by Jerry Edwin
The Silly Season is right on schedule for its 5-year cycle and soon to the polls Grenada will go. This season is characterised by island-wide reggae rallies, calypso conventions and political putdowns.
However, for the poor male members of the electorate and their vulnerable sisters, it’s the continuation of more state violence, legislative disregard and inaction. In that sense, Grenada is similar to other Caribbean micro-states content to fake seriousness about national development every 5 years, at the same time masking an underbelly of spiraling sex crimes and political contradictions.
Though Caribbean people remain goodnatured, they no longer laugh without being tickled neither are they scratching when they’re not itched, as Martin Luther King Jr once described the awakening of African-Americans during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s.
The NNP and the NDC seem to agree that state violence should continue the practice of flogging poor men for minor crimes and police officers should continue to be unresponsive to desperate telephone calls from terrorised women and girls battered by their husbands and boyfriends.
Between 2008 -2013 the National Democratic Congress had a huge majority in Parliament. Not one legislator at that time took a peek at the colonial-era law that approved flogging of poor men, or passed enabling laws empowering women to bring cases to court for negligent police response to domestic battery.
In 2013, the current government swept every 1 of the 15 seats in the house and far from acting as the party of the poor and vulnerable, it has condoned whipping poor male citizens. In Grenada, we have many laws, but very little order.
One law bans Obeah in the Magistrate’s Court, another makes it a criminal offence to play African drums close to any town centre. One notorious law makes it a crime for one citizen to say anything that is offensive to another citizen. Our law says a young girl can consent to sex at 16, but at that age she is too young to have an alcoholic beverage in a bar. Too many Laws in our books are outdated and of no aid in our nation’s progress.
Over the last 5 years the government has enjoyed the luxury of a total majority in parliament and it has passed some interesting Laws.
There is a toothless Health Ordinance that plays blind to the open-air food stalls with no running water which now operate within spitting distance of the island’s main open sewer.
Less than 6 weeks ago, parliament passed a pro-recidivist law that eviscerates certain felonies from a convicted criminal’s record regardless of the defendant’s multiple landings at Richmond Hill Prison.
To be fair, the legislators earn a credit when a platoon of tax collection measures were enacted a couple of years ago to bring Grenada into tax compliance with itself and its economic reality. But that credit fades into thin air when parliament then passed a tax reporting law that renders Grenada like its Caribbean neighbors, an official tax collector of the United States Government.
American Law has now become fiat as the FACTA regime requires Grenadian taxpayers to fork over their scant income to purchase an expensive tax detection computer software programme for the benefit of the US Treasury Department.
The ‘ayes’ in parliament have it; yes, the ‘ayes’ have it for those poor legislative choices.
The President of the Senate, a once formidable trade unionist has adopted an atavist tone of late, publicly preening that one law should it pass he would support, is the flogging of sexual molesters. He has also vowed to participate in any slavery re-enactment as the man with the whip!
Organisers from the Ministry of Culture say they want to attract tourists to the slave re-enactments who ostensibly will capture that exciting period of Caribbean life on their mobile phone cameras.
They imagine that the visitors will take selfies with the senator lashing other actors, so those precious images are shared among friends and family when they return to Europe and North America.
Politicians and their natural contradictions are an odd couple, but they are fixtures in the Caribbean landscape.
If Grenada wants to be the leading jurisdiction of mass whippings for sex crimes, please make no exemption or plea bargain for Protestant pastors and their throngs of evangelists, or for Catholic priests and the Bible-toting prurient.
Earlier this year in Jamaica, it was reported that a group of women confronted a pastor accused of sexually molesting a young girl and they busted his head with a tambourine right there inside the church.
Since March, the Tambourine Army has been coordinating marches against sexual violence up and down the islands.
At this point in human civilisation we ought to remind ourselves that public outcry will not end sexual violence or general incidents of crime. And neither will floggings.
Martin Luther King Jr wisely reminded us decades ago that morality cannot be legislated, even though laws are necessary to regulate public conduct.
In Grenada, members of our legislative chambers did not get that memo. They want the poor and vulnerable to keep getting licks either at the police station or in the privacy of their homes.
Although magistrates are sworn to uphold Grenada’s Laws which ban the immediate whipping of men until 14 days after conviction and sentence, these Lower Court judges remit the man ‘forthwith,’ albeit illegally, to the nearest police station to ensure he loses his constitutional right to due process and his dignity.
Perhaps there should be a flogging law for a magistrate who violates the Laws of Grenada? We will then become a society of licks not of laws.
According to OSAC, a division of the US State Department which tracks crime statistics in other countries, in 2016 Grenada had the highest number of sexual assaults in the Eastern Caribbean (258). Barbados and Antigua-Barbuda had 64 incidents. UNICEF has similar numbers.
They say numbers don’t lie but the people who collect data on sex crimes are either off on their own frolic, or we are in an alternate reality.
Consider this: New York City Police Department reported 467 rapes in 2016 and Jamaica reported 480 for the same period. It is really true that Grenada reported 258 cases of sexual assaults during the same period? The 5 Boroughs of New York City have a population of 8.5 million, and Jamaica has 3 million.
How is it that Grenada with .8% the population of America’s largest city and 3% the population of Jamaica, has 50% of their sex crimes? Are Catholic priests doing the counting? Because by now we all know how resistant that organisation is to accurately reporting its clergy’s sex abuse of vulnerable boys and young women. Hush up! We don’t talk about sex assaults by priests in the Caribbean. But if the numbers are correct, we are out of time for convening a National Commission on the Examination of Sexual Violence in Grenada.
The cyclical appearance of the Code of Political Conduct means well in its attempt to rationalise the discordant Silly Season for the public good, but it has no impact on the politicians or the election results. The code makes civil society feel good but feeling good in a crisis is like the house band jamming while the Titanic is going under. Here in Grenada, the more contradictions abound, the merrier some of us are. Thankfully not everyone laughs from being uninvitingly tickled.
Finally, our Prime Minister who may be the best vote counter and politician-gyrator in the region has accomplished a noteworthy first: his ground game is so awesome that it has at last transformed the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Nazim Burke, from a boringly staid political corpse into a frenzied waist-pelting bacchanal-induced enthusiast. Naz is undoubtedly a good man, but he is in the wrong sport.
Friends, the Silly Season is here again so be on the lookout for more waist grinding but glaringly absent will be any grand struggles with difficult legislative and social challenges.
Neither of the 2 major political parties would have it any other way.