Is Grenada’s CCJ Referendum unfolding the worth of the Opposition NDC?

Caribbean Court of Justice

by JK Roberts

The loud silence, and in fact the apparent dodging, of Grenada’s de-facto main opposition political party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), especially concerning the 6 November 2018 constitutional referendum, may just be signalling its uselessness to, or its abandonment of the people.

The need for clarity and certainty on the stance, strategy, substance and seriousness of NDC on the referendum has been uttered from May 2014. Review the then internet-circulated article “Grenada Constitution Reform: NDC Speak Up!”, which makes some appealing criticisms, as recalled in-part thus.

“… it seems that the NDC does not have a position; or that the position of the NDC is neither here nor there about the outcome of a National Referendum for the Reform. It would be unfortunate if the stance of the NDC is in response to the position of the (‘then’) Chairman of the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee, Dr. Francis Alexis QC, who … has (‘been’) urging all concerned essentially the NNP and the NDC to hold political fire during the period until the Referendum is held …

“… If it is …the case that NDC is reserved on declaring its position …, then this questions the intellectual astuteness, political aptitude, inherent sensitivity, national responsibility and substantive relevance of the party. Or, is the case one of ‘common political motive’ of the NNP and NDC for the Reform?“

Despite the poor showing at the March 2018 elections, NDC has been propelled and promoted to set the agenda for real national development and good government, by the circulated article, “The Powerful Relevance of NDC in Opposition”. A rehashing of the key factor of the pointed advice follows:

“… The most practical mode of engagement for NDC is ‘constructive negotiations’; capitalising on its position and capacity to accomplish productive compromises. The NDC still has an excellent opportunity to be powerful and relevant, which must not be wasted and lost. “… NDC has a ‘valuable carrot or advantage’ to support its negotiations and demands; this lies in the strength and vibrancy and resolve of its core followers. However; it is vitally important that NDC does not disappoint and betray the citizens, especially those who are depending for direction and are hopeful for betterment.

“… NDC needs to be strategically focused but with being educated and equipped, and having expert working committees. Particularly; NDC should never allow itself to be conned and cornered, or even to be caressed, by the ruling New National Party (NNP) (‘or any such other’), and thereby makes careless decisions and then be humiliated. Rather; more than ever before, the NDC must be politically astute, bold and conscious, and must never be wavering to present concrete counter-proposals to the government. Thus when the government tends to seek bipartisan consensus on momentous national issues then the NDC must use the opportunity to hold the government committed to the principles of accountability, transparency, rule of law, and delivering efficient and effective public services.

“A topical issue of the government and the high-status establishment of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is the accession of Grenada to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final court of appeal. In no way must the NDC cooperate blindly and unrewardingly on this issue, and without presenting some preconditions. In fact; there would never be in the near future such a ‘high-stake and high-quality’ issue of government which requires the input of an opposition, especially to meet the two-thirds threshold (‘generally felt to be quite high and demanding’) in a referendum.

“For the NDC-opposition to declare unreserved partnership with the NNP-government to give a yes-vote to the CCJ Bill would be having the NDC legitimising the mal-administration, including the alleged corrupt practices by the government. It would also mean endorsing the alleged fraudulent manner by which the electoral office had conducted the 13 March 2018 elections. Would passing the CCJ Bill enhance national governance, which also speaks about the integrity of the electoral system so as to elevate an opposition in parliament? Particularly; would the CCJ cause genuine and thorough implementation of the official recommendations for pertinent changes to the Representation of the People Act (RPA), and to reflect regulations for campaign financing, as well as for the meaningful constitutional reform to reflect proportional representation and the recall of parliamentarians for accountability? Could the CCJ bring local government to the people of Carriacou and Petite Martinique which they are being robbed; even though provided for in the 1974 constitution?

“…Are the policies and projects raised in the NDC’s 2018 elections manifesto secondary to the CCJ issue; noting the party’s plan to “establish a Constituent Assembly to complete the reform of the existing constitution”? Emphatically; there is no doubt that once the government gets its way of success with the CCJ, Grenadians will be doomed and never to see any serious effort to have constitutional reform to reflect their sovereignty and empowerment but would have a consolidation of the NNP and the One Party State. NDC needs to be in the forefront and forthrightly declare its stance on this second attempt of a constitutional referendum; the party would be a coward (‘and/or, an accomplice’) if it sends indirect and confused messages to its followers, as was in the first occasion, which also helped to register the low percentage (32.50%) voting on 24 November 2016.”

The resolve of the NDC continues to be challenged, especially with reference to its published writing “Electoral Reform before another Referendum”, which laments at the dismal failure at the elections.

“… The Government is now embarking on a second Referendum. The indication is that the people will be asked to vote on the single question of Grenada’s accession to the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice. The people of Grenada are being asked to vote in a referendum, under the same electoral law and process that was utilised in the 13 March General Election. If the system was manipulated to favour the incumbent, should the people of Grenada be asked to vote again, this time to change our Supreme Law without fixing the flaws in the current system?

“… Indeed, the NDC will not support a referendum on any subject until the matter of electoral reform, including campaign financing, is addressed.”

The previous internet article “Major Far-reaching Issues concerning Grenada’s CCJ Referendum” summarises the grave areas and aspects for the Grenadian people to be well-informed on and to consider conscientiously for voting at the referendum. The article also reminds the NDC of its pertinent statements on the referendum, and warns that the action (or, non-action) of remaining disturbingly ‘dumb and passive’ would put a clear verdict on its credibility and worth. The ‘commitment and accountability’ of NDC on behalf of Grenada is wanting, and the people may never forgive the party for letting them down in this historic time of great need and help. Further query; is NDC still plagued, struggling with internal conflicts, causing it to be wavering in judgements and thus be ineffective?

“The need for clarity and certainty on the stance, strategy, substance and seriousness of NDC on the referendum has been uttered from May 2014.”

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