by JK Roberts
Grenada’s current version of a Social Partners official existence, called the Committee of Social Partners (CSP), stems from the sweep of the polls on 19 February 2013 by the opposition New National Party (NNP) against the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The main objective promoted of the CSP is to advance national development through social dialogue, inclusive governance and national unity. Consequently; the CSP “collaborated freely and in good faith (a) framework for inclusive engagement and dialogue to foster the sustainable and balanced development of (the) country”, in the form of a Social Compact with a historic signing on 13 January 2015 by its members, except the representative of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). The CSP consists of representatives of the Business or Private Sector, Labour Movement, Non-Governmental Organisations Community (or the CSOs), Faith-Based Organisations, and the Honourable Prime Minister (as Chair) and his Alternate.
The CSP has been instrumental (‘so-claimed’) in many of the policies and projects of the NNP’s government; those areas of ‘active involvement’ include legislation, administration, economics, negotiation and public education. Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell capitalizes on his CSP to exhibit participatory democracy and national consensus, as well as to gain external praise and benefit. Indeed; within good governance principles, the CSP could be a meaningful source of support, advice and consultation for the Cabinet of Ministers, which is virtually the government. However; there are questions and criticisms on the modus operandi of the CSP, to the extent of likening it as an accomplice and puppet of the government, and with concerns as to whether or not CSP is primary or secondary to the Cabinet and furthermore whether it is being used as a scapegoat or a detour for the government.
The formation and ranking of the CSP must also be seen as a political strategy to void resurrection of any resemblance of the 1973/1974 “Committee of 22” which had posed a thorn to Sir Eric Matthew Gairy, against his autocratic, brutal and corrupt regime; and at the same time, the strategy seeks to accommodate and appease the architects and advocates for making Grenada a One-Party State. The Committee of 22 was a broad-based organised group of the trade unions, business community, taxis and hotel associations, service clubs (Lions, Jaycees, Rotary, etc.), student unions, churches, legal society, medical fraternity and concerned citizens; and with the ‘vanguard catalyst’ of the New Jewel Movement (NJM), it caused national shutdown and protested against the process for the 1974 independence of Grenada. Instructively; the architects of the One-Party State were once intense political opponents of Dr Mitchell and his NNP’s government, and have been partners in the ‘Marxist philosophy’ NJM which eventually overthrew Gairy’s ‘democratic elected’ government in a 1979 revolt.
Typical involvement of the CSP in Grenada’s governance are the ‘prolonged austerity’ 3-year (January 2014 – December 2016) Homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) supported by the International Monetary Fund, and the 27 May 2015 launch of a ‘far unfinished’ National Development Plan 2030. The CSP was also involved with the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) to spearhead Grenada’s first constitutional referendum which ‘failed’ in November 2016. Unfortunately, CSP was silent in the public domain, and had not presented any comprehensive and clear position papers, on the various contentious referendum amendment bills. In fact; an April 2014 internet-circulated article “Grenada Constitution Reform: National Stakeholders Declare Your Stance!” (www.grenadabroadcaStcom/15t/) had warned against the ignorance of the people, the complacency and silence of the stakeholders and the arrogance of the powers-that-be on the then referendum.
In his speech at the swearing-in ceremony of the new Cabinet after the consecutive clean sweep by the NNP at the 13 March 2018 General Election, Mitchell declared the intention to expand the composition of the CSP to include particularly the youths and the opposition NDC. He had also declared to reopen the dialogue on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) replacing the Privy Council for final appeals on civil and criminal matters. From such utterances and other observations, there are all indications and incidents that Grenada is molding to be a One-Party State; regrettably though, moral-fortitude and critical-thinking are lacking in the local political culture. Detrimentally also; the same representatives and appointees are the ‘movers and shakers’ on key government bodies, statutory boards and special committees, and they operate in a partisan manner with impunity at the expense of the genuine development of the nation. The political abuse and dominance in the parliament, the political dismantlement and realignment of national institutions and the political infiltration and interference in private and village organisations, terrify and suppress constructive ideas and debates.
For the purpose of conducting a second referendum on the CCJ, which is anticipated for the last quarter of this year 2018, “The Caribbean Court of Justice Advisory Committee” (CCJAC) has been established to comprise representatives of government, religious organisations, the labour movement, the business community, major political parties, and any other non-governmental organisation. In conscious consideration of the sovereignty and prosperity of the nation, it is imperative and feasible for each member of this CCJAC, as well as the CSP, to undertake objective and honest discussions with its constituents and to prepare for the general public a position paper on the single Referendum Bill for the Constitution of Grenada (Caribbean Court of Justice and Renaming the Supreme Court) (Amendment Act) 2018; the paper should also outline the rationales and ramifications on all pertinent issues. A similar plea was made to the Senate in the previously internet-circulated article “Focus for Senatorial debate on Grenada second CCJ Referendum”, referencing Caricom’s Chaguaramas Treaty.
All civic-minded and patriotic citizens have a noble responsibility to preserve national patrimony and constitutional democracy, by at least uplifting the consciousness and astuteness of the Grenadian people. Particularly; the CSP must follow in the footstep of the Willie Redhead Foundation which has invited the views and thinking of the youths, who would inherit the consequences of the decision in the CCJ referendum, in an essay competition relating to accessing the CCJ as opposed to providing local justice. Although the CSP may be lacking in being politically-independent and in having a well-outfitted secretariat, CSP needs to enhance its existence and role, as well as to give an account of its purpose and performance. The CSP is in deficit in investigating and seeking answers in the interest of the general public; and in fact, Grenadians are yet to have verifications on any adherence to the provision in the Social Compact that CSP “shall present an Annual Report to Parliament for debate and noting”. On the thrust toward Grenada’s second referendum, it is prudent and opportune for genuine soul-searching by everyone, but with a special call to the intelligentsia, professional institutions, and all members and stakeholders of the Social Partners (CSP). Flourishing from the struggles and strides by the nation’s forefathers should stimulate goodwill for the coming generations and zeal for establishing an admirable history. Adopting some words from the ‘famous wisdom quotes’ of American Author Charles Krauthammer; “… I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking”, and “…. In the end, all the beautiful, elegant things in life, the things that I care about, the things that matter, depend on getting the politics right. Because in those societies where they get it wrong, everything else is destroyed, everything else is leveled.”