Former Education Minister in the 2008-13 Congress Government, Senator Franka Bernadine believes the lack of trust the people of Grenada have for the Keith Mitchell Administration is what caused the Constitutional Reform to fail.
The electorate gave a resounding “no” vote to all of the seven Constitutional Bills that were put before them on Referendum Day on November 24th, 2016.
Addressing the Upper House of Parliament on the 2017 Budget debate, Sen. Bernadine said the country needs constitutional reform that is essential and would make things better for Grenadians.
However, the female opposition Senator said “what they don’t want to face on the next side is trust” which she believes is a tragedy.
“People do not want constitutional change under this (New National Party) Government… and the thing is not a man could face it, from the Prime Minister down, not one. It is a lack of trust by the people of Grenada,” she told the sitting.
Two days before the referendum, Prime Minister Mitchell addressed the nation and urged the electorate to give support to three of the seven bills – Caribbean Court of Justice, Elections & Boundaries Commission, and putting the Name of Carriacou & Petite Martinique on the passport.
The voters were particularly harsh on the Rights and Freedom Bill after interest grouping including the Churches expressed fears that the legislation could open the door for same sex marriages between Gays and Lesbians.
Sen. Bernadine also used the platform of the 2017 Budget Debate to point out confusing signals about growth in cocoa production in Grenada.
She said that on one hand the government is claiming that there is an increase in the production of cocoa and nutmeg but the figures included in the Budget statement paint a different picture.
According to the recorded figures, the volume of cocoa production declined by 26.7% over the period January to September 2016 when compared to the same period in 2016.
In the case of nutmeg and mace production, there were decreases of 21.4 percent and 33.9 percent respectively during the first eight months of 2016, compared to the same period 2015.
Sen. Bernadine charged that if the government is getting this basic statistics so wrong in Agriculture then one wonders how they can be trusted with Constitutional Reform.
She said: “On top of that now I must trust, take up my precious constitution guarding my rights and give it to a government that I am not sure might deliver… Nobody in the government wants to admit that this is an issue of trust”.
The opposition senator told the Upper house that the rural economy has collapsed under the NNP regime and referred to the closure of some of the branches of commercial banks in Grenville, St. Andrew’s.
She also referred to page 98 of the work book of the Budget which shows that between September 2015 and September 2016 lending to agriculture fell by 14.2 percent, lending to construction fell by 4.9 percent, lending to the fishing sector fell by 70 percent, tourism fell by 6.8 percent, transport fell by 2.4 percent.
Sen. Bernadine was critical of the budgetary allocation of 9.1 percent given to education, indicating that her government had allocated 15.1 percent of the budget towards the sector.
She told the Senate that a World Bank report showed that someone with just a primary education will earn $5,600 annually, while those who have gained tertiary education can earn three hundred and sixty-five percent more from a job in the Caribbean.
The former Education Minister slammed government’s decision to reintroduce the School-Leaving Exams and referred to it as the most backward decision she has heard of in education for a long time.
Sen. Bernadine said that universal education is the correct means of guaranteeing the education of a child as not all children are gifted with pure academics.
During her time as the Minister of Education all students who wrote the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA) exams had the opportunity to enter secondary school.
“It’s about empowering all children, and it’s not about if you have the ability to get through academics or not,” she told he Upper House.
Sen. Bernadine believes it is better to strengthen the CPEA, which is where the weaknesses lie in the system as the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) has trained teachers by showing them how to gauge a child at each stage throughout Grades 5 and 6.