by Devonson La Mothe
It is tragic that almost 50 years after our ‘Independence’ in 1974, which only left us a semi-colony of Britain, that many of our politicians are not exhibiting an increased socio-political awareness, a growth in political maturity, and a greater sense of responsibility.
Too many of them are continuing to practice the same regressive politics as before. The contents of the issue of the Grenada National Party (GNP) newspaper, The Vanguard, of March 1973 will illustrate this.
This issue of the newspaper, which can be regarded as an anti-independence issue, shows the GNP’s relentless fight against independence under Gairy. For instance, someone calling himself Analyst, in an article entitled, ‘We must stand together or Perish’, wrote: “It is believed that the Grenada regime and the British government are bent on and are going full speed ahead with their arrangements for their independence business, for this country, without giving people an opportunity to decide one way or the other. Recently, we have been hearing similar words like “full speed ahead’’ and “without giving people an opportunity to decide”, regularly, from people who want us to vote no on 6 November. Why it is that Grenada never seems ready when we need to take important steps for our social and political development?
At the time, the GNP, not only did not want independence under Gairy, but they were proposing 2 things, that the British government insist that we hold a referendum to decide whether or not Grenadians wanted the proposed change of political status, or that Grenada not go it alone: that any independence should include the grouping of islands we now call the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
The British government, however, had other ideas. The Colonial Office had promised Gairy that if he made independence a main issue in the elections of 1972, they would grant Grenada independence. To some extent, Gairy had done this, and for them, this was referendum enough. They therefore did not pay much heed to the thousands of signatures the GNP had gathered, to try to convince them that Grenadians did not want independence. This might have been because, according to someone who also wrote in the issue of the newspaper, who called himself Citizen A, the word citizen had a different meaning in the Mother Country than in a colony like Grenada. “Citizen- was a word in the colonies; it has very little significance, since we are neither one thing nor the other as you soon find out when you present your passport to the British representative. At our present position, 100,000 souls going around in circles, not knowing from whence cometh the law, be it Whitehall, New York or Mt Royal; observers must say – “What blind asses!” However, despite being victims of British discrimination, Citizen A still wants Grenada to continue to be a British colony.
People like Joseph Andall and Claudette Joseph, who it appears want us to continue indefinitely our sojourn with the Privy Council, should be interested in knowing whether today, British people believe the word citizen should mean one thing in Britain and another thing in Grenada, for they would not want to discover in the future that they were blind guides. I specially want them to note that a leading local attorney has said that if successful, the CCJ Bill will then become an Act of Parliament, which can then be amended for any flaws it may contain.
Then as now, Grenada politicians have been very adept at using fear for political manipulation, as NDC supporters have shown, in their arguments against voting for the Referendum Bill. While Gairy often used fear to attempt to control his opponents, so did the GNP under Friday and Blaize to make political gains. The GNP, for instance, inspired fear in Grenadians by predicting what under Gairy this “aggressive” push towards self-determination would lead to. The editorial of the newspaper under scrutiny had this to say: “Ladies and gentlemen, Brothers and sisters, how many of you, now here, would not be prepared to go into banishment and exile, if by missing this last chance you bring independence and slavery on yourselves and your children. And for him, independence did not only mean slavery, but even worse: it would cause most of us to perish. In calling for Grenadians to come out and vote with their feet against independence, he tells us: “None but a few shall live, if you allow this chance to go.”
GNP’s use of fear was not confined to independence matters. When Mr Gairy established a zoo at the Botany Gardens, they began circulating a rumour that a man-eating snake had escaped from it. There were snakes in the zoo, but small ones, none of man-eating proportions. Next they began a typhoid scare to convince the electorate that the Gairy Government was not adequately maintaining our healthcare system.
Anybody who knows what independence really means and requires of us will not tell Grenadians to Vote No! to the CCJ on Referendum Day. The GNP in 1973 kept calling for the British Government to keep a constant vigilance of our affairs, “to maintain impartial rule”. This is not 1973; this is 2018. All responsible patriotic Grenadians should want us to be independent, not only in name, but also in substance.