Squandermania, Structural Adjustments, Referendums and elections… were always with us … let me take you back down memory lane.
I want to remind you of something said to me by former Prime Minister, thinker, historian, economist and author Mr. George I. Brizan who came to live in St. Paul’s with his family from Vincennes in St. David in 1972.
Before his passing he gave me two examples as to why we are not patient as a people, whom I will try to narrate in more ways than one based on my personal investigations and historical experiences.
Mr. Brizan, said to me, Lindsay, if those men who were around our second Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, were patient and allowed the international airport to open the economic situation in the country would have changed overnight.
Secondly, if the people had voted for the National Democratic Congress in the 1995 general elections after the NDC Government did all the hard work by implementing a homegrown structural adjustment Program that was designed by him, we would not have acquired over a billion dollars in debt.
It is my opinion that is the one catalyst of our woes today in our country based on the NNP Government’s 13 years in office, when monies were guaranteed for projects that were never materialized.
Mr. Brizan also alluded to extensive borrowing at high interest rates for loans on the commercial market, which was for non-productive proposes.
In addition, he also said to me, Lindsay, “all where I went around the country people were saying to him, Breezy we want money”. This is the cry today in the country but nobody is making that kind of noise.
As I stood there listening to him in the hardware of Jonas Browne and Hubbard where I worked during the last of his good days on earth, I wondered why he decided to rest those two heavy examples on my chest.
I could only try to put those two examples into historical prospective so he can be proud of me in spirit. In addition, I want to enlighten the general public and especially our young people a bit about our history, which is sadly not being thought in our schools.
As a young man growing in St. Paul’s in the late 1970s and early 80s I was invited by some of my friends to hear Brizan lecture at the GBSS on history and economics but I never showed up for various reasons.
In fact, he was the one preparing the youth of our country to take up leadership roles in the future in economics and history.
Let me go back to 1961 that period in our country, which is known as Squandermania, when the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) government of Chief Minister Eric Matthew Gairy squandered the resources of our country, which was one of the reasons why the GULP lost the election in 1962.
The second reason is that the Grenada National Party (GNP) of Herbert Blaize campaigned on a Unity State ticket with Trinidad and Tobago. In fact, the legend has it that the morning after the results of the election Grenadians were lining up with their suitcases on the docks or on the Carenage to go to the Twin Island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
I saw it as an early referendum for uniting our islands after the West Indian Federation failed a few years earlier in 1958.
Moreover, the new administration of Chief Minister, Herbert Blaize had to implement some programnes, which did not allow them to spend freely as the predecessors did.
According to reports, the supporters of the GULP went around the country saying that the Government of Blaize did not like to spend money; they just like to make the Treasury fat. This resulted in the GULP wining the next election.
The GULP of Gairy went on to win the elections in 1968, 1972 and 1976. I do not want to spend too much time on that period because it is properly documented in a document call “The Object and Subjective Conditions that gave Rise to the Grenada revolution of March 13th 1979” which was published in the Grenadian Voice newspaper for the week ending March 13th 2009.
However, it is important to know that the result of the 1972 general election was used by the GULP as a referendum on independence. Because when opposition forces wanted a referendum on independence the leader of the GULP said the result of the election, which was 13-2 in favour of the GULP and later on Dr. Wellington Friday crossed the floor, thus giving the GULP 14-1 in the House of Representatives.
After the formation of the New Jewel Movement on March 11, 1973, one of its first activities was to take part in a People’s Convention on Independence at the Simon Pavilion, in St. Andrew in May of 1973.
Maurice Bishop of the New Jewel Movement was elected as leader of the grouping of people in opposition to independence under Gairy. That can be considered as a type of referendum on independence by opposition forces.
The results of the 1976 general elections (9-6 in favour of the GULP) can also be considered a referendum going forward in the struggle against Gairy.
It is my belief that a two party state type election campaign is best suited for our small country because all opposition forces come under the same banner .
With the demise of the Grenada Revolution of March 13th 1979 on October 19th 1983, this gave rise to the return of Westminster type Democracy after a break of four and half years of the People’s Revolutionary Government which was headed by Comrade Bishop.
We can safely say the revolutionaries of the 1979-83 period in our history squandered a unique and uncommon opportunity to really unite our people once and for all and to build a special kind of utopia.
We can also say that October 19th 1983 was a people’s referendum on the Grenada Revolution of March 13th 1979-83. The people took to the streets in great numbers amidst automatic gunfire to free our Comrade Leader and Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop from house arrest.
It was a show of force by the people to send the message as to who should be the leader of our Revolution when they shouted “No Bishop, No Revo”. The rest is history.
After the December general election of 1984, the New National Party (NNP) of Herbert Blaize won the election. Please do not forget that the NNP was made up of several different political parties. However, by 1986 the NNP started to fragment, which gave rise to the National Democratic Congress, which was made up of George Brizan and Francis Alexis as the two main leaders from the original NNP.
Let me fast track to the 2008-13 period of NDC with Mr. Tillman Thomas as the Prime Minister.
Instead of buckling down and managing our sacred resources properly so we could get by as a people, to the greatest surprise of many in- fighting broke out in the ranks that had all the features and characteristics of the October crisis with the New Jewel Movement in 1983.
Don’t forget that some of the players in 1983 were again on centre stage showing their ugly political behaviour once more.
That kind of conduct hurt the NDC government and Party so bad to the point where the election was already lost before it was called.
Only a few believed that the NDC could salvage some pride and with scarse resources, the party still managed to receive 40% of the popular vote but did not win a single seat.
All the NNP promises were short-lived as they cannot find the investors that were lined up waiting to come and invest in our country.
The NNP Government had to move quickly to introduce a structural adjustment programme to find money to service the debt, which was largely created between 1995-2008.
They found a way to increase the prices on 28 or more items in order to collect more revenue, thus putting a strain on the working class salaries – a far cry from the investors whom were supposed to be in a line somewhere and waiting to come in but failed to show up.
The IMF programme brought an onslaught on taxes on the income of the working class and middle class.
As you are well aware by now what is taking place in our country presently is a repeat of our history, with old and new actors going over an old script, our history.
Finally, where were we in the Maurice Bishop Patriotic Movement in all this chaos? We were hit with major defections in March1992 when Einstein Louison, the former deputy political leader of the party and International Secretary, Joseph Charter, who was the former Ambassador to Libya, during the Grenadian Revolution of March 13th 1979-83, among others, defected to the NNP of Dr. Mitchell.
The two of them wanted Dr. Terrence Marryshow to hand over the leadership of the party on the grounds that the Public Service Commission (PSC) would not be in agreement for him to continue as Political leader of MBPM because he was given his right to work as a medical doctor, by the NDC Government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite.
Louison and Charter did not exercise the patience necessary by not waiting on what the PSC had to say on the matter.
The idea was tabled at a MBPM General Council meeting in Clozier, St. John. The result showed the vast majority of members voted in favour of Dr. Marryshow continuing to be the leader of the party. Defeated and dejected they had no choice but to go. But before they left they never tried to reconcile the matter!
Since then I never spoke to Joseph Charter, who is now deceased and it took me 17 years before I said a word to the former Chief of Staff of the People’s Revolutionary Army and it was on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Grenada and Cuba.
During the reception hosted by Cuban Ambassador, Her Excellency Margarita Delgado at her Lance Aux Epines residence, I asked Einstein – “Why you were unable to get the Right Hon. Dr. Keith Mitchell to rename our international airport from PSIA to MBIA?. To be honest I could not even remember what was his reply.
This event marked the squandering of a golden opportunity in the process to get MBPM in the mainstream of the politics of our country, which was the beginning of the end for us and Dr. Terrence Marryshow.