In Recognition of Good Political Leadership

What are the qualities of a good political leader? And when does good political leadership become synonymous with political greatness? The word “leadership,” when used to describe the work of a politician, is often viewed in a pejorative manner. Hopefully, this writing will bring about some form of amelioration to that point of view as well as
answer the aforementioned questions.

Historically, the structures and methods of leadership change with the passage of time. To influence events and affect outcomes, leaders must to be prepared to abandon policy instruments and ideas that no longer work in a new-world environment.

The world is full of aspiring political leaders but unfortunately, very few live up to the leadership ideals. In fact, many political leaders seem to lack some of the most basic and important leadership qualities such as vision, discipline, good oratorical skills, decisiveness, and the ability to share their purpose and passion, to name a few. However, a good leader is also charismatic, people-centered, influential, humble yet resolute and is able to inspire people.

We must bear in mind that all of mankind is subject to human frailty…we do not have it all. While many of us expect perfection, we must remember that our political leaders are not superhuman. In some instances we are negatively affected by the performance of our political leaders because our expectations override reality.

We expect them to do the impossible by becoming the faultless provider…perfection personified. Some tend to rally around persons in the political arena who purport to be righteous. Get Real! If virtuous conduct was the main quality of a good leader, then we need to remarry Church and State and hand over our constitution to the Vatican.

Within reason, what we want and expect from a political leader is his or her ability to solve our problems; bring betterment to our lives; or provide an enabling environment for us to be successful. In the real world, it is also understandable that a political leader, in the execution of his or her duties, would from time to time stretch the truth or dabble in ‘face saving’ measures to bring about satisfaction for all and sundry.

In taking initiative, there are times when good leaders have to mix, match or substitute funding in the best interest of nation-building.

And there are times when good leaders have to make hard decisions and give ‘tough love.’

As we fantasise over the idea of finding the ideal person to lead us, we must temper our enthusiasm and extreme expectations with the reality that we all have shortcomings. What is the connection between leadership and character? Some not so nice people make positive contributions to society. Although being a likeable person is a plus, there is a key difference between getting the job done, and being liked personally. People do not have to like a good leader to trust and respect his or her performance.

Whether the political leader is charismatic, possesses a remarkable acumen in governance, and preserves the integrity of his or her administration, these attributes are meaningless if the common man does not benefit from their actions.

A good political leader in the Caribbean must possess, in addition to the aforementioned attributes, astuteness, dynamism, innovative dexterity, resourcefulness, intestinal fortitude, and the ability to mix and match accordingly while amalgamating a systems approach. In a global context, the Prime Minister of a Small Island Developing State, such as Grenada, faces a much greater challenge than a leader of a first world country.

Clearly, the demands placed on today’s political leaders far surpass what was realistically possible yesteryear. Challenging times require leaders who can lead others through the challenges. Now more than ever, we need great leadership in our government.

The incessant increase of the role and responsibilities of a Small Island State leader, who is deprived of the resources first world leaders have in abundance, must be explored as I attempt to put things in proper perspective. Further, in spite of our smallness, third world status, and limited resources, our country has an invaluable opportunity to be exemplary to the world by demonstrating good political leadership and progressive citizenship.

The role of the good political leader, especially in the Caribbean, is very complex and multifaceted. As progressive Grenadians we need more clarification on how we view “leadership” as it relates to the Office of the Prime Minister, in order to have a full appreciation for the type of leader who works in our best interest.

Making things happen depends on the Prime Minister’s broad political vision. It is not simply a matter of getting a good idea, laying out a plan, telling others what to do, and overseeing the implementation. In order to make things happen the political leader has to identify allies and resistors, get the buy-in, build coalitions, and lead politically.

Political competence is about knowing how to map the political terrain, get others on your side, and lead coalitions. Political competence, in its most attractive light, is being aware of the interests of others, finding areas of common ground, bringing others on board, and leading them in pursuit of a goal. In the political world of imperfect decisions, it is political competence that makes things happen. It is competence that will translate ideas into action and strategy into results.

Grenada boasts a rich history of leaders who are revered world-wide.

Do we ever ask ourselves, why is that so? Do we ever ask ourselves, why some Grenadians maliciously attempt to assassinate the character of our heroes? Have they or you benefited from it?

It is disheartening to witness the number of times that some of the same individuals, who are obviously cursed by the blight of envy, hate and spite, would damage the image of Grenada in their futile attempts to damage the character of our Leaders. We have been hoodwinked into becoming a nation of combatants, waging a war of infamy…cutting off our noses to spite our faces.

What is Political Greatness? Greatness, even in a biblical context, is achieved through humility, service and sacrifice. Throughout history we have seen many forms of government such as monarchies, imperialism, dictatorships, and democracies.

We have also seen many forms of ideologies such as communism, fascism, and capitalism. The success of any nation has always been determined by its leadership, regardless of the form of government and ideology. Great leaders are positively contagious and they instill confidence and belief in others.

But what is political greatness? Notable author Steven Hayward, using Aristotle’s definition in his attempt to address the subject of political greatness, alludes to the premise that political greatness is “the ability to translate wisdom into action on behalf of the public good.“ So a great leader must not only know what is best for himself, he must also know what is best for society.

But even if a man is truly a great leader, doesn’t he need to confront some great obstacle to be considered great? Another way of putting it, did Winston Churchill need Hitler to be great? Did Franklin Roosevelt need The Great Depression to be great? Did Fidel Castro need the Cuban Revolution to be great? Did Eric Williams need his ‘Education for All’ initiative to be great? Did T.A Marryshow, revered as the “Elder Statesman of the West Indies” and “Father of West Indies Federation,” need his record setting 30 consecutive years as a distinguished member of the House of Representatives for the Town of St. George to be great? Did Eric Gairy need Expo 69 and being recognized as Grenada’s Father of Independence to be great?

Or (you can extrapolate) did Maurice Bishop, who was lauded for his oratorical excellence, need the Grenadian Revolution to be great?

Better yet! Does Keith Mitchell need the stupendous ‘build back better’ recovery from hurricanes Ivan and Emily, his remarkable infrastructural initiative, four victories at the polls – two of which were shutouts, and once again being charged with resuscitating Grenada’s anemic economy to be great? You see where I am going with this? In fact, I am merely transmitting the sentiments of the international community.

This is no perspicacious judgment on my part. Please, bear with me as I dare to give rightful credit to our sons-of-the-soil. I am fearless in giving Jack or Jane his or her Jacket and I have no reservations in calling a spade a spade. After all, a leader might be great but we would never know it until and unless it was demonstrated within the forge of some great or catastrophic event.

Let me please stress, that I do not wish to glorify any particular leader listed above, as much as recognize the scale of their political and military achievement. Admittedly, some of these leaders may have had their own shortcomings; nevertheless, the scale of their political vision and overall leadership cannot be denied.

Have we seen the end of Great Political Leaders? Why do all great leaders seem to be in the past? Why don’t we see many today? With the emergence of Barack Obama, the resilience of Vladimir Putin, and the astuteness of Keith Mitchell, to name a few, it is probably a mistake to assume that the current political landscape is void of great political leaders.

Steven Hayward believes that great political leaders are still possible, but “greatness of a statesman is seldom recognized in their own time. Typically we only recognize greatness in hindsight”. More than likely potentially great leaders in our own day will be viewed as odd or controversial. Their greatness is likely to be obscured by the propaganda aired by the political opposition they face in their respective political climate.

Another reason for not recognizing their greatness in their own time is that often the events that modern leaders are currently involved with have not yet resolved themselves. Everything comes full circle in the fullness of time. Greatness is ultimately a question of character and accomplishment. Good character and marked accomplishment do not change with the times; they have eternal qualities and value. And because marked accomplishment(s) has “eternal value” it will always be something that can be cultivated.

Since T.A.Marryshow’s death in 1958, after fifty years of remarkable service, there seem to be a pattern of great Grenadian leaders emerging every two decades. With this God-sent phenomenon, we better count our blessings and pay homage accordingly or, if time permits, wait another two decades to make the same oversight again.

When we are truly able to rise above the fray brought on by social and political immaturity, and embolden ourselves with a spirit of self-actualization and purpose, we would then be able to engender the type of cooperation and goodwill that will be the hallmark of our existence as a progressive people. This initiative will respectfully return us to the front of the socio-political fraternity.

Now is the time to chart a way out of the moral quagmire brought on by the vicious cycle of negativity. Now is the time to stop casting assertions and passing blame. Now is the time for each Grenadian to step up and be accountable. Now is the time to remember that the only true-natural resource at our disposal is our Love for country.

Fellow Grenadians, this is a clarion call. As Grenadians, we should all be proud to know that wherever in the world there is discourse on the subject of great leaders within the intellectual, diplomatic, or political community, our noted leaders are always in the conversation.

Ronald “Pappy” Charles
St. George’

 

GOVERNMENT BODY SHUTS DOWN CHIME FM

George Grant – sits in a pensive mood at his studio on Woolwich road in St. George's

George Grant – sits in a pensive mood at his studio on Woolwich road in St. George’s

Less than six months after coming on air, CHIME FM 100.9, owned and operated by Grant Communications has been shut down due to alleged political pressure being brought to bear on the state-controlled National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC).

Owner of the company, George Grant confirmed to THE NEW TODAY newspaper that on Monday morning he received a letter from the commission whose Chairman is Dr. Linus Spencer Thomas indicating that he was broadcasting illegally and should shut down immediately.

A copy of the letter which appears on the front page issue of this week’s newspaper suggest that government was moving against the local FM radio station because it had submitted “an ineligible application for renewal of broadcasting license”.

The letter warned the broadcaster, who was given a broadcast licence under the former Congress government of Tillman Thomas, that he runs the risk of being fined up to EC$1 million or imprisonment of 10 years if he does not pull Chime FM off the air.

Grant immediately contacted the NTRC office to speak with an official who reluctantly confirmed to him that the threatening letter did not originate from them but that they were only asked to bring it into effect against him.

Speculation is rife that the letter was directed from within the Ministry of Communications and Works that is headed by Public Utilities Minister, Gregory Bowen.

The letter that was forced onto NTRC to pass onto George grant to close CHIME FM

The letter that was forced onto NTRC to pass onto George grant to close CHIME FM

Grant intends to challenge the NTRC decision to pull the plug on CHIME FM before a high court judge.

At least one prominent Queen’s Counsel has contacted Grant to express a willingness to join his legal defense team to contest the draconian decision taken against CHIME FM by the authorities.

After five years of getting the licence from the Thomas government, Grant approached the NTRC for a renewal of the licence since it was about to expire.

He was told by the commission that he first had to pay up outstanding fees before the renewal could be granted.

According to Grant, he worked out a payment schedule with the Dr. Spencer Thomas-led body in which EC$13, 500.00 was paid in three installments in order to fall in line with the requirements.

Of this amount $12, 500.00 was for outstanding licence fees and $1000.00 for the renewal fee.

Grant said he was given the frequency of 101.7 when the licence was first issued by NTRC under the Congress government.

He said that when he started to do test broadcasting on May 15, it was discovered that the same frequency was now being used by a more powerful radio station in neighbouring Trinidad & Tobago and it was interfering with the signals of CHIME FM.

Grant went back to NTRC to inform them of the problem and another frequency – 100.9 was promptly assigned to him.

It was the same NTRC-assigned frequency that he used until the Spencer Thomas-led outfit allegedly bowed to pressure from government to shut down the station.

During the 2003-08 rule of the island by the New National Party (NNP) of Prime Minister Mitchell, the broadcaster had met personally with the then Grenadian leader to request a broadcast licence to set up his own radio station.

Grant told this newspaper that the meeting took place in 2007 and was attended by Barry Collymore, the Barbadian-born then Press Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister.

He said Dr. Mitchell informed him that there were no more frequencies available.

Prior to the meeting with the Grenadian leader, Grant had contacted NTRC and was told that there were lots of frequencies still available.

The broadcaster said that when he brought this information to the attention of PM Mitchell, the Prime Minister was stunned and offered a rather lukewarm response.

Dr. Mitchell replied: “Oh,  I didn’t know that” and quickly added that there were other applications for requests for broadcast licenses before his, especially from the churches and they would have to be dealt with first.

According to Grant, PM Mitchell told him to meet with then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works, Gregory Bowen to follow up on the licence issue.

He declined the invitation based on an earlier encounter with Minister Bowen who had made a certain request of Grant which he considered to be unbelievable and obnoxious.

Grant said that Collymore sought to assure him that he should meet with Bowen because he was confident that “them fellahs will help him” with respect to the broadcast licence.

Two weeks after the meeting with PM Mitchell, Grant decided to contact Collymore for a follow up on the meeting with Minister Bowen.

He said the response from the Barbadian Press Secretary was rather interesting and Collymore with a chuckle in the voice uttered the following words: “George, you were right them boys and them won’t give the license”.

NNP lost the elections in July 2008 and within months, Grant was called by then PM Thomas in December 2008 to be informed that his Cabinet had approved the broadcast licence for him.

THE NEW TODAY contacted NTRC Chairman, Dr. Spencer Thomas on Tuesday and he said that at this point in time Grant does not have “a valid licence” to broadcast in the country.

He said it is the minister who is responsible for broadcasting in the country, Gregory Bowen who has the power to renew the licence and this has not been done.

The NTRC boss did not refute claims that officials within NTRC had given Grant the go-ahead to continue broadcasting on CHIME FM pending a resolution of the issue of the renewal of the licence with government.

Spencer-Thomas also admitted that several of the local FM radio stations, although having a valid licence to broadcast in the country were owing the Treasury thousands of dollars from their non-payment of licence fees.

However, he quickly added that these stations have all been put on a payment schedule in order to clear their outstanding balances with the Treasury.

Spencer-Thomas did not say if these stations are making regular payments.

Most of the FM stations operating in the country are known to be closely aligned to Mitchell’s NNP.

Grant told THE NEW TODAY that he was not surprised at the move against him since official sources with NTRC had been sending signals to him in recent months that the NNP regime was bringing pressure to bear to close down the FM station.

Constitution reform: Unruly horses or reckless gatekeepers

by William Joseph

Constitution Reform of the scope and nature now being contemplated and canvassed in Grenada goes to the very root of building our Grenadian civilisation. Nevertheless, this important national emergency is constrained by the existence of a handicapped democracy and the fact that we have been led into becoming a desperate people, over the last forty years.

These conditions make it very difficult for the identification of pathways to sound judgment and rational conduct especially on the part of some critical players in the society; yet serious efforts towards this end are required and must be undertaken.

Looking at the existing ‘set-up’, one recognises four key players:

I. The people
II. The Constitution
III. ParliamentIV. Political parties, either as seeding the Executive (due to electoral victory) and Opposition (due to electoral defeat).
The intersection point of these entities is marked “interests” which, in turn, condition behaviours that may appear to be irrational or even anti-people. This tends to be so because said interests are often defined in terms of battlegrounds as distinct from opportunities for statesmanship and patriotism.

It is important to note that “the people”, in this context, consists of two sets of Grenadians; those who support political parties and those who do not regard themselves as supporters of any political party.

Whereas sovereignty belongs to the people, the Constitution establishes the Parliament and sets out the procedures by which it may be amended. Specifically, the so-called entrenched/deeply entrenched provisions of the Constitution may be amended only on the basis of certain pre-fixed majorities in the Parliament and at referenda of the people.

Bear in mind here that the ‘governing party’ forming the Executive is, simultaneously, a constituent part of the Parliament (not as party, but as elected MPs), normally in the majority. Common sense therefore tells us that the ‘interests’ of the ‘governing party’ could well be decisive, for good or for bad. Equally, the ‘interests’ of the opposition parties could operate with similar effect.

Since it may be reasonably presumed that the people of Grenada will prefer that which is considered to be “good”, one might expect that the parties will be careful not to ignore the wishes of the people as expressed during organised consultations or elsewhere.

However, it is also well-known that people may be thoroughly influenced by the political parties which they support, for one reason or another, especially under dependency and other ‘Esau nation-type’ conditions.

On the evidence, it is clear that the political parties are extremely powerful, if not dominant, when it comes to Constitution Reform.

Accepting this unfortunate reality, it is suggested that a Protocol be pursued and agreed between the political parties to guide them on the goals, processes and commitments in the area of Constitution Reform.

The traditional menu of competition, confrontation, contention and conflict needs to be set aside for the national good. An opportunity to purposefully amend our Constitution should not be an occasion for political intrigues, grand-standing and gamesmanship. These dispositions do not help in the building of a Grenadian civilisation.

Secondly, it is proper for a Government to assign specific public policy responses to the important concerns of the people. We see this at work with the establishment of a Constitution Review Committee as an “Advisory” body.  Notice that the “Advisory body” model necessarily affords the Executive at least two bites of the cherry; firstly, in deciding what subjects are suitable for the referendum and; secondly, through the vote in Parliament.

Notice also that the Constitution Review Advisory Committee has no mandate to advise the public. Its duty is to hear from the public, assist the public in understanding the issues at hand and to then advise the Government accordingly.

Understand clearly that if a bill fails in the Parliament there can be no amendment of the Constitution, for that reason. Ipso facto, there would be nothing to put to the people in a referendum.

Generally-speaking, a Cabinet wishing to be advised on any matter is not obliged to accept the advice given and may do anything it wishes with that advice. Surely, the advice rendered to the Cabinet by the Review Committee is non-binding. Therefore, the Cabinet is free to add or subtract subjects to the list of recommendations, without reliance on the advice of the Committee.

I would suggest, though, that Constitution Reform must be properly facilitated by Government. However, I would also contend that it is not the kind of horse that a Government should be at liberty to refuse to saddle simply because it may be unruly. The consequence of the approach taken, which is encouraged by the Constitution, is that we are fixed with a real problem which is partisan-political in nature and suffocative of our democracy and the emergence of a viable Grenadian civilisation.

This is the case because there are actors on the national stage, both in Government and in the ‘Opposition’, who are inclined to put Grenada second, preferring and elevating their narrow party interests.

Conceivably, parties might well be prepared to mobilise their supporters to oppose Constitution Reform or actually vote against certain proposed amendments in Parliament, thereby sending a clear message to their supporters regarding their posture at a referendum itself.

It is also conceivable that the Grenada Cabinet could add the six subjects being advocated for, but then proceed to vote against then in Parliament!

Some may think that one who has been lawfully elected leader of the nation for two decades owes the people more than roads and IMANI, in return for that most-favoured treatment. They may tell themselves that the best legacy such a leader could leave his people is a substantial contribution to the advancement of the Grenadian civilisation and that the best area in which to do so is Constitution Reform. Interesting, eh?

An important note needs to be entered at this point. The procedure set out in the Constitution [section 39(5)] calls for a parliamentary vote followed by a referendum.

Based on the letter of the law and understanding the parliamentary law-making process, it is for the Executive to first decide what subjects, in the form of proposed Constitutional amendments (set out in a bill), it is prepared to put before the Legislature.

On this premise, it may become disappointingly clear to the ordinary citizen that there can be no major amendment(s) to the Constitution unless the required majority in Parliament (MPs) give their blessings!

Pay attention to where that leaves the people in the scheme of things! At the referendum, it is the bill, as passed by the Parliament, which is to be voted upon by the electorate. The question arises as to whether it was the intention of the framers of the Constitution that Parliament is to tell the people (electorate) what changes may be made to the Grenada Constitution, as the process is not, constitutionally, triggered by the public.

Clearly, an important presumption appears to be involved here to the effect that a Government will not seek to make major and fundamental amendments to the Constitution without first consulting “the people”.
But that presumption is displaced where a governing party defines “the people” to mean their supporters.

Happily, the relevant provisions in the Constitution manage our democracy in such a way that although an apparent blank cheque is given to Parliamentarians, actual veto power is given to the people.

In these circumstances, Parliamentarians may pass a bill that is not in accordance with the wishes of the people and risk facing a sanction for so doing, if at all, at a subsequent General Election.

The Grenada Constitution Reform canvas may well have been tarnished, if not defaced, by various recent political machinations. One party does not wish to go too far because its brand values holding the prize of state power exclusively; while the other conveniently sees ‘raw meat’ at every turn and chooses agitation as its main course of conduct, though it too may well enjoy wielding state power exclusively! Actually, though undesirable, even our handicapped democracy could produce such results legitimately.

So much of it boils down to a chasm between the parties and the people to the detriment of establishing a worthy Grenadian civilisation.  Consider that a party, especially one forming the Executive, for the time being, may well be prepared to take certain risks with Constitution Reform on the assumption that most people do not decide who to vote for at General Elections on account of such reform issues, unless, for example, they are faced with the prospect of a curtailment or reduction of their fundamental rights and freedoms or attempts to legitimise abuses by the State. In that case, they take comfort from the Vincentian experience where after losing a referendum, Ralph Gonsalves won the subsequent General Elections.

The gatekeepers in our handicapped democracy do have the power to decide whether the horses race or remain in their stables. But if the people want to “go to the races” and to place their bets on particular horses, but are obstructed from entering the park they may well find ways to re-assign those gatekeepers whose conduct appear to them to be reckless.

Hero’s Day!!!

I write in response to Arley Gill’s call for a hero’s day.

Of course we need a Hero’s Day. Let’s get rid of Whit Monday which has no meaning for Grenadians. (Church leaders, just shut up.). to make space for Hero’s Day.

But not for the sort of “heroes” that leftist Arley Gill has in mind.

By the way, ask him what he is doing in Dominica, while writing about his homeland, Grenada. Does the fact that the government of Dominica is extremely leftist have anything to do with it?  How come he is already a Magistrate in Dominica when in Grenada he was so low down in the legal world?

We have a very real hero in Grenada who is being completely ignored and forgotten, Alister Hughes. He defied not only the wicked regime of Gairy, and got beaten up for it, but he defied the even worse evil of the Bishop regime, and got imprisoned for it, until the Americans released him.

That is what we have Thanksgiving Day for, for the liberation by US
forces from the evil Marxist regime of Maurice Bishop! We are not copying the Thanksgiving Day of Americans, which is purely a harvest festival of their own.

Gregory Thomas

Dominica takes home courts reading title

Louise Aarons receives winner’s cheque from Courts Unicomer Officials

Louise Aarons receives winner’s cheque from Courts Unicomer Officials

The Commonwealth of Dominica has once again taken the top spot in the Annual Courts OECS reading competition.

Its student Louise Aarons walked away with the championship at the finals of the six-year-old competition, which was held last week Thursday at the Grenada Trade Centre at Morne Rouge.

Students from six OECS member territories were keenly engaged in a battle for the coveted title, which had two rounds of competition – reading a Narrative and then News.

Aarons finished with 712 points to defeat Grenada’s Jaylyn Jones (692) while Rebecca Chowtipersad of St Kitts and Nevis came in third with 676 points.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Khadijah Simon, Gabrielle Barthelmy of St Lucia and Rheanna Cecile Harry of SVG occupied the 4th, 5th and 6th positions respectively.

Aarons received $5000 in cash for her effort, as well as a trophy, laptop, book prizes, handset and Certificate of Participation.

The local girl who finished second walked away with $3000 in cash, a trophy, book prizes, handset, and Certificate of Participation while the St. Kitts entrant took home $2000, a trophy, book prizes, handset, and a Certificate of Participation.

Jaylyn Jones received her second place prize from Ag Managing Director of Unicomer OECS, Patrick Coghiel

Jaylyn Jones received her second place prize from Ag Managing Director of Unicomer OECS, Patrick Coghiel

The remaining participants received a Laptop each, Certificates of Participation, Book Prizes compliments Cathwill’s Stationery Ltd, Handsets compliments DIGICEL Grenada and Cash prize of $1000 each.

Senior Manager of Courts Unicomer Grenada Ltd, Ann Marie De Gale said although Courts is involved in many corporate programmes, the reading competition is very special to the company.

She said the aim of the competition is to mold the youngsters in the sub-region and to continue to add value to the lives of customers and by extension the wider community.

“This competition to our youngsters provides an avenue for young persons to build their character, self esteem and help develop and mold them into confident and productive adults”, she told the gathering.

“…I challenge all the students here today to give the playstation and other electronics a break and read at least one book before the end of the year. I urge you to continue to read, you may be the person representing your school in the next competition or you may even represent Grenada in the finals,” she said.

Unicomer OECS acting Managing Director, Patrick Coghiel noted that the competition is the brainchild of the Dominica Broadcasting Station (DBS) and his company has adopted the initiative out of recognition that it would be ideal for a child’s development.

“We view reading as a critical element in the development of our young people and by extension the development of our nations. We are delighted to be able to encourage our youngsters to read despite the ever-growing distractions of computers, computer games, Mp3 players, and television”, he said.

“…The benefits that this provides to society in encouraging our children to participate in healthy competition will build their self confidence and improve their reading abilities, are manifold,” he added.

The finals of next year’s competition will be held in Dominica, as it is custom for the winner to be the host country of the next competition.

Statement from George Grant

In December 2008, a license to operate an FM radio station was issued to Grant Communications by the National Telecommunications and Regulatory Commission (NTRC). The license was valid for five years.

Since the company was unable to raise the funding required to establish a station of the calibre it was proposing, it did not take to the airwaves during the license period.

Just prior to the expiration of the license, on November 8, 2013, Grant Communications advised the NTRC of its desire to have the license renewed since there were indications that some funding had been sourced which would enable it to launch on a smaller scale than originally anticipated.

The NTRC indicated its willingness to renew the license, but pointed out to the company that the associated fees had not been paid during the five year period. The company explained that it had believed that, since it had not commenced operations, it was not aware that the fees had to be paid even if the spectrum had not been used.

The NTRC and Grant Communications negotiated a payment schedule and payment was made in full; following which the company was advised that the renewal process was underway. The NTRC also advised the company that this would take some time because of the bureaucracy.

At that time, the company enquired of the NTRC whether they could proceed with the commissioning of the station while they awaited the license and was told “yes” by two senior members of the regulatory body. As such, CHIME FM was initially launched on May 15, 2014.

Immediately upon going on-air, it was discovered that a Trinidad-based FM station was also operating on the same frequency, 101.7. This interference prompted the company to return to the NTRC and was promptly granted another frequency, 100.9 and told that if additional problems were encountered there, a subsequent frequency would be allocated. This did not become necessary.

On July 1, the station ended its test phase which consisted of primarily music, and began airing spoken-word programming. The response from listeners here in Grenada and abroad has been overwhelmingly positive.

On October 20, a letter on the NTRC’s letterhead was delivered to CHIME’s studio advising that the station should “immediately desist from broadcasting.”

A call was made to the NTRC, at which time Grant Communications was advised that the letter had not been penned by them but was merely delivered for onpass to the company.

It has since been learned that, although CHIME’s licensing fees have already been paid in full, the majority of the stations operating in Grenada are in non-compliance with licensing requirements; and that at least one, in fact, does not even have a license.

Attorneys for Grant Communications are working assiduously to have this matter resolved. But, in the meantime, the company steadfastly points to the cooperation which it has received over the years from the NTRC — including during the current scenario.

It describes the agency as one which has reached out to local broadcasters rather than exuding the atmosphere of fear normally associated with regulatory bodies.

Abuse of political power

Thirty-one years after U.S troops landed to restore democracy to this island, Grenada is still grappling with an issue that had dogged the Marxist leaders of the ill-fated 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of the late Maurice Bishop.

The issue of press freedom during the Grenada Revolution was one of the most powerful weapons used by opponents of the regime to garner regional and international support against the Revolution that was heavily backed by communist states like Cuba, the then Soviet Union and their satellites in Eastern Europe.

The current Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell was among the known opponents of the Bishop regime and was branded a CIA agent and declared persona-non grata from his own homeland in the Spice Isle.

The likes of Dr. Mitchell, Dr. Francis Alexis, Dr. Stanley Cyrus and the Trinidad and Tobago-based Grenadian attorney, Reynold Benjamin joined forces together in the Grenada Democratic Movement (GDM) to lead the battle against the excesses of the revolutionary leaders.

It is indeed a sad day that Dr. Mitchell, now as the Political Leader of the New National Party (NNP) and Prime Minister of Grenada is today being accused of trampling on the rights of the press due to the latest saga to unfold with the closure of CHIME FM radio station of George Grant.

It is noticeable that some of the strongest supporters of the NNP regime are the same elements who played a significant role in the dark days  of the PRG like trade unionist Chester Humphrey, as well as the then Deputy Secretary for Information and Army Captain, Peter David and Cletus St. Paul, the former bodyguard of the slain Bishop.

The closure of CHIME FM is rather unfortunate from a government that took office in the post-PRG era and the blood shed by many to liberate Grenada from the communist den by President Ronald Reagan.

THE NEW TODAY urges Mr. Grant to take the matter to court and allow a judge of the high court to decide the issues at stake involving the radio station and not the political directorate.
Is Mr. Grant now paying the price for something that happened many years ago between he and Minister Bowen?

It is clear to this newspaper that the ruling NNP government of Prime Minister Mitchell is abusing its hold on State power to stifle CHIME FM using the NTRC as a surrogate.

This is similar to what takes place in Guyana under the current PPP-Civic government that has communist leanings to spite an independent newspaper in the South American republic that is not favoured by the regime.

The CHIME FM issue brings back memories of the PRG and the closure of the independent Torchlight newspaper in those dark and oppressive days of 1979-83.

THE NEW TODAY calls on PM Mitchell to intervene as Minister of Information – similar to his interventions in West Indies cricket matters – and bring an immediate resolution to the issue facing the local FM radio station in the interest of his much talked about legacy.

The CHIME FM dilemma makes a mockery of the so-called independence given to bodies which are supposed to be part of the governance structure in a democracy.

Bishop must be laughing aloud wherever his soul is, at Grenadians because those who bitterly opposed him and sought to champion press freedom and human rights abuses are now in power and engaged once again in the same thing that dirtied the image of the tri-island State of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique in the four-and-a-half years of Marxist rule.

As far as THE NEW TODAY is concerned if there is an issue with the application made by Grant for a renewal of the broadcast licence that was given to him then the correct thing to do is to point out the flaws and problem and ask the applicant to take corrective measures.

There is a procedure in place for Magistrates and others to renew applications made by shopkeepers and the like to renew their liquor licences granted by the State.

It is clear and transparent – not as the kind of political football that the current rulers are engaged with in order to spite those who are not in their good books.

The premature closure of CHIME FM is a case that should attract the media watchdog body known as the International Press Institute because most of the pro-NNP FM stations that are operating in the country are in massive default on their annual licence payments of EC$2500.00 to the Treasury.

It is an open secret in the country that a family who runs a media empire owes the state around half-a-million dollars in outstanding taxes but is allowed to continue to do business as usual.

Within certain media circles, the feeling is that the current Political Directorate is using the taxes as a hammer over the heads of those in charge of the media outfit in order to keep them in line.

It appears that it is only the court – and not the current government as set up that can bring an amicable resolution to the CHIME FM issue.

This government is demonstrating all the signs that it is moving in the direction of a one-party State and will be prepared to bulldose any obstacle in the way.

Today it is CHIME FM and tomorrow it will be Kem Jones and THE NEW TODAY that will face a most vicious assault and attack from the proponents of the one party State policy and philosophy – use any means possible including technicalities at their disposal.

Building a new economy is still priority

Dame Cecile La Grenade – delivered the Throne Speech that is normally written by government

Dame Cecile La Grenade – delivered the Throne Speech that is normally written by government

The Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s has given Grenadians some hints of what will be contained in the 2015 national budget to be presented next month.

The plans of the government were outlined in the 2014 Throne Speech that was delivered to a Joint Sitting of Parliament last week Thursday byGovernor-General, Dame Cecile La Grenade.

Following is the full text of Dame Cecile’s address:

Our Nation embarks upon this Third Session of the Ninth Parliament with a strong sense of national unity, economic recovery and hope.

My Government fully recommits itself to our time-honoured principles of democracy, social justice and the rule of law.
Initial work has commenced on a permanent home for our Parliament and my Government is committed to having this most important symbol of our democracy completed in the shortest possible time.

It is with pleasure that my Government notes that all members of Parliament have now made their first declarations to the Integrity Commission. This is a historic development, which will help to improve the standard of governance in our Country.

The process continues to secure declarations from other persons covered under the Integrity in Public Life Act. To date, declarations have been received from Legal Officers, Senior Police Officers, Prison Officers and Customs Officers.

My Government is also pleased to note that the Integrity Commission is collaborating with the Organisation of American States in respect of the implementation of the Mechanism of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption.

My Government affirms its commitment to constitutional reform. Our Nation must be mindful that constitution reform is a journey – a long journey—and that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”  Very soon, our Nation will have the opportunity to take our first step on the journey of constitution reform.

Having endorsed the recommendations of the Constitutional Advisory Committee, my Government confirms its intention to bring legislation to Parliament for Constitution Reform.  Subject to parliamentary  approval, my Government will put to the people, a referendum on several amendments to our Constitution in the first quarter of 2015.

In the intervening period, the public education campaign will intensify, to help citizens understand the matters that will be placed before them, at the time of the referendum. This is an opportunity which must be fully grasped by all citizens; irrespective of class, religion or political affiliation.

My Government’s foremost priorities in this Parliament remain:

– building the New Economy; investing in our people – especially our youth; and uniting our Nation.

Building The New Economy

In January of this year, the Home Grown Programme, designed by Grenadians for Grenadians, commenced.  Putting the Nation’s fiscal house in order is a first and vital step to attracting investments and creating much needed jobs.

These are yet early days, but the initial results of the Programme have been very encouraging, with the economy growing for a second consecutive year; an improved fiscal situation; and rising confidence in Grenada’s investment climate.

The details of the Home Grown Programme have been fully disclosed and the Monitoring Committee established by the Committee of Social Partners has commenced its important work.

My Government expresses appreciation to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other development partners such as the World Bank, European Union, the Caribbean Development Bank, the United Kingdom, Canada and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank for their support of the Programme.

My Government is now preparing the 2015 Budget which it intends to bring to Parliament at the end of November of this year. The Budget will be consistent with the Home Grown Programme, with its priorities set to include securing fiscal and debt sustainability; investing in the productive sectors for growth and job creation; and investing in human development such as health, education and housing.

My Government is very mindful of the calls of our people, led by the Social Partners, to take deliberate steps to ensure the gains of the Home Grown Programme are protected and sustained.  In this regard, my Government will take the unprecedented step of bringing Fiscal Responsibility legislation to Parliament before the end of this year.

Now that the fiscal situation has been stabilized and has begun to improve, my Government’s focus is on maintaining fiscal discipline while facilitating private sector-led growth, which is intrinsic to job creation.

In this regard, my Government has reviewed the current Investment Incentives framework and will soon be tabling legislation to further improve Grenada’s business climate. The legislation will provide for greater transparency, predictability and efficiency to all investors – local and foreign.

In pursuit of faster job creation, my Government will expand its support for small business development through the Grenada Development Bank and the Small Business Development Centre of the Grenada Industrial Development Corporation.

My Government will increase the amount allocated to the Small Business Loan Scheme, and it will work diligently to address the inefficiencies identified during the first year of the programme.

Beneficiaries of the small business loan are also urged to be fully responsible in meeting their repayment requirements so as to ensure the continuance of the programme, for the benefit of other citizens.

Consistent with the job creation focus of my Government, the employment agency in the Ministry of Labour will become fully operational.  The regulations and fees for work permits will also be revised.

Following the completion of the current work being done by the Tripartite Committee, with technical assistance from Canada, new legislation will be brought to Parliament to revise the Labour Code.

There will also be a revision of the Occupational Health and Safety law.

Over the past 18 months, my Government has listened carefully to the Social Partners who have strongly articulated the need for a long term national plan.  My Government has now taken steps to commence the development of National Plan 2030.

This Plan will be designed by Grenadians for Grenada, with appropriate technical support as required.  It will build on the Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy: 2014-18.

It will focus on a model of development that is people-centered, with a major focus on production, job creation and greater self-reliance.

The ultimate aim of National Plan 2030 is shared prosperity: jobs for persons who wish to work; business opportunities for those who choose to invest; and social justice for all who believe in equality and human rights.

All citizens will be called upon to articulate their hopes, dreams and aspirations in this Plan.

My Government recognises the critical importance of the Public Service for a new and modern economy.  For this reason, the Public Service must be given the highest level of attention and support, starting with the enactment of a new Public Service Act and revised Staff Orders.

There will be a strong thrust to raise the competency of public officers at every level, especially the middle and senior ranks.

Accordingly, my Government will introduce Qualifications and Competency Frameworks, targeting a set of minimum qualifications to fill certain positions and core competencies to deliver results.

These frameworks will cause a shift from a certification-centered culture to a skills-focused culture in the Grenada Public Service.

Furthermore, talent identification and development is essential. Both senior and middle managers will be expected to perform the role of talent scouts in supporting the development of talent in the Public Service. Public servants will be promoted on the basis of merit; not longevity.

With this in mind, there will be a more active rotation policy aimed at giving public officers more experience across Government and ensuring higher levels of competence, instead of complacency. It is important that public servants embrace this contractual mandate of being asked to serve in any area of the Service.

The Pension Disqualification Act of 1983, apart from being manifestly unfair, is inhibiting the ability of the Public Service to attract and retain top talent. To address this issue, my Government will press forward with pension reform to deal with certain inequities in the current arrangements for public servants appointed after April 04, 1983; as well as seek to rationalise the various pension laws operating in the Public Service.

My Government is committed to the further professionalisation of both the Customs and Excise Division and the Inland Revenue Division. This process includes ensuring high standards of integrity and competence at all levels. To this end, my Government intends to strengthen the legal framework by tabling a new Customs Bill and a Tax Administration Bill.

My Government will recruit trained and experienced professionals and will continue to provide opportunities for training and professional development for staff of the Customs and Inland Revenue divisions.

My Government commends the many honest and hardworking public officers whose integrity and professionalism are to be admired and emulated.  That said, my Government remains concerned about the lack of high ethical standards among some public officers in the revenue collection agencies of Government.  No effort will be spared to raise
those standards and/or remove such persons from their posts.

There will be no safe haven in the Public Service for persons whose job it is to collect Government’s revenue but whose dealings deprive the people of our country of much needed resources to provide services such as medicines at our Hospitals and clinics, repairing roads, delivering education to our students and supporting our farmers and fisher folk.

The high cost of electricity remains a binding constraint to Grenada’s growth and competitiveness. Accordingly, my Government is preparing a new Electricity Supply Act which is expected to be tabled in Parliament in 2015.

The areas for focus include tariff setting, use of renewable sources of energy and provision for regulation through the Public Utilities Commission, to be eventually succeeded by the Eastern Caribbean Energy Regulatory Authority.

Cognisant of the critical role of infrastructure for economic growth, my Government places high priority on flood mitigation and slope stabilisation projects.

My Government will increase spending on Special Projects which are aimed at improving community infrastructure. Those projects not only serve the critical functions of building communities, but they also provide short term employment.

Consistent with the policy of my Government, all contractors are reminded to utilize, and give first priority to unskilled labour from the communities in which they are working.

In regards to our road infrastructure, my Government is acutely aware of the deterioration of our Nation’s roads. 2015 will see an increase in the funds allocated for the maintenance of our roads, especially now that the Asphalt plant is fully operational after several years of not being functional.

Agriculture has a central place in the New Economy as a major contributor to food and nutrition security, employment and foreign exchange.

My Government is deeply concerned about Grenada’s high food import bill. My Government will continue and complete the commercialisation of Government estates to deliver more productivity, more employment and more foreign exchange for our Country.

My Government is pleased with the new direction of the Marketing and National Importing Board, but will continue to push for more to be done to help our farmers market their produce, and at good prices.

There will be ongoing support for high value crops such as soursop; more farm labour support; more planting materials and more support services.

The thrust in agro-processing, including nutmeg and cocoa processing, will be given more support.

My Government believes that the consumption of more local food is essential to health, wealth and a sustainable lifestyle. Consequently, growing local, buying local and eating local will be a major focus of our national food and nutrition security plan. This thrust will begin with a strongly articulated conviction that local is healthy. Local is
wholesome.  Local is better.

This will require a national effort as we re-orient the national psyche and raise a new generation of our children to believe in, and consume local produce.

My Government is committed to making Grenada a world class tourism destination. To this end, considerable focus will continue to be placed on hotel development; marketing; airlift; improving existing attraction sites and developing new attractions through private investment and public private partnerships. My Government will invite
proposals to commercialise selected attraction sites, including our major forts.

My Government believes that Grenada needs at least 3,000 hotel rooms, and will therefore continue to offer incentives to investors (local and foreign) who are interested in hotel and resort development, especially at 5-star or higher quality.  This critical mass of rooms is needed to strengthen Grenada’s ability to negotiate airlift.

To that end, my Government is heartened by the two new hotels which are currently being designed. Work will commence on at least one of those by the end of November, as Government continues to actively pursue more hotel investments.

My Government will continue to build partnerships with airlines that focus on marketing of Grenada, rather than on revenue guarantees for the airlines.

My Government is delivering results in this area with direct service from Germany in November, and the commencement of daily flights by American Airlines in December of this year.

The preservation and development of our cultural heritage is a high priority for my Government. Indeed, the creative industry is part of the New Economy.  As a consequence, my Government appointed a dedicated, veteran Minister to drive this process.

Following the recent development of a policy framework, my Government intends to bring legislation to Parliament to establish a Film Commission.

The performance of Spicemas Corporation will be improved with a strong emphasis on planning, and more private sector participation in the marketing and delivery of Spicemas.

Recognizing that the safety of our citizens and visitors alike is paramount to our development process, my Government will continue to work with our law enforcement agencies; providing and facilitating the necessary training and technical and financial support to ensure that our men and women in uniform have the tools to perform optimally.

The agencies will continue to collaborate with our friends and partners, such as the United States, Great Britain, Trinidad and Tobago, and other Caribbean countries, in the fight against crime.

Small Island Developing States face an existential threat from climate change. In other words, climate change is a matter of life and death.  Grenada will continue to play a leading role in advocacy on this issue.  Moreover, we will pilot several initiatives in green or renewable energy; with a particular focus on community projects, such as retrofitting and solar PV lighting.

Investing in Our People

Healthcare is one of the most strongly articulated needs of our citizens.  My Government will intensify its efforts to strengthen primary health care with expanded services and extended hours of services at health clinics across the Country.

The recent challenges with vector-borne viruses such as Chikungunya, should be cause for our Nation to reflect on the current practices of wanton littering and waste disposal. Such behaviour is not only degrading, but damaging to our health and our environment.  My Government calls on all citizens to take more personal responsibility for keeping our surroundings clean.

With the threat of the Ebola virus around the world, my Government is actively in the process of safeguarding our shores from this deadly virus. In close collaboration with our regional partners, we have heightened preparation efforts, including the outfitting and training of medical personnel to treat patients; ordering of supplies;
increased public awareness of the virus; as well as considering enacting relevant travel restrictions and screening mechanisms for visitors.

My Government is committed to the establishment of a New Hospital.

This New Hospital will be owned by Government but will be part of a Medical Park developed through a public-private partnership.  The New Hospital will serve as a nucleus around which Grenada will attract investments in medical tourism.

The positioning of Grenada as a medical tourism destination will be done in partnership with St. George’s University; leveraging its impressive brand and track record in the field of medical education.

The long term prosperity of our Nation requires a sound investment in our children and youth.

My Government is committed to improving the relevance and quality of education offered in our Nation’s schools. With this in mind, there will be a special focus on securing higher levels of proficiency in Reading, Mathematics and English, and offering more technical and vocational skills training.

To improve learning outcomes, my Government is committed to the increasing use of technology in the delivery of instruction and its accessibility to our children as they navigate the 21st century.

More scholarships for study will also be sought after, and provided.

My Government is very concerned, not only about the high level of unemployment, but also the skills mismatch in respect of the needs of the job market.  This situation will be addressed on several fronts including revision of the National Training Policy and Priorities, sourcing of scholarships, programmes of the National Training Agency, T.A. Marryshow Community College and St. George’s University.

My Government will continue to provide skills training and employment opportunities for our youth through the Imani Programme.

In the area of sports, my Government expects to complete the reconstruction of the Athletics and Football Stadium in 2015.  This facility, together with the Cricket Stadium, will be used to promote Grenada as a sport tourism destination.

My Government will actively seek to bring international games to Grenada in an effort to boost tourist expenditure, secure significant marketing exposure for our destination, as well as to inspire a new generation of world-class, competitive sportsmen and women.

My Government is very cognisant of the considerable housing needs of our citizens. In this regard, there will be significantly expanded programmes for house repair and expansion.  In addition, a major focus will be Phase II of the Housing Programme with the People’s Republic of China.

Public-private partnerships for middle income housing will also be pursued. To that end, my Government has signed contracts with two private sector firms for the construction of low and middle income houses  to help meet this most desperate and basic need of our citizens.

We will also move forward with the expansion of the soft loan programme; as well as the house repair programme.

My Government is very cognisant of the powerful role that Information and Communications Technology must play in the New Economy.  In this regard, a comprehensive and integrated IT Strategy will be pursued to
advance Grenada’s development.

My Government understands that healthy familial relationships build healthy communities and ultimately, a healthy Nation.

My Government will continue to support parents through the National Parenting Programme. This includes delivering parenting education sessions at antenatal clinics, meetings of Parent Teachers Associations and at the community level. A special programme will target parents of juveniles.

My Government is pleased to announce the completion of its Gender Policy and Action Plan. The main objective of the Policy is to create an enabling environment for the attainment of gender equality in the lives of Grenadian men and women, boys and girls.

Given our current realities in respect of educational attainment and conflict with the law, our boys are a particular focus of the Policy.

My Government is committed to gender equality.  In this regard, it will implement its recently developed Gender Policy.

My Government is committed to the reduction of gender-based violence in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. To this end, it will continue to implement the Strategic Action Plan on Gender Based Violence.  The main focus will be raising awareness of its harmful effects on victims and perpetrators.

Citizens must understand that domestic violence is a crime under the laws of Grenada, and that they will face prosecution if they commit such crimes.

My Government will continue to put measures in place to improve the quality of life for our elderly citizens and to make services more accessible to them.

My Government reaffirms its strong commitment to ensuring that adequate safety nets are maintained throughout the Home-grown Programme to protect the poor and vulnerable in our Country.  A Social Safety Net Policy Framework has been completed and adopted. This Framework requires a paradigm shift in the delivery of safety nets with a focus on moving from dependence to development and empowerment.

In 2015, there will be an increase in resources for poverty alleviation, transportation allowance, and in the overall allocation for the Needy Assistance programme for our most vulnerable citizens.

My Government will continue to collaborate with the OECS Commission, USAID and other partners to ensure the opening of the Grand Bacolet Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centre during 2015.

My Government will also commence implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act. The ultimate aim is to provide young offenders with a second chance to make a positive contribution to their society.

National Unity

Uniting the people of Grenada, at home and abroad, remains a top priority of my Government. In this regard, my Government extends an invitation to all Grenadians, at home and abroad, irrespective of political affiliation, to join hands as we build a just and prosperous society; not just for ourselves but for our children and grandchildren.

My Government remains deeply committed to social dialogue through purposeful engagement with all social partners. In this regard, it will continue to accord the highest priority to the work of the Committee of Social Partners, which comprises Labour Unions, Businesses, NGOs, Churches and the Government.

It is the hope of my Government that the Social Compact will be signed and tabled in Parliament during this session.

My Government will continue to support the National Social Partners Forum – an initiative of the Committee of Social Partners, aimed at public engagement on issues of national importance.

Conclusion

My Government has set out its major priorities for this Parliament: building a new economy, investing in our people and uniting our Nation.  The details will be elaborated on when my Government presents the 2015 Budget at the end of November.

May God guide you in all your deliberations and render you equal to the sacred trust bestowed upon you.

May God bless Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

The 12 least controversial – not sufficient for referendum on Constitutional Reform

by Terence Moore

The National Consultation on the constitutional reform which took place on 15th Oct was a revelation for many Grenadians. And it was a good start on the educational process, but it should not end there. I believe that most of the people who followed the discussions have now begun to understand some of the issues.

However, my problem with the consultation is that in terms of allocation of time much was given to the ‘12 least controversial’ approved to date by Cabinet. Of the 8 or 9 hours spent in the Trade Centre, nearly 7 hours were given to the already approved and only about 1 hour to the 13 other recommendations. It would seem that the focus was on the twelve not on the other 13. By the time the 13 was introduced by Dr Alexis, the Trade Centre was virtually empty.

After listening to the 13 other recommendations, I contend that the criterion of ‘the least controversial’ which the committee used as its criterion is insufficient, and belies the real reason for constitutional reform.  That is why the committee ended up including so much “incidentals”, like adding an ‘e’ to Petit Martinique, not that these things are not important but which may not necessarily need a referendum

To understand what recommendations should be put to the people on referendum day, the purpose for the exercise must be determined and aired. Is it just to be a fulfillment of the NNP manifesto
declarations? Or is it a genuine response to the anamolies, the deficiencies, the gaps of the present constitution? Or is it an exercise to strengthen the constitution so that the political and economic abuses of the past may be corrected?

When asked what was the purpose of the 3 past Constitutional reviews, Dr Larry Joseph simply said “to make changes” to the constitution. I found such an answer very simplistic because one will ask why make changes to our constitution in the first place. It cannot simply be to make changes. There must be a deeper motive for this.

I am contending that consideration of the purpose of constitutional reform must be an integral part of the thinking. Government must explain why this exercise is thought necessary at all. Why not just leave our constitution as is? What is wrong about our constitution that it was decided to modify or reform?

Based on the answer, what is eventually chosen to be put forward to the people will become easier and less of a burden. The criterion of the least controversial as a principle for choice will pale into insignificance and we will not have to bring 64,000 of our people to vote on ‘incidentals’, as Dr Joseph described some of them.

In my view, the 25 recommendations must be examined against the background of 40 years of bad governance, poor economic management, and political and human rights abuses against the people, lack of control of people over their representatives, excessive power of the Prime Minister, corrupt practices, victimisation and tribalism, and lack of patriotism.

Our political history has seen it all; therefore the current constitution needs to be strengthened against such abuses and flaws.

Additional Criteria for choosing the recommendation.

The criterion of the least controversial needs to be beefed up with other more weighty ones derived from our past history. I am therefore suggesting a set of new criteria to be used for deciding on which recommendations to be chosen for the referendum.

These criteria must do the following:

(1). Mitigate excessive power in a parliamentarian/or representative;

(2). Must give people greater say in the governance of the country;

(3). Must ensure that human rights are protected

(4). Must reduce victimisation and favouritism, political tribalism, extreme      greed and corruption;

(5). Increase patriotism, protect heritage and environment

If these criteria are used, they will add weight and substance to the reform exercise, and ensure that the constitutional reform is meaningful. That is why the 13 other recommendations are so important and should be considered as well.

My additional Recommendations

So in order to do these things, I believe that some additional recommendations must be put before the people in a referendum,

(a).  Term limits of PM for 2 consecutive terms, but can come back after a 2 term break;

(b). Campaign finance reform to reduce opportunities for corruption and influence over governing party;

(c). Recall of Representative. This will ensure that parliamentarians are accountable to people.

(d). Local Government, whether Parish Councils or community councils.

This will give greater say to our people on governance

(e). Head of State elected by Parliament

(f). Fixed date for election – people will know in advance,

(g). Unicameral legislature

(h). Independent senators to be selected by Head of State

(I). Proportional representation to ensure voice of an opposition;

In my mind, such additions will strengthen the process and make the referendum more meaningful whatever the date.

The date could be shifted back a bit to enable more discussions and education. But at least, the citizens of Grenada would not be called upon simply to go out there to vote on incidentals.

TAWU and FLOW assist form five student

TAWU representative hands over Laptop to recipient Carmella Morain

TAWU representative hands over Laptop to recipient Carmella Morain

The Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) and FLOW have teamed up together to assist a form five student of the Anglican High School (AHS) to put her in a better position to handle her CXCs and other school projects through the use of a laptop and free Internet service.

Carmella Morain is the recipient of an award from the Curtis Stewart Memorial Scholarship fund, which has been in operation for the past 20 years.

A handing over ceremony was held on Tuesday at TAWU House on H.A. Blaize Street to hand over the laptop to the student.

Curtis Stewart, a past President of the TAWU, was one of those pioneers who took pride in assisting students.

The ceremony was addressed by General Secretary of the union, Bert Patterson who said that TAWU had been engaged in a free schoolbook programme prior to the one that was launched by the former congress government of Tillman Thomas between 2008 and 2013.

“Prior to Government’s initiative to give free schoolbooks, a programme, which I think, is now ended, the union in fact carried on that programme of giving kids of needy workers assistance with schools books for several years”, he said.

Describing the free school book scheme as ‘a revolving programme”,  Patterson said that when the Thomas administration came into office, “we did donate several thousand dollars worth of books to the Government programme”

“…We still give uniforms to children of workers, we transferred the book programmes to uniforms to the IT areas which has become most important or as important as books for the purpose of education,” he remarked.

The 19-month old Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) has virtually scuttled the free school programme in favour of utilizing the funds in other areas such as giving the students an increase in bus fares to and from school.

Patterson disclosed that the laptop, which was presented to the recipient, was passed on from another student.

“On this occasion we are presenting a revolving laptop which is part of a revolving programme where once the students are through everything will be transferred to other students, particularly for the Form Five…”, he remarked.

He spoke of FLOW getting involved by providing the student with one-year free Internet service.

“…The student will be receiving a laptop to continue with her studies and FLOW will be (installing) the necessary service for Internet, which is a priority for education in these days,” he said.

Sales and Marketing Coordinator of Flow, Rockel Clement-George said this partnership between TAWU and her company has been going on for the past three years.

She said it is the belief of Flow that assisting young children with Internet service and with their education is extremely important.

“We know that the Internet right now is being used for many things, one of which is educational purposes and a lot of people are doing their studies and research online, and this is why we jumped on board… this will definitely benefit her when she is doing her research for SBAs and so forth,” Clement-George said.

The FLOW employee assured the student that she would have the best service on island.

“We definitely know that having this one year service will definitely benefit you in your studies in your last year of school and we really want you to take full advantage of this one year service. Everybody know that you will be using the fastest Internet speed on island, so you will not have to wait for any buffering (with) your projects or your research – everything will come up very quickly,” she said.

Carmella Morain was extremely grateful to both TAWU and FLOW for the assistance.

“As I have a lot of SBA’s coming up and I have to do a lot of research especially for the science subjects, it will benefit me greatly because I need the research and stuff to assist me because (although) (there are) books, that is not enough and the Internet has everything nowadays,” she told THE NEW TODAY newspaper.