed for ‘sensitivity and discretion’ in the use of the bulletproof vehicles. Also referencing the Panama and Paradise Papers, she lamented that it had become commonplace for our Caribbean islands to be associated with scandals and wrongdoing. But she noted, even though we were small islands, we could still set standards and principles that could be admired. That was the intention of the Code of Political Conduct.
This year’s signing ceremony featured messages from young people to those offering themselves for office. Thirteen-year-old Jada Glean stole the spotlight when she reminded those present to be mindful of the preamble of the Constitution which sets out the principles on which the nation of Grenada is founded. She recommended the preamble as essential study for every citizen, but particularly for candidates who aspire to be the lawmakers and stewards of Grenada’s affairs.
Young poets, Darmalie Antoine and Benedict Brathwaite, delivered stern messages to those offering themselves for office. Antoine spoke of the broken promises of politicians and shattered dreams of youth, while Brathwaite issued a warning that the voices of artists were rising, and they would be heard. Neither did they fear the future. Russel Antoine, another young artist, did a short dramatic satirical piece, Vote GOAT, Grassroots Organised Against Tyranny. A vote for GOAT would ensure de-fence to protect the grass for the kids and milk opportunities of their full potential.
The signing ceremony concluded with another poem, A Voice Stirs by Louise Francois, accompanied Kwabena Amen on the drum, and a vote of thanks delivered by Petipha Lewis, Executive Director of the Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce and closing prayer by Rev Joachim Phillip of the Alliance of Evangelical Churches.
The following parties also received invitations but did not participate: Good Ole Democracy, Grenada Christian Political Party, Grenada Freedom Party International, the New National Party, People Progressive Movement, Progress Party, The Liberal Party and the Tri-Island Freedom Party. Except the following: Good Ole Democracy; Renaissance Party; Movement for Independent Candidates and the Grenada Progressive Movement – information on the invited parties was received from the Parliamentary Elections Office.