OIL & GAS: OUR PATRIMONY, GOVERNMENT’S SECRET

On 31st March 2008, just months before the July 8th elections, the NNP Government entered into a Production Sharing Agreement with Global Petroleum Group (“GPG”) for the “exploration, development and production of offshore petroleum resources of Grenada”.

The agreement was signed against the legal advice of Grenada’s lawyers, who specialise in energy law, and also, against the advice of an expert team from the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Also on 31st March 2008, Government issued GPG with an Exploration Licence (“the licence”) giving GPG exploratory rights over 11 blocks. In issuing the licence, Government did not comply with the provisions of the Petroleum & Natural Gas Deposits Act, Chapter 240 of the 1990 Revised Laws of Grenada, or the Natural Gas Deposits Regulations, SRO No. 14 of 2007.

GPG is a private company that was formed in 2003 apparently, for the specific purpose of entering into the agreement with Government. None of the principals of GPG had prior experience or expertise in the oil and gas industry.

When NDC took office in July 2008, and saw that Government’s advisors found the agreement disadvantageous, we sought additional advice from Dynamic Global Advisors (“DGA”), an independent team of oil and gas experts based in Texas. DGA agreed with the earlier experts that the deal was a bad one. They went further and said the agreement was “so blatantly one-sided in favour of GPG, that it constitutes a reprehensible bargain between the parties.”

With this opinion from DGA, the NDC Government tried its best to re-negotiate the agreement with GPG so that Grenada could benefit from its oil reserves. By then it was mid-2012, the elections were close at hand, GPG was not co-operating and NNP was supporting GPG (not Grenada), making all kinds of noises, misleading and lying to the people.

After NNP won the elections in 2013, it announced that it would proceed with the arrangement with GPG. The agreement signed on 31st March 2008, was due to expire in late 2012. As of today, the NNP has not told the nation whether they went ahead with this 2008 reprehensible agreement, or whether they took the opportunity to sign a new, more beneficial agreement.

In fact, everything about the current arrangement has been hidden from the people of Grenada, treated as top secret, while we have to look to regional and international newspapers for information.

The NDC strongly condemns this treacherous conduct against the people of Grenada.

On September 21st 2017, a report in the Trinidad Guardian Newspaper indicated that Grenada (GPG) had discovered oil in its waters close to our border with Venezuela. Only after this and another report in an international online energy magazine, did our Prime Minister confirm that yes, oil was discovered. Our Government never saw it fit to break this ‘good news’ to the people. Was this because they knew that the news was only good for GPG?

Since then, all news relating to developments in our oil and gas sector has originated from outside Grenada. Government only makes reactionary, vague statements when forced to. Of course, the one exception was the election gimmick at Pearls on the eve of elections when Mitchell once again tomfooled the people.

Again, on March 21st 2019, in Parliament, in responding to some questions from our Senator Ron Redhead on the current arrangement with GPG, Senator Simon Stiell, Leader of Government Business in the Senate, told the nation that the deal with GPG was a sensitive commercial contract and therefore confidential and “not subject to public perusal at this time”. What utter hogwash!

The people’s business is being kept a secret from the people by those we hire to mind our business.

Despite Stiell’s hogwash, an article appeared in the Trinidad Guardian days later, disclosing a $3.4bn exploration agreement between the National Gas Company of Trinidad & Tobago and GPG. It seems that for the people of Grenada our oil and gas business is a secret, but for the people of Trinidad, it is not.

The NDC finds it deeply troubling that GPG has run into financial difficulties and is getting financial backing from a third party and further, that there was no one at the signing with NGC to look after the interests of the people of Grenada. We call this out as recklessness and a dereliction of duty of the highest order.

After two short years in office, NDC was able to conclude the maritime boundary delimitation agreement with Trinidad & Tobago in 2010. Mitchell claimed that the agreement was bad and he would re-do it. He hasn’t, because he cannot do better. By contrast, we note with concern that he has made absolutely no attempt to do the same with Venezuela since resuming office in 2013. This can have dire consequences for us in future.

The resources and minerals of our land and sea belong to the present and future peoples of Grenada, not Mitchell and his cronies. They are not protecting our patrimony. We call on every patriotic Grenadian to stand up and be counted. Start doing so by adding your voices and making sure we soon put an end to this madness.

(The above was submitted by the main opposition National Democratic Congress)

Selling or saving the soul of the OAS

The Organisation of American States (OAS), already a broken institution, was shattered even more on April 9 at a meeting of its Permanent Council. It is now an organisation whose membership is deeply divided and amongst whom mistrust, and bitterness now predominates.

How this huge problem will be fixed – if it can be fixed at all – is the paramount challenge that now confronts its 33 and a half members. I will return to the half-member later in this commentary.

Nothing that I say in this commentary is a secret. The Permanent Council meeting of April 9 was played out in a live webcast on the OAS’ website.

The meeting was held, after weeks of efforts by the United States and most of the members of the so-called Lima Group, to secure the adoption of a resolution that would unseat the representative of the Nicolas Maduro government and replace him with the nominee of Juan Guaido. Guaido is the self-proclaimed “Interim President” of Venezuela, so recognised by roughly 50 of the more than 200 governments in the world.

The manoeuvrings behind the scenes had a single purpose and that was to procure 18 votes, constituting a simple majority of the 34 member-states, to impose Guaido’s nominee as Venezuela’s representative.

It took some time for the core 14 countries to woo the support of 4 others, not least because the manner of pushing the resolution through the Permanent Council defied international law and the Charter and rules of the OAS. Governments had to dig deep to balance disregard for the integrity of the OAS as an institution and a desire to help those countries that were determined to seat Guaido’s representative.

The meeting was summoned for high noon on April 9 and all delegations were cautioned to be on time for a prompt start. As it turned out delegates were forced to wait until after 1.00 p.m. to start the meeting because, at the last minute, Jamaica – one of the faithful 18 – insisted on new language, causing commotion among the group and threatening to derail its entire effort.

Even when the resolution was presented to the Permanent Council Meeting and was being debated, it was unclear what text was being considered. What was before the meeting was the original text, omitting the Jamaica language. A request from me, as the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, for clarification, resulted in a break in the meeting’s proceedings to produce the final text of the resolution. Its main purpose remained to accept the appointment of “the National Assembly’s designated Permanent Representative”.

There was much solemn and serious debate about the entire proceedings, but in the end, 18 countries, using their razor-thin majority, forced the vote through.

Some self-interested governments have characterised the April 9 meeting as a clash of support for or against the contending forces in Venezuela. Sections of the media have followed that line.

But, far from being about Maduro/Guaido and Venezuela, the meeting was about selling or saving the soul of the OAS; it was about disregarding international norms and ignoring the institutional framework of the Organisation for the short-term political purposes of a few; and it was about arguing for the retention of the OAS’ integrity.

At the end of the vote, passed by a simple majority, the Ambassador of Mexico, Jorge Lomónaco Tonda, summed-up the meeting well. He said: “There were no winners or losers; only losers”. And, the biggest loser was the OAS itself.

Nowhere in the Charter of the OAS, or in its rules, does the Permanent Council have the authority to decide on the recognition of a government. Further, as was stated repeatedly at the meeting, the recognition of a government is the sovereign right of states and cannot be determined or imposed by a multilateral organisation. At the very least, the matter, given its high political importance, should have been considered by a special session of the General Assembly, the highest organ of the OAS.

What the hasty, ill-considered process succeeded in doing is damaging the OAS as an institution, tainting its structure and governance, harming relations between its member sates and rendering it unfit for anything but achieving the purposes of a willful majority of 18 countries.

The vote on recognition of the National Assembly’s representative was really about the de-recognition of the Maduro government’s representative. While that may have been achieved within the OAS, it has changed nothing in the international community. Countries that recognise Maduro or Guaido as President of Venezuela continue to do so.

Nothing has changed in Venezuela either. This vote has achieved no new negotiations and no solution to the humanitarian situation. If anything, it has served only to harden the opposing sides in the political conflict, closing the door to solutions.

To return now to the 33 and a half members of the OAS. The national assembly’s representative may be seated in front of the Venezuelan flag, but he cannot speak for the government that is in charge of Venezuela. A vital test of recognition of a government, in international law and practice, is whether it exercises effective control of the affairs of the country. The National Assembly does not have effective control of Venezuela, and its representative cannot speak, in the OAS, for the de facto government.

There is a further question regarding the authenticity of the representative’s credentials which appear to have been overlooked, deliberately or otherwise by the OAS Secretariat.

The National Assembly nominated a “Special” representative to the OAS, but there is no such category of representation. Further, as pointed out in the meeting by the Ambassador of Guyana, Riyad Insanally, the letter to the Secretary-General from Mr. Guaido, signed as “Interim President of Venezuela”, designating the “Permanent” representative, was dated January 22, 2019. But his proclamation as “Interim President” took place on January 23, 2019. In other circumstances, these discrepancies would not have been accepted.

The OAS is now in many ways a sadly compromised organisation. The fight on April 9, 2019 to sell or save its soul defines it now and can limit its effectiveness in the future.

Why should we care? Because it is the only hemispheric organisation in which all countries (except Cuba) sit, and which had the mandate and the opportunity to keep the region peaceful and to pursue cooperation that could make a difference to the lives of all its people. All that is now corrupted.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States and the Organisation of American States. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and at Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are entirely his own)

Minding Your Legal Affairs

The Employee’s Rights- Part II

In Part I, one of the protections set out as being guaranteed by the Employment Act was that of the right to minimum standards set out in that Act.

Apart from the fundamental protections otherwise indicated in Part I, what are the minimum standards for contracting an employee’s labour?

This Part will deal with Hours of Work.

(1).Unless an employee is a shift worker:

(a) If he/she is an agricultural, industrial or construction worker, he/she cannot be required to work for more than 40 hours per week, Monday to Friday, unless he/she agrees, and he/she is paid at overtime rates;

(b) If he/she is a clerical or shop assistant, he/she cannot be required to work for more than 44 hours, Monday to Saturday;

(c) If he/she is a catering assistant, he/she cannot be required to work for more than 44 hours; and

(d) If he/she is a domestic worker or security guard, he/she cannot be required to work for more than 60 hours.

(2).Except for security guards and domestic workers, an employee cannot be required to work for more than 8 hours a day. This does not count lunch break, so an employee can be at the job for 9 hours, lunch time included.

(3).A domestic worker cannot be required to work more than 10 hours per day, with 2 hours on lunch/rest breaks included in those 10 hours.

(4). A security guard cannot be required to work for more than 12 hours per day.

(5). A lunch break must be given after no more than 5 consecutive working hours. A full hour for lunch is required unless the parties agree, and that agreement has been approved by the Labour
Commissioner. If it is not approved by the Labour Commissioner, the agreement is not effective. An employee cannot be required to work during his lunch break.

(6). No employer can require an employee to work for more than six (6) consecutive days without a day of rest.

(7). Any overtime work done must be compensated at time and a half on ordinary working days and double time on Sundays and public holidays.
Overtime work can only be done upon agreement and cannot be compelled.

(The above was submitted by the Grenada Bar Association)

The Organic Shrimp Farm, Fool Me Twice…

On 27th February 2017 a glitzy ground-breaking ceremony was held in St. Mark’s to launch the Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture (GSA). The project was to establish an organic shrimp farm that promised much needed employment in one of the most depressed parishes.

According to GSA’s website, the project was to create “more than 400 new local jobs”, some of which were to be highly skilled, that would give young people educational opportunities at the university level.

Naturally, many Grenadians welcomed this development because St. Mark’s deserves a break. This was not the first time the people of St. Mark’s were promised a major project that would bring them employment and economic benefits.

In 2003, a poultry farm was to be established in St. Mark’s, an initiative of private Grenadian investors to which Government was later invited in a public/private partnership. After our Grenadian investors did all the preparatory work and secured the US$6.9 million needed to start operations, the NNP stooges were allowed to swoop down, grab all the money and ‘run wid it’.

The investors were robbed of their money and the people of the promised opportunities. An investigation was not launched into that project. Is it because they knew exactly who swiped the US$6.9m? The money was never paid back. The taxpayers of our country did.

A twisted joke was played on the people of St. Mark’s because the failed shrimp farm was to be established on the same lands where the poultry farm was to be located. Worse yet, those are fertile lands that once contained hundreds of bearing cocoa trees. Had the people of St. Mark’s not been duped twice, those lands could today be supplying cocoa to Diamond and other chocolate factories on the island.

At the launch of GSA, Dr. Claris Modeste-Curwen, MP said that the project was to be funded in part by the Government of China. Mr. Dennis Antoine, Grenada’s then Ambassador to China made remarks. GSA’s website indicates that the Government of Grenada and the “principals” of GSA were to jointly invest $20 million of the $39 million needed for the project.

Government must now tell us how much of our monies were invested in this failed project. What amount the Government of China contributed. This fiasco runs the risk of not just once more bringing our country’s name into disrepute, but this time, dragging the name of at least one friendly country into the dirt.

The Prime Minister also said that he was an investor in the project so people “should not worry”. Why should people worry? It was as though Mitchell knew since then, that the whole thing was a sham so he said those words to appease people who may have been sceptical given the NNP’s past history of doing business with crooks, conmen and fraudsters.

Did the PM know or suspect since then that this was going to flop? Surely, with all his experience, he should be able to spot the crooks from a distance.

The troubling thing for the NDC is that based on our research, the people behind GSA, do not appear to be fraudsters of the ilk of EJ Miller & Charles Liu of the Mt. Hartman Project, Robert Oveson of the Levera Project, Eric Resteiner, the briefcase man or Van Brink of First International Bank; just to name a few of NNP’s fraudster ‘investors’.

Furthermore, we are yet to hear from the principals of GSA, however, Mitchell has taken in front, announced the investigation and suggested that the investors have made off with people’s money.

Based on Mitchell’s pronouncements, the integrity of our CBI program is questionable. It means that proper due diligence is not being done on applicants. Liu and Oveson also promoted CBI projects. How can Mitchell be only now asking for help from regional and international agencies to investigate these people who he, his ministers and diplomats paraded with and told us were legit?

Isn’t that putting the horse before the cart once more?

We need complete transparency on this one. Who are the investigators? What are their terms of reference? How long is the investigation to last? Which regional and international agencies are we asking for assistance? Make the findings public. It is time for Mitchell and his pack to stop treating Grenadians as though we are all stupid. Come clean. Stop with the dirty games.

(The above reflects the views of the main opposition National Democratic Congress)

Belize: Put the national interest first

Narrow party-political ambitions frequently thwart the wider national interest in practically every country.

The world is watching this play-out now as a public spectacle in Britain where the Brexit question continues to be deeply immersed in both personal political purposes and a struggle for the supremacy of one political party over another. At the end of it, Britain will be a much-diminished nation economically. It will also have little clout in the international community.

But it is not in Britain alone that this tragedy of political ambition over wider national interest is being displayed. On April 3, seven days before a referendum is scheduled to be held in Belize to determine if the country should take its border dispute with Guatemala for final arbitration to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the opposition political party, the Peoples’ Unity Party (PUP), obtained an injunction from the Chief Justice, Kenneth Benjamin, to stay it.

This commentary is less concerned with the legal technicalities of the judgement, important though they are, and more concerned with the increasing tendency to eschew agreement among political parties that serve the national interest, and, instead to pursue political advantage even though it may be short-term and harmful to the nation’s cause.

Of course, the politicians and political parties that pursue these advantages will reject the idea that they are doing so. They will wrap their arguments in the colours of the national flag and claim that they are marching to the drums of the national anthem. They will proclaim it is the people’s interest they are protecting. The same will be done by the governing political parties. But it is the very people, on whose behalf they claim to act, who will be sidelined in the party-political argument.

The referendum, scheduled for April 10 in Belize, was precisely to give the people a say in determining how the Belizean nation should deal with the claim to all of its territory by Guatemala – a claim that has manacled the country hand and foot, retarding its economic and social advancement even prior to its independence from Britain in 1981.

The decision to hold a referendum did not materialise out of thin air, nor was it the brainchild of the governing United Democratic Party (UDP). Significantly, most of the work to hold a referendum was done by the very PUP that sought the April 3 injunction to stop it.

After years of incursions by Guatemalans – both civilian and military – into Belizean territory and an absolute refusal by successive Guatemalan governments to end the claim to all Belizean territory, the governments of the two countries agreed in 2012 to hold separate referenda to allow their people to decide whether or not the all-consuming dispute would be sent to the ICJ for settlement.

After much foot-dragging and postponements over the six following years, the Guatemala government held its referendum on April 15, 2018. The result of the referendum, albeit with a low turn-out, was a mandate by more than 90 per cent of the voters for the Guatemalan government to take the dispute to the ICJ.

In the face of this history and the remarkable step by the Guatemalans to hold the referendum, the voice of the Belizean people had to be heard. Therefore, the date for the referendum was set, and the government launched a public programme to educate the population about all that was at stake.

Unfortunately, no referendum is easy, and the political campaigning surrounding it, never sticks to the question people are being asked to answer. The dissonance, distortions, and disinformation, which permeate the political wars that are launched, were evident in the run-up to the vote in Britain over “Brexit”, and in referenda held in Caribbean countries concerning replacing the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the apex court in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

Perhaps it was naïve to think that the Belizean referendum would have been free of mischief, misinformation and jockeying for political advantage. However, given that it was the opposition PUP that had done most of the very hard work to advance it while in government, and that the ruling UDP had taken up the mantle, it was a reasonable expectation that the parties would have united to provide national leadership on the matter.

The question for the Belizean electorate in the referendum is: “Do you agree that any legal claim of Guatemala against Belize relating to land and insular territories and to any maritime areas pertaining to these territories should be submitted to the International Court of Justice for final settlement and that it determines finally the boundaries of the respective territories and areas of the parties?”

Straight forward though the question is, the answer has been distorted by those who have played on the fears of the Belizean people that they could lose their country if the ICJ finds for Guatemala.
Guatemala would have been bemused, if not delighted, by the actions that have caused the stay in the referendum. It has sent a wrong signal from Belize. Fortunately, the stay cannot long stand and, one way or the other, either by judicial appeal or by rectification of any encumbering law, the referendum will be held.

This dispute with Guatemala cannot be solved by negotiation – it would be in Guatemala’s interest to prolong it and so maintain the present claim. It also cannot be solved by conflict. The ICJ is Belize’s best route. Both political parties – when in government – supported that view. They should jointly continue to embrace it and give the people of Belize the guidance and sense of confidence they are due.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States and the Organisation of American States. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and at Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are entirely his own)

Minding Your Legal Affairs

The Employee’s Rights – Part I

An employee’s rights were first protected in the law of contract. However, because employment relationships are most often between persons of unequal bargaining power, the Legislature provided a statutory regime, primarily directed at employees perceived to be in a less advantageous position to bargain/negotiate a fair contract. This happened in 1999 by the Employment Act (“the Act”) and the Labour Relations Act.

The Act deals with most issues related to your terms and conditions of employment. It can be found on the Government’s website, at laws.gov.gd or just Google search, and you can easily download a copy from the ILO’s website.

Some General Protections for Employees under the Act:

(1). The first protection provided by the Act is that the protections of the Act applies, without qualification to all persons who are hired to provide services under a contract of employment, except the police, the armed forces, prison guards and or prison officers (but not those employed in a civilian capacity). The key take away from this is that your contract must be one whereby you are performing a contract of employment;

(2). The fact that the Act applies is its second protection because an employer cannot lawfully offer terms to an employee which are worse than what the Act prescribes as a minimum;

(3). Protection against forced labour, which is not just work without a basic salary, but also working extra time or duties without extra pay;

(4). Protection against discrimination on many grounds set out in the Act including political persuasion, age, marital status, family responsibilities, training, social origin or national extraction;

(5). Because of the importance of gender equality, the Act contains a separate provision, guaranteeing equal pay for equal work; and

(6). Child labour is also forbidden. The Act makes it clear that except for holiday employment, job training, or a training programme supervised by Government, a child under age 16 belongs in school and not in the workplace.

Remedies/Penalties for Non-Compliance with the Protections set out above:

(1). If an employer violates the prohibitions against forced labour or discrimination, he/she/it can be charged with a criminal offence, and fined up to $10,000.00 and or 3 years in prison;

(2). Where possible, an employee, whose rights set out above are violated, can lodge a complaint to the Labour Commissioner for investigation and resolution facilitation. Failing successful resolution through the Labour Commissioner, conciliation by the Minister for Labour can be requested, and upon compliance with the Minister’s recommendations, a request can be made for the Minister to convene an arbitration tribunal to render a binding decision in the matter; and

(3). Where it is not possible to invoke the steps outline above, an action might be filed with the High Court for a judge to make appropriate declarations and or orders, including orders for reinstatement of an employee, restoration to him or a benefit or advantage, or a payment of compensation.

(The above was submitted by the Grenada Bar Association)

Déjà Vu

In 1998, the Court ruled that Government breached Richard Duncan’s Constitutional right and constructively dismissed him when he was asked to take indefinite leave from his post of Accountant General. Keith Mitchell decided to victimise Duncan because he was “too fresh”. Duncan was a young man, with more than 20 years still to serve in the public service. Although far from retirement age, because of Mitchell’s vindictiveness, Mr. Duncan has been receiving our tax dollars as a pensioner for over 20 years. Today, he is still a man of working age.

Fast forward to September 2017; same vindictive Prime Minister, different public servant and same cost to us the taxpayers. Through sheer reckless disregard for the financial cost of his actions, Mitchell again decided to dish out the Duncan treatment on Cabinet Secretary, Gemma Bain-Thomas. Like Duncan, Mrs. Bain-Thomas is a fairly young woman with many years still to serve.

On 22nd September 2017, the Court of Appeal found that the spiteful decision to transfer Mrs. Bain-Thomas from the post of Cabinet Secretary, a post protected by the Constitution, to the non-established post created just for her, was a breach of section 85(2) of the Constitution and therefore null and void. Mrs. Bain-Thomas was consequently awarded damages in excess of $650,000.00 plus interest and costs for breach of her constitutional rights.

In addition, on March 12th 2019, the Court awarded Mrs. Bain Thomas a further $75,000.00 plus interest and costs as vindicatory damages. The Court said that as the right violated by Government was a Constitutional one, it: “adds an extra dimension to the wrong”. The vindicatory damages were awarded to Mrs. Bain-Thomas: “…to reflect the sense of public outrage, emphasise the importance of the constitutional right and the gravity of the breach, and [to] deter further breaches.”

Just as criminals are jailed as a means of deterring them from committing further crimes, so too, the court has awarded vindicatory damages against our Government to deter Keith Mitchell from further malicious and vindictive acts against his own people.

Mrs. Bain-Thomas will now receive in the region of $1 million when interest and costs are factored in plus, she will qualify for her full pension when she reaches 60 years. Grenadians, how long will you keep paying for Keith Mitchell’s wickedness?

Just as we’re preparing to go to press with this article, news reached us that former Commissioner of Police Willan Thompson, won his case against Government for the same spiteful and vindictive acts by Mitchell. We predict that he will be awarded even more damages than Mrs. Bain-Thomas and none of that will come from Keith Mitchell’s $19 million. We, the people will keep paying for Mitchell’s wickedness as long as we keep electing him.

It is interesting to note that the NDC in its two terms in office, have not recorded a single case of worker victimisation or Constitutional violation against it. On the other hand, the costly cases mentioned here are just three in a long list under Mitchell’s belt.

The people of St. Mark are certainly also having their own case of déjà vu at this time.

In 2003, a poultry farm initiative of a group of locals was hijacked by Mitchell, Boatswain and their henchmen. In the end, we the taxpayers had to pay US$6.9 million because of their wicked, reckless acts. Now in 2019, the people of St. Mark are shafted again with the ill-fated shrimp farm. More details on these will be given in another issue.

With Mitchell and his lawless bunch, it is always déjà vu nightmares; and so it shall be until we get rid of them for good.

(The above reflects the views of the main opposition National Democratic Congress)

Caribbean: in no one’s backward

P.J. Patterson, the former Prime Minister of Jamaica, recently observed to an attentive audience in Washington, D.C., the Capital of the United States, that: “We of the Caribbean should never allow our strategy to be dictated or determined by anyone else”, adding that “we live in no one’s backyard”.

Those words resound with a compelling freshness and significance today as the Caribbean is beset by forces that seek to divide and marginalise the region; to deprive it of a voice in global affairs that materially affect all its countries; and to treat the small, individual territories as nothing more than annoying complications.

Of course, leaders of Caribbean countries, particularly those that are members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), contribute to their own marginalisation and to the disregard shown to them by more powerful states or groups of states.

In the conduct of their external relations, several governments, now and in the past, have pursued narrow, short-term interests, compromising their own sovereignty and weakening themselves and the entire Caribbean Community in international bargaining.

P.J. Patterson knows this well. He saw it first hand in several roles, including as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica; as an opposition politician in Jamaica; and as Prime Minister. The tendency to eschew the strength of Caribbean-wide unity in favour of satisfying the self-interest of political parties has plagued the region to its detriment.

Several Caribbean governments have preferred to treat other Caribbean governments as their competitors and adversaries in order to gain short-term gains. This behaviour has been obvious in tourism, particularly in the cruise ship business, in which Caribbean governments have failed to form an alliance to withstand dictation from large cruise companies. The result has been that Caribbean countries earn a disproportionately smaller share of the earnings of the business.

But, the predilection to reject the strength of unity, or to bend to the will of external interests, in favour of opportunistic alliances with power-blocs – countries or companies – is not limited to sectors, such as tourism. They seem to be replicated across the board of non-domestic activity, resulting in insufficient trust in the CARICOM partnership.

P.J. Patterson spoke in Washington, DC at the launch of his book, My Political Journey, which chronicles his political life as a Jamaican politician, a Caribbean regionalist, and the role he played in fighting for respect for the Caribbean in the global community. It is a book that should be compulsory reading for all current political leaders in the Caribbean and every person who represents the interests of Caribbean nations in international bargaining.

In his book, P.J. states: “The assertion of our united voice as sovereign nations singing from the same hymn sheet is the only way for us to be heard in the global din”.

And, he knows with authenticity, born of lived experience, of the truth of which he speaks. He was an integral participant in the most significant demonstration of unity by developing states at a significant crossroads of their fortunes.

Ironically, that event occurred when Britain decided to join the European Economic Community (now the European Union). Preferential trade access to the British market was disappearing for Britain’s former Commonwealth colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP), as responsibility for trade with Britain passed from London to the EU headquarters in Brussels.

The unification of the ACP countries was fashioned in the Caribbean as a single unit to negotiate a trade and aid pact with Europe.

The arrangement involved three regions, but one voice on each aspect of the negotiating pillars.

The Caribbean’s main spokespersons on behalf of the ACP group were Sir Shridath Ramphal and P.J. Patterson.

Many lessons arose for the Caribbean from those negotiations, not least that the unity of developing countries is a formidable force in bargaining with other countries and regions, much bigger and powerful than themselves.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Lomé Convention, that emerged from those ACP-EEC negotiations, continues to stand today as the most beneficial trade and development document ever signed by developing states. Its benefits, over more than four decades, should permanently flash warning lights to the Caribbean not to fracture their unity, and, instead, to maintain their solidarity.

Caribbean countries have a sparse box of tools from which to draw in advancing their national interests in international affairs. Fighting relentlessly for their sovereign rights is one vital tool they should never relinquish.

P.J. Patterson states with no equivocation that: “While small and powerless states do not in fact receive equal treatment in the application of international law, we in the Caribbean who lack military power are nevertheless compelled to continue the search for that ideal in which the international system will uphold right over might and law over force”.

That is wisdom from an authentic voice speaking from Caribbean trenches in international battlegrounds that have not diminished. They have simply appeared in other forms such as: in the EU blacklisting Caribbean countries in language that pretends cooperation but actions that manifest coercion; in the World Trade Organisation where big countries deny justice to small ones; in the Organisation of American States where after more than 50 years of membership, the Caribbean’s development and security aspirations still play second fiddle to the political agenda of other countries; and in the lip service paid to the adverse effects of climate change that point like a dagger at the heart of the Caribbean’s existence.

In all of this, P.J. Patterson has long and often advocated, “there needs to be a cohesive and effective strategic alliance among small developing countries”. Such an alliance must be cemented, solidified and fortified first among the countries of the Caribbean.

Then, and only then, will Caribbean countries establish the means for true independence and sovereignty both politically and economically.

Caribbean leaders of all political stripes have every right to engage governments of other countries in their economic interest. But, in doing so, they should be mindful that they have a responsibility to themselves and the people of the Caribbean to support each other first.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States and the Organisation of American States. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and at Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are entirely his own)

Delegitimising Opponents: A Worrisome Trend

There is no Parliamentary Opposition in Grenada so the responsibility of representing the interests of all Grenadians, including the over 45,000 registered voters who did not vote for the party in office, rests with that same party.

Part of the responsibility of the party in office in ensuring that the interests of ALL Grenadians are represented, is making sure that the main opposition NDC, is not excluded from participation in affairs of the state. That is because 41% of voters in the last General Election favoured the NDC. The NDC recognises that this responsibility is not a legal one, but if Government is serious about inclusiveness and national unity, it must acknowledge that 41% of the voting population cannot just be ignored.

Unfortunately, for the most part, the NDC has been ignored and excluded from State affairs since February 2013 and it has gotten worse since March 2018. Repeated statements from Mitchell and his followers at all levels are that NDC is dead. Such attitude and utterances ought not to be taken lightly, for they are symptomatic of a bigger problem, that is, they threaten democracy itself.

Not all leaders or political parties who are dictatorial or authoritarian in government display such tendencies early on. So it is of no comfort to suggest that Mitchell does not have such a record. In any event, he does.

We are warned by Professors of Government at Harvard University, Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt, that we should worry when leaders display even one (1) trait of authoritarianism. Denying the legitimacy of opponents is one of the four (4) major traits of authoritarians that they identify.

After the 2018 Elections, the Governor General saw it fit to appoint two opposition Senators from the NDC. These young Senators often report scant treatment when attending official functions. So much so, that they felt compelled to leave the Independence Day celebrations prematurely.

On Saturday last, the NDC’s interim Party Leader was an invited guest at a function held at the Parliament building on the occasion of the Royal visit. He was invited in his capacity as Leader of the NDC. He was forced to withdraw from the event after being insulted by a Protocol Officer, no less.

Since the incident was made public, all manner of spin has been put on what really happened. Taken all of the spin at the highest, the crux of the matter is that a Protocol Officer, properly trained and doing his or her job impartially and professionally would never have interacted with an invited guest in a manner so embarrassing that the guest felt compelled to leave.

Disrespect and scant treatment of our Senators and now our Interim Party Leader cannot be put down to just isolated instances or even individuals acting on their own accord. It is said, a fish rots from the head. The attitude towards and treatment of executive members of the NDC by lower level personnel is a reflection of the calculated attitude of those at the very top.

Indeed, in a public discussion of the issue on social media, Anthony Boatswain, MP for St. Patrick West and senior member of the ruling party, was quick to point out that “Mr. Andall had only himself to blame” for the Protocol Officer insulting him and further, Mr. Boatswain said, “Mr. Andall represents NO ONE”. This is Boatswain’s view, even though Andall was invited as leader of the party commanding the support of 41% of the voting population.

The signs of the one party state, dictatorship, authoritarian government are all around for us to see. They are manifested not only in the delegitimising of the NDC but also in the control/intimidation of the media and in ignoring the rule of law. That is, ignoring the Constitution of Grenada especially when it comes to public workers and in allowing the court system to fall apart.

According to Professors Levitsky and Ziblatt, the people should worry when these signs are manifested.

(The above reflects the views of the main opposition National Democratic Congress)

DERELICT BUILDINGS IN AND AROUND ST. GEORGE’S

(This article was first published in June 2018)

This is an extract from a tWRF 68 page publication titled: THE PRIDE OF OUR WATERFRONT HERITAGE – THE RENAISSANCE OF URBAN ST. GEORGE, which is due for circulation in May 2019. Because of the current public concern and anxiety which has gone viral due to the extent of the deterioration and the impending danger to public safety it was decided to release this section in advance, for public feedback and to obtain a response from the authorities.

DERELICT BUILDINGS IN AND AROUND ST. GEORGE’S

The Willie Redhead foundation (tWRF) has always expressed its concerns about the derelict buildings in St. George’s and its environs.

The owners or inheritors of these buildings obviously have lost interest in their maintenance and refurbishment, perhaps due to escalating construction and maintenance costs, and in some cases absentee owners who do not intend to return to Grenada.

The buildings have become a source of infestation from mosquitoes, rats, roaches and other disease carrying rodents and insects and also pose a threat to public safety and the incidents of FIRE.

We believe the Government has the authority and power to take control of these buildings that can be used for the purpose of creating a market economy specifically for small local investors, by first publishing the government’s intention in the press and in the Government Gazette by giving 60 days notice or other necessary legal requirements after which the STATE would take the necessary action.

These buildings can and should be cleared of all debris or demolished if a threat to public safety and sold to local investors at a cost equivalent to demolition or clean up of the works with the following suggested conditions:

Cation: At the corner of Hughes’ Street and the Carenage

 

 

 

 

 

(1). The commencement of refurbishment/reconstruction must commence within a year and completed within a specific period.

(2). The design must conform to the architecture specific to St. George’s, i.e. clay tiled roof and external brick facing in the Georgian Style.

(3). Government to grant duty free concessions on materials.

(4). The developer/investor must be local or have local interests

(5). A waiver of outstanding property taxes owed on the derelicts.

(6). Restored property is not to be sold before 20 years.

(7). No entrepreneur would be allowed to acquire more than two (2) properties.

We believe bank loans can be based on value of the land as collateral, and not clean up costs. This would certainly encourage local investors and perhaps give the present owners, if any can be identified or determined, a new start.

(The above reflects the views of the Willie Redhead Foundation)