by J K Roberts
There is no desire for preaching gloom and doom for Grenada, as the world continues without the second advent of Jesus Christ; and neither is there any expectation for the abandonment of genuine and worthwhile intentions and efforts toward enhancing the governance, democracy and prosperity of the nation.
The burning appeal, however, is for serious introspections and retrospections, in relation to the pathway for arriving at the sorry state of affairs in Grenada at present, as well as for setting the correct perspective, framework and remedy for the way forward. The position declared herein was spurred by the ‘goodwill guidance’ provided to the newly appointed Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Tobias Clement (University Lecturer), via an article, “A Democracy To Save”. The article written by Norris Mitchell (Chartered Architect and Urban Planner), stems from the utterances and actions of Clement who alludes to the government of prime minister Keith Mitchell as a dictatorship, the mingling of structured constitutional provisions with partisan political influences, the need for challenging the status quo and leadership of the Keith Mitchell led New National Party (NNP), new ways to conduct the nation’s business and a democracy to save.
Clement has been associated with the NNP since around its inception in 1984 when as a youth, and he was elected to Parliament on 2 consecutive occasions (19 February 2013 and 13 March 2018). In November 2019, the elected Constituency Representative resigned from the party but remained in the parliament and so became qualified for the vacant office of the Leader of the Opposition; he was eventually sworn in on 14 April 2020. Although Clement should be fully aware of every political manoeuvrings and governance misdeeds of the NNP, Norris Mitchell outlines, with making reference to pertinent historical struggles for the sovereignty of the regional people, some of the gross failures of the NNP’s administration. The experienced Mitchell may have deduced from Clement’s sentiments that particularly, a rescue mission for restoring Grenada’s fractured democracy is ‘super necessary and long overdue’, but cautioned that the task ahead is enormous and challenging and that it is imperative to remain focused for success. It is also imperative that a comprehensive analysis and a holistic approach be taken regarding the pertinent background and practical factors of the task.
Firstly, what does the watchword “a democracy to save” mean? Is Grenada’s democracy about to be lost, or is it already lost, hence much determination is needed to rescue it? Secondly; considering the tremendous necessity for sound leadership and meaningful collaboration, could Tobias Clement (or any other individual or institution) gain the respect and resolve and reaction of the people who share his ‘SOS’ concerns and visions for Grenada? Thirdly; how such noble task and uncompromising necessity be achieved? The point must be made furthermore that democracy cannot be saved without much sacrifice, vigilance and agitation, as well as without a show of integrity. Fourthly; does democracy exist in a vacuum, or does it monitor and regulate itself? The significant role of every section of the people and every stakeholder on Grenada’s sovereign democracy must thus be raised.
Political Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Franka Alexis Bernadine, in complimenting Clement on his appointment, indicates that the appointment is a boost to democracy and anticipates that he would complement the drive toward the preservation of democracy in Grenada. However; as the main opposition party, the NDC seems to be weary and weakened in the quest for good governance (accountability, transparency and integrity, as well as respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions) and even may have wasted or is wasting its opportunities for seising the rein of government. The previously internet-circulated article “The Powerful Relevance Of NDC In Opposition” underscores some key areas for being politically visible and viable, with a view to advance the consciousness and confidence of the voting public, despite not having a presence in Parliament.
Being at the helm of government for the longest time with questionable governance practices, is Mitchell’s NNP the most politically shrewd party to win general elections, and/or is the voting public very dumb, docile and gullible to the NNP’s electioneering tactics (https://www.nowgrenada.com/2020/03/promises-a-continuous-political-mamaguy/)? What are the indicators and/or the benchmarks that a democracy is at risk? Was Grenada’s democracy adopted and founded without any checks and balances, or that its provisions were designed and presented so that the people would be prey to the system and not even having any form of rewarding recourse? The absence of constitutional reforms is not a hindrance to the practicing of ‘adequate’ democracy. Someone or something must be held liable for the negative and downward trends in the nation; unless it is accepted that whatsoever, democracy is a mockery with conspiracies, deceits and manipulations.
How did it all happen, or allowed to be happening? Blatant abuse of the constitution; rampant malfeasance; artificial economic statistics; mounting public debt; depletion of national assets and patrimony; unattended infrastructure and ecological resources; tough cost of living and worsening austerity measures; multiplicity of unsolved judicial investigations; disintegration of trade unionism; social injustice and insecurity; collapsed judiciary; and more uncomfortable and unfavourable scenarios. How could this be when there are independent constitutional agencies; independent statutory bodies; a variety of non-governmental organisations; advisory and watchdog committees; “good citizens” including the churches, university graduates and politically enthused individuals; and of course, sustainable development projects and regional and international democratic fora?
It is of interest to realise that, for example, in March 2013 a Committee of Social Partners (CSP) comprising of representatives from the Private Sector, Conference of Churches, Council of Evangelical Churches, Trades Union Council, Civil Society Organisations and the Government of Grenada was formed to ensure a more inclusive approach to governance and it had the responsibility to oversee an extensive Social Compact. The CSP appears to serve as a symbol of people’s participation and as giving counsel, consent and credibility to the government. In frightening astonishment however, the ordinary Grenadians are gradually detecting that the nation is being engulfed with mysterious ‘executive policies and business deals’ which points to neo-colonisation, featuring projects such as the Citizenship By Investment, the National Sustainable Development Plan and the Grenada Blue Growth Coastal Master Plan purported to transform and privatise the seashore and marine territory, including the climate smart cities. Are those ‘good citizens and national stakeholders’ alert and well at exercising professionalism and patriotism, or proving to be puppets?
Like Honourable Clement, many prominent entities have vigorously defended and facilitated the policy-directions of the NNP-government during the many years, and by extension helping to sprout, foster and entrench dictatorship; but fortunately/unfortunately, they are now making incisive pronouncements on alleged maladministration, corruption and dysfunction of the government. How can those entities explain their contributions to unsound investments and unscrupulous legislations; or, is it that their apparent compromise, complacency and/or cowardice were toward fortifying fortune and fame at the great expense of a flourishing democracy and particularly the interest of the average Grenadian? Note also, people who once scorned the ills of government now give acclaims; so moral authority, genuine intent and character profile must be for question.
The aggressors and destroyers of people’s empowerment are fully aware that the most applicable mainstay and protector of Grenada’s democracy into the future is the youthful population. In that case; the powers-that-be refuses to educate and expose the youth to the historical struggles and enviable values of democracy, but instead, it tends to confuse and distort the minds of the youth and to provide and cause the extravagance of the youth with a proliferation of vulgar entertainment and propaganda via both the mainstream and social media. The youth is being deliberately distracted from the important civil issues of governance, particularly the crumbling of fundamental rights and freedoms and the mortgaging and losing of the nation to foreign powers.
Could Grenada’s democracy of its constitutional independence be really saved, or does Grenada still have a democracy to save, when the political philosophy on Project Grenada toward a one-party state seems to be taking root? Moreover; there is the notion that based on the racing levels of mismanagement, corruption, impoverishment and lawlessness, Grenada is a failed state or its democracy is fractured. Who is up to the task?
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