No immediate salary increase for public servants

PWU Members at May Day 2012

PWU Members at May Day 2012

Public workers will have to wait a while longer before they can receive their increase in salary and retroactive payments that were agreed upon by the former Tillman Thomas Administration of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

In an agreement signed last year, the workers are due to receive four percent increase for 2009 by the end of May, two percent for 2012 to be paid in December, a one-off payment for 2010 by July, and a one-off payment for 2011 by August.

In an address to the nation last week Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell announced that a revised time table for increased payments that are due to public officers must urgently be discussed because his administration is strapped for cash.

He warned that if the economy does not begin to grow then the ruling New National Party (NNP) government will not be able to meet current obligations, far more retroactive payments to public servants.

Dr. Mitchell who also holds the portfolio of Finance Minister said in the preparation of the national budget that was presented on Tuesday it was discovered that government is required to pay almost $38m in salary increases and retroactive payments to public officers this year.

“This payment schedule is simply impossible,” he told the nation.

He said the budget, presented in Parliament Tuesday, would launch the country’s economic revival after several years of economic decline.

The Prime Minister felt that some of the national assets that were sold by the previous government could have been used as leverage.

He said he would be calling on the unions and public servants to continue to work together with his government on the issue of salary increases.

Just over a month ago, Grenada defaulted on payment of EC$19 million due to bondholders and announced that it was seeking to renegotiate with creditors the island’s debt estimated at EC$2.4 billion.

Meanwhile, newly elected President of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Adrian Francis said his newly elected executive will adopt a wait and see approach before offering any reaction to Prime Minister Mitchell’s intention to seek a revised time table for increased payments to be made to Public Officers.

Francis told THE NEW TODAY the fact that Dr. Mitchell has signaled his intention to first dialogue with the affected Trades Unions, it is only fair that they first hear what he has to say before any statement on the matter can be made.

“After such meeting (with Dr. Mitchell), then we would have a meeting with our membership, and then we will make a statement to the Press,” he said.

Apart from PWU, the other bargaining agents for public sector employees are the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) and the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU)

 

Health insurance is coming

Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen -  committed to National Health Insurance

Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen – committed to National Health Insurance

A National Health Insurance is in the making.

Outspoken trade unionist, Chester Humphrey who is the President General of the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU), has been given responsibility by the new Keith Mitchell-led government to lead the process.

Humphrey was selected to head a Committee for the proposed National Health Insurance and to assist Government in putting the necessary plans in place for its implementation.

According to Health Minister, Clarice Modeste-Curwen plans for the insurance will be outlined during the 2013 Budget of Revenue and Expenditure, which was delivered to Parliament on Tuesday.

Addressing last week’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Minister Modeste-Curwen said that plans for the establishment of the Insurance should be completed by June and that a number of areas would be looked at including where monies are already being collected for services such as lab and x-ray fees.

The senior government minister stated that those who can pay for health services should be made to pay including those with health insurance.

The government minister pointed out that the impending introduction of a national health insurance is one of the ways in which government can generate much needed monies to sustain the health sector.

“One thing that was very clear, one very cross-cutting issue was how do we pay for all of this, and by implication, how do we ensure that there is a sustainable supply or provision of these things that we’re talking about in terms of the medication and in terms of equipment and so on”, she said.

“The idea is we have to find ways to get our Grenadian public or Grenadian citizens to financially contribute”, she added in making specific reference to the need to assist the elderly who have made their contributions to society and no longer are in a position to care for themselves.

The minister recalled that government had tried with some varying success over the years to assist these persons but sometimes fall short on the commitment.

Modeste-Curwen told reporters that the quality and delivery of health care service in Grenada is not what the Grenadian people deserve nor where the Government will like to see it.

“The reality is we must look at income generating … how we can generate revenues and one of the best ways to do it is through a national health insurance, why … a NHI would collect monies when persons are working and are able, and prevent the necessity of collecting monies at the point of delivery of health care”, she said.

The Health Minister said her ministry will be working closely with the Ministry of Social Development in order to ensure that the less fortunate do not fall through the crack.

She said the Government is committed to providing basic medical supplies, basic supplies for laboratory use to the population and the establishment of the health insurance scheme within the next few months in order to improve heath care for citizens.

During the press briefing, the two-month-old New National Party (NNP) administration announced that the medical situation in the country has been “appeased” somewhat following months of medical shortages at the island’s General Hospital and health centers around the island.

Patients in need of medical assistance are faced with severe shortages in the health sector and Minister Modeste-Curwen said that the Ministry of Health is working to curb the problem particularly in the area of medical supplies.

She admitted that Government has not been able to conduct blood transfusions at the St. George’s General Hospital, as there were no re-agents to do the necessary blood testing.

This problem, she said was further compounded as there was no Pathologist at the hospital as the lone one had to leave the island due to an emergency.

In the circumstances, specific testing had to be done privately at St George’s University (SGU) or St Augustine Medical Services (SAMS).

The Pathologist has since returned and the female government minister said they have requested two additional pathologists from Cuba while looking for scholarships to train locals in that specialized medical field.

Minister Modeste-Curwen announced that Government owes approximately 15 medical suppliers in excess of $3.5 million and these suppliers are reluctant to provide additional supplies to Grenada on credit until at least part payment is made to them.

She indicated that the only supplier willing to provide a quantity of supplies to Grenada at this time is the OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Services (OECS/PPS).

She said that since taking office following the February 19 General Election, the new Keith Mitchell-led administration has handed over an undisclosed amount of monies to suppliers in March in order for the local medical facilities to get supplies such as medication and laboratory re-agents used for blood testing.

It was revealed that the last payments made to the OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Services (OECS/PPS) by the former government were made in September and November of $1 million and $800,000,00 respectively.

The Oscar Bartholomew Manslaughter Case

World attention will continue to focus on Grenada especially in North America over the Oscar Bartholomew case in which five police officers have been implicated in his death just over a year ago.

The Grenadian-born man who became a Canadian citizen died in hospital after an altercation with several police officers who had detained him after an encounter with a female cop.

Attorneys for the charged officers have made a successful challenge to their bid to get a high court judge to stop the preliminary inquiry into the charges of Manslaughter brought against the suspects pending the holding of an inquest by a Coroner into the death.

High court judge, Septimus Rhudd ruled against the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Christopher Nelson and Solicitor-General Darshan Ramdhani who both contended that the Commissioner of Police was legally entitled to proceed with the charge against the men under his jurisdiction.

Last week, the NEW TODAY brought Part 1 of excerpts from the ruling handed down by Justice Rhudd which focused on the arguments put forward by lawyers representing the accused police officers.

This week, the newspaper concludes with Part 11 of the judgment which dealt in main with the submissions of DPP Nelson and Ramdhani and the actual decision of the high court judge:

 

* That by virtue of the Coroner failing to take charge of the body of Bartholomew, she had abdicated her duty. That was a glaring omission in Paragraph 8 of the Affidavit, filed by Nakisha Lewis, on behalf of the Coroner in that the Coroner has given no reason as to why she did not have a mandatory duty to do so. That it was quite obvious that the Coroner did not apply her mind to the provisions of Section 9 of the Act.

 

* That the intention of Parliament was to make the process speedy and all embracing. It involved a question of the confidence of the public in that institution. It was Parliament’s intention to preserve that. That this was embodied even in the Oath to be taken by the jurors, as set out in Section 22 of the Coroners Act, where jurors would inquire into “when, where, how and after what manner” the deceased died.

This determination was not one to be made by the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Commissioner of Police. If the Commissioner of Police proceeded to act, he would be acting prematurely

 

* That section 42 of the Act imposed a penalty on the Coroner for neglecting his or her duty.

 

* That the inclusion of the list of offenses in the Act by Parliament was intended to protect the integrity of the Coroner’s inquiry and to ensure that all available evidence came to the fore. This was Parliament’s intention: to preserve the integrity of the institution.

 

* That the findings from a Coroner’s inquest are distinguishable from those in a preliminary inquiry. Section 105 of the Criminal Procedure Code, allowed other public officials to intervene. It allowed for the challenge before a judge. No such power existed with respect to the outcome of a Coroner’s inquest. The reason for this is that the jury, not the DPP or the Coroner, would have made a determination and Parliament intended to protect the integrity of the public institution.

 

* That a fair trial of the Claimants has been compromised by virtue of the actions of the Commissioner of Police. By their actions, the Defendants have poisoned the minds of the public towards the Claimants without allowing for the process, with all the information, being put in the public domain.

If the Court was to find that an inquest should take place, what would be the impact on the minds of the potential jurors if the Commissioner of Police had already charged five persons? That the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions had usurped the authority of the Coroner’s inquest by singling out five persons and proceeding as if those five persons alone are involved. That, this was unfair to those five persons hence the application for an order of Prohibition.

 

* The effect of the decision of the Defendants included the indignity of arrest and interrogation, the imposition of bail conditions, bail being resisted by the DPP even though no inquest had been held, the matter occupying local and international publications, the Applicants’ names being submitted to INTERPOL and prejudice in their bail documents.

 

* That the Applicants were entitled to a fair hearing. This included the statutory requirement of the Coroner’s inquest being held as a pre-cursor to any other action. That the Court was to ascertain whether fairness had not been compromised and intervene as set out in the prayers of the Claim submitted by the Claimants.

 

The Defendants’ Case

 

The Solicitor General’s submissions

 

Mr. Ramdhani, Solicitor General, having informed the Court that the Director of Public Prosecutions would deal with the issues of (a) whether the Commissioner of Police and the DPP had the power to charge the Claimants with Manslaughter before an inquest was held, and (b) whether the Commissioner of Police could properly suspend the Claimants on half pay, then made the following submissions on behalf of the First and Second Defendants:

 

(i) That the approach taken by Counsel for Ganness, Sylvester and Hazzard, during his submissions, was fallacious for a number of reasons. Specifically, under the provisions of Section 8 of the Constitution of Grenada, there was the presumption of innocence.

That, from a jurisprudential perspective, the Constitution was the logical starting point. This was “triggered” once a person was charged with a criminal offence.

The Constitution did not lay out any particular procedure to be followed in those circumstances. Instead, it allowed for those details (of procedure) to be dealt with by other pieces of legislation along with the common law.

 

(ii) That the critical question for consideration was whether the Corners Act provided sufficient details of due process so as to exclude the provisions of any other laws. In order words, do the provisions of that Act exclude other laws?

 

(iii) That, there was nothing in the Coroners Act that excluded the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Judges’ Rule, the statutory powers of the Police to prefer charges or the constitutional office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to institute charges in Grenada.

 

* That he was prepared to concede that Section 9 of the Coroners Act was relevant to the case at Bar as it concerned a death occurring at one of the places mentioned in the Section with that death having been attended by violent circumstances.

 

(v) That although considerable emphasis was being placed on the use of the word “shall” in order to find a mandatory obligation, having regard to the provision of Section 3 (5) of the Interpretation and General Provisions Act 13, the Court should not merely look at the word “shall” and leave it that.

The Court is required to look at the written law in its entirety to see if there is any contrary intention expressed. That the Court should look at both Sections 9 and 42 of the Coroners Act. That Section 42 made it clear that where there is a duty imposed on the Coroner he/she would be guilty of an offence unless he/she had a reasonable excuse for not exercising that duty.

 

* That notwithstanding the use of the word “shall” in Section 9, the Legislature can give a direction to persons on whom discretion is conferred. That the provisions of Section 42 revealed the granting of a discretion and answered the question whether Section 9 was mandatory or not.

 

* That the Court is required to put into context the “qualitative nature” of the Claimants’ actions in light of the provisions of the Coroners Act. That the public is not merely concerned about due process but also that the public needs to see that justice is done.

That the public would only be appeased when the ordinary criminal law process was engaged. Further, that the Claimants’ argument that an inquiry, and then an inquest, must be held is tainted and without merit. That there was a far more constitutionally sound process which should guide the present situation; that being a charge under the criminal law.

 

* That the real question to be asked was – “whether it made sense to say, from a criminal standpoint, that the Coroner would have a reason not to embark on an inquest? That, in a practical light, if the Coroner looked at the case and felt that the proceedings were duplicitous, having regards to charges already filed, not only would the Coroner be avoiding financial and administrative burden on the justice system but she would also be preventing situations of inconsistent verdicts.

 

* That there is nothing in the Coroners Act barring the Commissioner of Police or Director of Public Prosecutions from proceeding when there has been a “no verdict” ruling after the holding of an inquest. That there would be public consternation if the Coroner returned a decision of ” no verdict” and then the DPP returned a verdict of guilty.

That this interpretation lends credence to the view that a discretion is to be found from a reading of the Corners Act. That the Claimants can ask for no more than that due process is followed and the recognition of a discretion under the Coroners Act does not deny them due process.

 

(xi) That the whole issue be considered in a practical manner and that the Court should not allow the dual matters to proceed. Reliance was being placed on Section 42 of the Coroners Act where allowance is made for “reasonable excuse”.

 

* That, insofar as his representation of the Commissioner of Police is concerned, he asked the Court to have due regard to the provisions of the Judges Rules,17 specifically Paragraph (d) of Appendix A, which excluded the application of the Rules to the principle that

 

“when a police who is making inquiries of any person about an offence has enough evidence to prefer a charge against that person for the offence, he or she would without delay cause that person to be charged that person to be charged or informed that he or she may be prosecuted for the offence.”

 

* That, in essence, all that is needed for the Police to institute a charge against any person is admissible evidence which could likely lead to a conviction. That the powers of the Police, to act in such circumstances, had not been excluded by the provisions of the Coroner Act. That, if such an exclusion was to be implied in the Act it would deal a tremendous blow to the Police in the country.

 

* That there may be occasions when one cannot ask the police to police themselves. That those arguments of the Claimants would have merit only where the police failed to do something. That in the event the police adopted an unfair approach and only brought charges against persons while leaving out others, then guidance could be sought from the constitutionally independent office of the DPP.

 

* That, in conclusion, a common sense approach should be taken by the Court to minimize any adverse public perception.

 

The Director of Public Prosecution’s submissions

 

* Mr. Christopher Nelson, Director of Public Prosecutions, made the following submissions;

 

* That there was no dispute that the charges against the Claimants were preferred on the direction of the Director of Public Prosecutions. That the DPP had constitutional powers to act in this manner, separate and distinct from the powers of the Police to act in their own right.

Section 71 of the Constitution of Grenada, which created the office of the DPP and set out his powers, was applicable.

 

* That the pith and substance of Mr. Hood’s submissions was that it was for the Coroner’s inquest to determine if criminal charges should be initiated and against whom. That the thrust of Mr. Hood’s submissions amounted to “legal heresy” since the DPP would only be entitled to proceed with the prosecutions after the Coroner’s jury had decided.

That in the Steadroy Benjamin v The Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General of Antigua case, Edwards, J.A. had pronounced that the DPP was the “gatekeeper, and so, in the instant case, the Coroner could not tell the DPP when to proceed.

That, by Mr. Hood’s submissions, he was suggesting that an ordinary piece of legislation (the Coroners Act) could override the provisions of the Constitution.

 

* That although the Coroner was a route through which criminal proceedings could be instituted, it was not the only route. Proceedings could also go through the Police and the DPP.

 

* To Dr. Alexis’ argument that the DPP had not issued a certificate to show that the he had taken over the proceedings, he was of the view that was not necessary although it was good practice. ASP Mason, in his affidavit had given evidence that the charges had been laid against the Claimants on the instruction and direction of the DPP. That, this had not been challenged by the Claimants.

 

* That Mr. Hood was not entirely correct in his submissions that the Coroners Act had in place “a criminal machinery”. That, the “criminal” intention was nothing more than a potential incidental outcome from the application of the provisions of the Act.

The true function of the inquest was to be found in the provisions of Sections 22 of the Act as embodied in the Oath of jurors to decide “when, where, how and after what manner”. That was not to be used to determine if a crime had been committed.

 

* That he disagreed with Mr. Hood’s position that it was for the Coroner’s inquest to determine if criminal charges should be initiated and against whom. That he could not agree with him that it was for the Coroners’ jury to decide and then the DPP would take over.

 

* That the Coroner was simply an old institution aimed at having some public inquiry into the death of someone in order to satisfy due process. Additionally, it is intended to inform public policy there is some infectious disease or procedure in the prison or mental health institution.

That it is not the law that the Coroner is the gate “gate keeper”, it was not the law and it is not intended to be law.

 

* That a well-equipped investigative machinery currently exists in the Police Force and the DPP. That the Court should pay scant regard to any position being advanced that a Coroner, with only incidental investigatory authority, must have precedence over authorities with specific powers.

 

* That in Canada, in England and in some of the sister islands of the Caribbean, the incidental criminal function of the Coroner had been removed. That the DPP ‘s involvement in these proceedings was not as a result of the Constitution but rather because the Claimants in the Ganness Claim, had involved the DPP by instituting certiorari proceedings.

That ASP Mason in his Affidavit had deponed that the DPP was the decision maker so that, naturally, if the Claimants succeeded in their claim that the Coroner was wrong in not holding an inquest then the prosecution brought by the DPP must be stayed or quashed pending the outcome of the inquest.

 

* That if the Court was to grant the relief prayed for, it would raise the question of the importance of Section 71 of the Constitution. That any attempt to stop the DPP from prosecuting and subjecting him to control and direction by a Coroner’s jury is tantamount to “constitutional contempt”.

 

* That if the criminal machinery is properly engaged and the DPP is entitled to continue to prosecute the charges, wherever the evidence leads, then to what end is the holding of the Coroner’s inquest? That the Coroner’s inquest and its imposition would amount to nothing more than a brutum fulmen.

 

Claimants’ rebuttal submissions

 

“The Gibson Claim”

 

By the way of rebuttal, Dr. Alexis submitted as follows:

 

(i) That, in essence, both the DPP and the Solicitor General were asking the Court to repeal, or ignore, the Coroner’s Act. According to the Solicitor General, compliance with the provisions of the Act will result in a financial burden on the State, while, according to the DPP, the “potential incidental criminal function” of the Act has been repealed “left, right and center”. Inherent in that approach is that the Court should ignore the law of the land or to repeal it.

 

* That the Solicitor General’s reliance on Section 42 of the Act for justification for the exercise of a discretion is misguided. That on the Contrary, that Section imposes a mandatory duty on the Coroner. That the thrust of the Solicitor General’s case was the provisions of Section 42, the inconvenience that was likely to be caused and the costs.

 

* That the Court should always be wary of arguments about inconvenience to the State. Those arguments should have no place in the Court’s determination of the issues in the instant cases. If it is deemed necessary, actions should be taken to have the law repealed.

 

* That it was noteworthy that the Defendants had made no attempt to analyse Section 9 of the Coroners Act. They focused their attention on Section 42 instead. That they failed to give the Court an analysis of the Act.

 

* That from the Affidavit of ASP Mason, it was clear that the DPP did not institute the prosecutions. That it was clear that there were no references to instructions being given by the DPP.

“The Felix Claim”

 

Mr. Clouden, essentially, adopted the rebuttal submissions of Dr. Alexis and added the following points:

 

* That the provisions of the Coroners Act not only provided a protective mechanism so as to ensure fairness of its proceedings but was also intended to carry out the intention of Parliament. That it was incumbent on the Court to get at the intention of Parliament and to determine the scope of the statute to be considered.

 

* That the issue at hand was not the question of the DPP’s powers or the exercise of those powers. What was before the Court was whether the Magistrate, as Coroner, neglected her duty to act mandatorily in these matters.

 

* That neither the DPP or the Solicitor General advanced the position that the Coroners Act had no place in the adjudication process and was worthless and should be repealed or expunged. That he was fortified in his interpretation of the procedure laid down in the Act.

 

* That the exercise of powers of the DPP was not being questioned. That was not the issue before the Court. That what was in issue was whether the Magistrate, as Coroner, neglected to do her duty in keeping with the requirement to act mandatorily in these matters.

 

* That the actions were brought in the name of the Police and there was nothing in the record to show that the DPP had anything to do with them. The Claimants would be prejudiced if the Magistrate, as Coroner, failed to act in the manner that the law demanded. That as Coroner, she was subject to the law of the land and was expected to obey the law with scrupulous regard to all its provisions.

 

“The Ganness Claim”

 

Mr. Hood made the following submissions in rebuttal:

 

* That, having heard both the DPP and the Solicitor General, nothing had been said by them to displace the proposition about the DPP instituting proceedings.

 

The Law

 

Having heard the arguments from the Claimants and the Defendants, a convenient starting point for a consideration of the several issues raised is the legislation that stands at the centre of each claim, the Coroner’s Act.

The provisions of Sections 9, 10 and 42 of that Act have featured prominently throughout this hearing. A true interpretation and understanding of these Sections is critical to a determination of the primary issues, as identified in Paragraph (10) above.

The Sections are set hereunder in their entirety. Both sections 9 and 10 fall under that part of the Act dealing with the “Duties of Coroners and others in cases of Sudden or Suspicious or Unnatural Death” while Section 42 falls under that part of the Act dealing with Offences.

 

Inquiry into cause of death of persons confined in prisons, lunatic asylums, etc.

 

* (1) The keeper or other person in charge of any prison, mental hospital, or other place of lawful detention, shall forthwith report to the Coroner of the district the death of any person confined in any such pubic institution.

 

* It shall be the duty of the Coroner to inquire into the cause of every such death and, where there is reasonable cause to suspect that such death was occasioned by accident or violence, or in the case of a sudden death of which the cause is unknown, to hold an inquest.

 

Neglect of duty by Coroner

 

42. Every Coroner who refuses or neglects, without reasonable excuse, to hold any inquest or inquiry which it is his or her duty to hold, or to perform any duty which he or she is required by this Act to perform, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction on indictment to a fine of five thousand dollars.

 

The Defendants have made references to, and placed heavy reliance on the provisions of Section 71 of The Constitution of Grenada and Part IV of the Police Act, Cap 244.

Section 71 of the Constitution of Grenada deals with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the powers given to the holder of that office. Part IV of the Police Act sets out in details the powers and duties of police officers. I do not consider it necessary to set out these provisions in details.

 

Analysis

 

Having considered the several submissions from the Claimants and the Defendants, having referred to the authorities cited and having reviewed the provisions of the Coroners Act, with particular attention being paid to Sections 9, 10 and 42, I am in no doubt that the provisions of Section 9 (2) does impose a mandatory duty on the Coroner to conduct an inquiry where death occurs in any of the places therein identified, namely “any prison, mental hospital or other place of lawful detention”.

Applying the provisions of the Interpretation and General Provisions Act in relation to the construction to be placed on the use of the word “shall” as it occurs in sub-section 9 (2), I have no difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that the word is mandatory and creates a duty on the Coroner to conduct an inquiry.

The provisions of Section 9 (2), read in conjunction with the provisions of Section 9 (1) of the Act to my mind, makes it clear that any death occurring in these circumstances should be treated differently from deaths occurring in those circumstances contemplated in Section 10.

The two situations are clearly distinguishable and it must, logically, have been the intention of Parliament that, the death of a person, who has been lawfully detained, should be inquired into by the Coroner.

If upon inquiry, it is found that the death occurred accidentally, violently or for some sudden and unknown cause, then an inquest should, logically, then be held. There is no room any contrary interpretation of these sub-sections.

That Parliament has seen it fit to create two separate and distinct categories for the conduct of inquiries by the Coroner reinforces in my mind that it must have been its intention to create an added safeguard for persons being held within those named facilities or institutions, who, more often than not, do not have say in relation to their liberty or the circumstances of their confinement.

A death occurring in the circumstances detailed in Section 10 of the Act clearly allows the Coroner a discretion as to whether or not to hold an inquest. This can be gleaned from the use of the words “if necessary” occurring within that sub-section.

The omission of those, or similar, words in Section 9 is a clear indication that the Coroner was duty bound to act in a particular manner once the conditions referred to in the Section were found exist. There is not, in my mind, any room for the exercise of any discretion in the application of the provisions.

I am not persuaded by the submissions of the learned Solicitor General that the use of the words “without reasonable excuse” in Section 42 allows for a discretionary application of the Coroner’s duty under Section 9 (2).

I do not agree that those words would provide justification to a Coroner for avoiding the mandatory duty imposed.

I have noted from the Affidavit of Nakisha Lewis that the Magistrate had formed the impression that the Coroners Act was discretionary, and that she, therefore, felt that she had a discretion as to whether to undertake the inquest if she had “reasonable reason ” not to do so.

The Solicitor General has placed much weight on this. I do not share his views in this regards.

On this score, I am of the view that the Magistrate was misguided and thereby fell into error. She was not, in my view, in a position to exercise a discretion as to the conduct of an inquiry in respect of the death of Bartholomew.

The fact of his death,in a place of lawful detention, should have triggered an automatic inquiry. I have paid particular attention to the concession by the learned DPP during his submissions that the provisions of Section 9 do, in fact, apply to the circumstances in these cases.

I have heard the arguments advanced by both the learned DPP and the learned Solicitor General in relation to the constitutional role of the DPP insofar as the commencement of proceedings is concerned.

Notwithstanding those submissions, and within the context of the operation of the provisions of Section 9 of the Coroners Act, I do not think that the DPP’s involvement as this stage of the proceedings is either appropriate or warranted.

The Coroner’s inquiry must be allowed to take place in accordance with the Act.

Indeed, the decision of the Commissioner of the Police (and I do find, as a matter of fact, that the decision was that of the Commissioner of Police) to prefer charges leading to the commencement of the preliminary inquiry proceedings is also premature.

The provisions of the Coroners Act must be adhered to. I do not consider that a strict adherence to the provisions of the Act undermines or usurps the role and function of the DPP or the Commissioner of Police.

Upon completion, by the Coroner, of the process contemplated by that Act, the Commissioner of Police and/or the DPP can then take such actions as they deem appropriate and are legally entitled to take.

What is important and, in my view, beyond dispute is that the Coroner is duty bound to hold that inquiry and, where there is reasonable cause to suspect that the death was occasioned in the circumstances set out in the Act, conduct an inquest in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

As Mr. Hood, Counsel in the Ganness claim, has observed, the bases of the Claimants’ suspension are the charges that have been preferred against them. It follows therefore that since I have concluded that the decision by the Commissioner of Police to charge the Claimants has been made prematurely, then of necessity, those charges will have to be withdrawn at this stage.

The suspension letters, with the accompanying reduction in salaries, must be withdrawn.

 

Conclusion

 

The final decision of the Court is as follows:

 

In respect of Claim No. GDAHCV2012/0021 (“the Felix Claim”) it is hereby ordered as follows:

 

(a)The claim for an Order of Certiorari to quash as being ultra vires, null and void, invalid and of no effect in law the decision of the Second Defendant (Commissioner of Police) to charge the Claimant Ruddy Felix with the offence of Manslaughter to Peter Oscar Bartholomew and to suspend him with half pay is granted.

 

(b) The claim for an Order of Prohibition to prohibit the First Defendant, the Magistrate, Eastern Magisterial District, St. David’s from proceeding with holding a preliminary inquiry in respect of the charge of the offence of Manslaughter to Peter Oscar Bartholomew by unlawful harm without the Coroner inquiring into the cause of the said death is granted.

 

In respect of Claim No. GDAHCV2012/0022 (“the Gibson Claim”) it is hereby ordered as follows:

 

(a) The claim for an Order of Certiorari to quash as being ultra vires, null and void, invalid and of no effect in law the decision of the Second Defendant to charge the claimant Edward Gibson with the offence of Manslaughter to Peter Oscar Bartholomew is granted.

 

(b) The claim for an Order of Prohibition to prohibit the First Defendant (Magistrate) from holding a preliminary inquiry into a charge of the offence of Manslaughter to Peter Oscar Bartholomew by unlawful harm without the Coroner inquiring into the case of the said sudden death is granted.

 

In respect of Claim No. GDAHCV2012/0037 (the Ganness Claim”) it is hereby ordered as follows:

 

(a) The claim for a Declaration that the decision of the Second Defendant to suspend the Claimants from duty on half months pay with effect from December 30, 2011 is premature and unreasonable and contrary to law is granted.

 

(b) That the Claimants be reinstated to full pay forthwith and that all outstanding short payments effected from December 30, 2011 be given to the Claimants forthwith.

 

(c) The claim for an Order of Certiorari to quash as being ultra vires, null and void, invalid and of no effect in law the decision of the Second Defendant to charge the Claimants Shawn Ganness, Wendell Sylvester and Kenton Hazzard with the offence of Manslaughter to Peter Oscar Bartholomew is granted.

 

(d) The claim for a Declaration that the decision of the First Defendant in refusing to conduct an inquiry and an inquest into the death of Peter Oscar Bartholomew is ultra vires, unreasonable and contrary to law is granted.

 

(e) The claim for an Order of Prohibition to prohibit the First Defendant from holding a preliminary inquiry into a charge for the offence of Manslaughter to Peter Oscar Bartholomew by unlawful harm without the Coroner first inquiring into the cause of the said sudden death is granted.

 

The Court apologises for the delay in the delivery of the decision and extends its appreciation to Counsel on both sides for their assistance and patience.

 

Adrian Francis takes charge of PWU

A newlook executive body that is led by it former First Vice-President, Adrian Francis, has been put in place to direct the affairs of the Public Workers Union (PWU).

The Francis-led executive, which includes a number of women, was elected last week Tuesday following election for positions within the island’s largest public sector union.

Francis who works at the Ministry of Health defeated Dr. Malachy Dottin for the position of President, which was occupied by Madonna Harford for ten years.

Harford did not seek re-election. Francis received 701 votes.

Executive member of the National United Front, Dr. Winston Thomas was booted out of the post of Second Vice-President, which he held for several years.

Dr. Thomas who contested the position of First Vice-President was beaten by Rachael Roberts who received 457 votes.

History was created in PWU by the union having a Carraicou-based member getting elected to serve on the executive body.

Dexter Leggard with 480 votes was elected as the union’s Second Vice-President.

The position of Secretary continues to remain in the hands of Hannah Campbell who secured 708 votes.

Meryl Phillips-Sylvester with 672 votes, and Angela James-Teka who received 558 votes are the two Assistant Secretaries.

Egbert Felix has been re-elected to the post of Treasurer with 546 votes, and Brian Grimes (383 votes) took over the position of Public Relations Officer from Raymond Roberts who did not seek re-election.

In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY Newspaper, Francis reiterated his commitment to ensuring that benefits are provided to retirees, and protecting workers rights.

He said his first priority is to keep to his campaign promise of ensuring that there is pension for public workers upon their retirement.

Francis said pension appears to be the issue that most occupies the minds of Public Officers.

“This is one of the issues we will move vigorously upon to engage the government to ensure that some form of pension, whether through a contributory scheme, something is worked out,” he remarked.

The new PWU boss is also mindful of seeing to it that a Branch is established on the sister isle of Carriacou for the membership in both Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

He said with the members having elected the Carriacou-born Leggard who also works on the sister island on the executive, it is imperative that the Branch for Carriacou be placed on the front burner.

Francis is confident that Leggard will be able to lead that Branch.

The PWU President thanked all those who participated in the elections, and also those who were elected.

He also urged the women and young members to come on board and share their ideas with the union.

 

PWU President Adrian Francis – promised to secure pension for unionized members

PWU President Adrian Francis – promised to secure pension for unionized members

Spice Mas 2K13 media launch

Addressing the media for the first time during the weekly post-Cabinet briefing last week Tuesday, the tourism minister informed local journalists about the planned Spice Mas launch in the neighbouring twin island republic.

The early launch of Spice Mas 2K13 is part of the Grenada Government’s effort to aggressively market the annual festival in advance of activities leading up to the August 12-13 cultural event.

The launch of Spice Mas 2K13 will focus on the country’s historical and traditional mas bands as well as Steelpan.

The launch was done in partnership with IMG Entertainment Company Limited and Unlimited Resources both from Trinidad and Tobago, which provided ferry service from T&T to Grenada for last year’s Carnival.

The neighbouring island companies partnered with Summercrew Bandleader, Bobby Steele and other companies last year to create a semi-inclusive package for persons interested in traveling to Grenada for Spice Mas via the ferry service.

On her trip, Minister Otway-Noel was expected to hold meetings with Trinidad’s Ministers of Tourism and Culture, as well as executives of Caribbean Airlines, in an effort to engage the partnership and expand Grenada’s profile abroad.

In related news, the new government has appointed community activist Arthur Hosten as Chairman of the Spice Mas Corporation to steer the island’s biggest event revenue earner while Jocelyn Sylvester-Gairy takes over as Chairman of the Grenada Cultural Foundation.

Sylvester-Gairy had served under a previous New National Party (NNP) regime as Director of the Grenada Board of Tourism (GBT), and Chairperson of the Grenada Cultural Foundation.

The owner of Astral Travel & Tours (travel agency) replaces outgoing Chairman and cultural artiste Livingston Nelson, an appointee of the former government.

Hosten will replace Colin Dowe who resigned after the 2012 Carnival.

The theme for this year’s Carnival is still to be decided.

 

The commitment to cut expenditure

Faced with declining revenue, the new Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government in Grenada has announced a series of measures aimed at curbing the island’s expenditure budget.

The measures were announced by Prime Minister Mitchell in his capacity as Minister of Finance when he delivered on Tuesday the 2013 budget to the House of Representatives at the Trade Center at Grand Anse, St. George’s.

According to Dr. Mitchell, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will see a drastic reduction in its budget which will be cut by a whopping 28%, and the government expects to see savings in electricity costs at the Ministerial Complex and through greater control on the use of State vehicles.

The Prime Minister also disclosed some of the measures to be adopted by his two-month old administration to raise revenue for the island.

Following are excerpts from the Budget speech:

 

Expenditure Reduction Measures

 

Through resolute action, we have cut over $60.0 million from the recurrent budget in 2013.

This is the first installment in our expenditure reduction or waste reduction drive given the limited time that we have had to complete this exercise.

The recently appointed Waste Reduction Commission will continue this effort and monitor implementation.

Let me share some of the specific measures taken: On my directive, each ministry and department was asked to cut non-personnel expenditure by at least 20 percent over 2012 spending.

However, we were careful however not to cut spending on medication for our hospitals. In fact, that spending has increased. We have moved to rationalize rentals for government offices. This measure will save approximately $1.0 million in 2013.

We have cut the budget for Overseas Travel by 20% from its 2012 level. Mr. Speaker, only essential travel will be undertaken. Unlike the previous Administration, there will be no globetrotting by this NNP Administration.

The budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been cut by 28 percent thereby returning it to its 2008 levels.

Through a combination of more joint representation with the OECS such as in Brussels, private sector support for London and the use of non-resident ambassadors and honorary consuls, the cost of our diplomatic service will be managed to reflect our fiscal constraints but configured to deliver our foreign policy and development objectives.

Cabinet will soon announce a policy on private sector support for overseas missions. We have installed LED light fixtures, supplied by the People’s Republic of China, in the Financial Complex.

The next area of focus will be the Customs and Excise to be followed by the Ministry of Education and the Ministerial Complex. Government expects to reduce its electricity consumption by at least 30% and save $9.6 million per year.

We have implemented the new mobile telecommunications plan which will cut our expenditure on mobile telecommunications by at least 40%.

Effective immediately, Government will implement a freeze on net hiring – this will save an additional $8.0 million.

A major challenge for Government is how we manage the payroll going forward, which accounts for close to 65% when we include Pensions and Gratuities.

As it stood, Government would have had to find an additional $38.0 million to meet payroll requirements in 2013 – an impossible task.

In this regard, our Government commenced dialogue with the Public Workers Union, Grenada Union of Teachers and Technical and Allied Workers Union on the shared sacrifices required at this time.

Finally, we are moving swiftly to procure and install an Electronic Tracking System (GPS) for all government vehicles. This technology is already used locally by some private sector entities.

Given the history of abuse of Government vehicles coupled with the fact that Government owns the largest fleet of vehicles, such a system is fully justified and long overdue. It will result in millions of dollars in savings on fuel and maintenance.

Digicel support Knowledge Bowl

Knowledge Bowl winners with their gifts compliments DIGICEL

Knowledge Bowl winners with their gifts compliments DIGICEL

Digicel for the second year provided support encouragement for the teachers and coaches who assisted students in the recently concluded and extremely popular secondary schools quiz competition, Knowledge Bowl.

Dubbed the “Intercol of Academia,” the competition attracts competitors from 4th and 5th forms in all public and private secondary schools in Grenada, Petite Martinique and Carriacou who compete on their knowledge of educational topics.

In the 2013 competition, Digicel once again provided prizes for the teachers and coaches of the top two winning schools. This follows on from last year when the winning schools each received a Blackberry handset.

This year the coaches of the first placed school, St Jospeh Convent St. George – Karina Degannes and Kendrina Lewis – each received a Huawei media Pad compliments Digicel.

The second place winner was the St. Andrew Anglican Secondary School and both coaches each received a Samsung 5330 handset.

“We are once again demonstrating that Digicel is committed to supporting the youth of Grenada and is in support of those who encourage excellence in our young people,” said country manager Patricia Maher.

“We would also like to congratulate the organisers and other sponsors once again for a job well done”, she added.

For the past six years, St. Georges University has partnered with Flow and the Grenada Co-operative Bank to bring this event, which has the endorsement of the Grenada Principal Association, to the Grenadian public.

 

 

2013 hurricane season prediction: Above-average year

By Jason Sickles

 

 

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season could see 18 named tropical storms with nine forming into hurricanes and four of those increasing into major hurricanes, according to a pre-season forecast released last week Wednesday.

The prediction is for an average year: 10.1 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes with 2.5 becoming major storms.

Colorado State University’s hurricane forecast team cited an unusual warming of the tropical Atlantic and an anticipated lack of El Nino winds as the primary culprits.

“Typically, El Nino is associated with stronger vertical shear across the tropical Atlantic, creating conditions less conducive for storm formations,” said Phil Klotzbach, who authors the forecast with William Gray of the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project.

The CSU team warned that the prediction is an estimate, not an exact measure.

“All vulnerable coastal residents should make the same hurricane preparations every year, regardless of how active or inactive the season forecast is,” Klotzbach said. “It takes only one landfall event near you to make this an active season.”

Victims of last year’s costly hurricanes Sandy and Isaac are still reeling from that reality.

The 2012 hurricane season surprised forecasters. A year ago, CSU predicted 2012 would have a less active season with 10 named tropical storms, four reaching hurricane status and two of them being major.

Instead, there were 19 named storms, 10 hurricanes and two that reached Category 3 intensity.

The number of named storms tied 2010, 2011, 1995 and 1887 as the third-busiest seasons. Twenty-eight named storms in 2005 and 20 in 1933 are the most active years since records starting being kept in 1851.

Predictions from Colorado State and the U.S government’s National Hurricane Center are two of the most followed tropical storm forecasts.

The NHC typically releases its forecast in late May. The official hurricane season runs June 1 through Nov. 30.

A major hurricane has sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.

 

 

 

Patrick Simmons: A system was in place

Former Minister of Youth Empowerment and Sports, Patrick Simmons has refuted statements made by current Minister of Youth, Sports and Ecclesiastics Affairs Emmalin Pierre that the Government of the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) did not have structures in place for certification of the young people who were involved in its Youth Upliftment Programme.

Pierre told a graduation ceremony last week Thursday of some of the people who were in the programme that they were misguided about being given proper certification under the NDC initiative.

Without giving specifics, she claimed that there was weaknesses in the programme that replaced the previous Imani Programme operated by NNP when it lost power in July 2008.

However, in an NDC hosted radio programme on Sunday, Simmons said there was a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which ends in September that was signed by his ministry, and the National Training Agency (NTA) for the certification of the trainees.

Simmons stated that the MOU makes mention of the training of the young people at the entry level and what is going to happen to them at the end of the training.

According to him, the Memorandum also refers to who is responsible for conducting the training, and who is responsible for providing the $700.00 monthly stipend to the participants, and the duration of training.

“The ministry itself does not have the authority to issue certification of that calibre to the nation’s youth. The authority of the issuance of certification at that level is authorised by the National Training Agency,” he said.

The former Youth Minister pointed out that if someone does not get information, there is always ways and means in which that person can have the information.

Simmons noted that while a minister is responsible for the policies of the ministry, the Permanent Secretary and Coordinators are responsible for the implementation of policies.

He disclosed that 150 trainees graduated from the programme and received their National Vocational Qualification (NVQ).

Simmons said those who did not receive certificates must not feel daunted.

He said an assessment will be done by the NTA and once it is satisfied that they have reached the standard for the entry level, they will be granted the NVQ.

“It is not true to say that there was no system in place to ensure that the process of NVQ/CVQ Certification was not put in place,” he added.

According to the former minister, within the next month an additional 250 trainees would gain NVQ Certification.

“Let us see what is going to happen when that happens, and let us wait to hear what the remarks or the comments would be coming from the minister in that regard,” he said.

“I want to say to the young people that the opportunity that was provided for you is grounded in a MOU as regards to your certification, and even if you have not received a certification at this stage you must not be daunted and feel that nothing was put in place for you”, he added.

Simmons told the programme host that despite the economic constraint faced by the NDC Government, it was able to engage 3,000 young people in the youth programme.

He said apart from receiving the monthly stipend, the young people got placement through the apprenticeship programme.

Another $1 billion budget

Prime Minister and Finance Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell – presented a billion-dollar budget

Prime Minister and Finance Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell – presented a billion-dollar budget

The cash-strapped Grenada government of new Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has admitted that the island finances are in dire straits.

In presenting the 2013 budget at the Grenada Trade Centre on Tuesday, Dr. Mitchell who previously ruled the island from June 1995 to July 2008 admitted that government’s expenditure over the years had over-run the earning capacity of the country.

“Mr. Speaker, successive Governments including the previous NNP Administrations have lived beyond their means. As a Country, we have spent more than we can afford on current operations”, Dr. Mitchell who was voted back into office in the February 19 general elections told Parliament.

“…We have tried to cushion the effects of major external shocks such as loss of trade preferences and hurricanes by borrowing. Above all, the size of government has grown beyond our capacity to sustain,” Dr. Mitchell said.

Prime Minister Mitchell who is also the Minister for Finance presented a

$1,102,243,994 tax-free Budget of Revenue and Expenditure to guide the country for the next eight months.

“The 2013 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure provides for total expenditure (including principal repayments) of one billion, one hundred and two million, two hundred and forty three thousand, nine hundred and ninety four (1,102,243,994),” Mitchell announced.

The 2012 Budget presented by former Finance Minister Nazim Burke was $ 1.023 billion.

Faced with a severe financial situation, the Mitchell government was forced in March to default on a payment of EC$19 million to its creditors and to announce that it will have to engage in talks with creditors to restructure the island’s staggering debt of EC$2.3 billion.

It will be the second time in eight years that Grenada has been forced to negotiate with its overseas creditors to take a “hair cut” in the island’s debt obligations to them.

In his address lasting just over two hours, Prime Minister Mitchell who is also the Minister of Finance said that the NNP administration is seeking to address the financial woes facing the nation through the building of a “New Economy” that requires that “Government put its fiscal house in order”.

“This process must commence now. With laser-like focus, I have led a determined effort to cut recurrent expenditure in the preparation of this Budget”, he said.

The Prime Minister added that there will be a cap on hiring in the public sector as government is determined to keep tight controls on its expenditure.

The overall budget projects a Recurrent Revenue of $477.0 million, Recurrent Expenditure: $441.1 million, Current Account Surplus or Transfer to the Capital Budget: $32.9 million, Primary Deficit (before Grants): $169.2 million, Capital Expenditure: $262.4 million, Principal Repayments/Amortization: $395.8 million, and Overall Deficit (including Grants): $154.4 million.

Dr. Mitchell said the Overall Deficit of $154.4 million or 6.9 percent of GDP will be financed from domestic and external sources and is necessary at this time to get the economy growing again.

He did not identify the specific financial sources that the government is looking to tap into for the 2013 budget.

The five largest allocations of the Budget are: Debt – $456.0 million (41.4% of total expenditure); Ministry of Education and Human Resources – $110.6 million (10.0% of total expenditure); Ministry of Works – $72.6 million (6.6% of total

expenditure); Ministry of Finance and Energy – $69.9 million (6.4% of total expenditure; and Ministry of Health – $62.6 million (5.7% of total expenditure).

Current revenues for 2013 are projected at $448.2 million, approximately 3.6 % more than current receipts in 2012 and Government anticipates a recurrent surplus of $32.9 million that will be used as counterpart financing for some key projects.

Total capital expenditure for 2013 is projected at $262.4 million. Of this amount $112.9 million will be from local sources, $66.5 million from grant sources and $82.9 million from loan sources.

Outlining the country’s plans before a packed Grenada Trade Centre, PM Mitchell informed the country that the Budget should be seen as a “holding budget aimed at securing authorisation for expenditure for the remaining eight months of this year while facilitating the implementation of some of Government’s key priorities.”

Presenting the Budget seven weeks after being elected into office, Dr. Mitchell announced that his administration intends to return to the Grenada Trade Centre in December of this year to present the 2014 Budget.

“This early announcement signals the intention of this Government to present our Budgets before the commencement of the fiscal year in stark contrast to the practice of the previous Administration. We believe such an approach, is better governance, both in legal but especially managerial terms,” he said

“Beyond better planning and faster implementation of Government plans, it also sends early signals to the private sector of what they can expect thereby enabling them to better plan their own businesses”, he added.

The 2013 Budget was presented under the theme, “Restoring Hope, Building the New Economy and Empowering our People”, a theme Dr. Mitchell said is premised on the fact that people voted in overwhelming numbers for his New National Party (NNP) in the recent general elections because they needed to have their confidence renewed and their hope restored.

“Though constrained in our preparation, the 2013 Budget makes some bold moves as our Government begins to deliver on our promises of restoring hope, jobs and opportunity”, Dr. Mitchell told Parliament.

“This Budget will immediately begin to lay the foundation for the New Economy with significant cuts in recurrent expenditure, debt restructuring, stimulus in Agriculture, Construction and Manufacturing and a more cost effective approach to marketing our Country as a tourist destination”, the Finance Minister said.

The Grenadian leader stressed that the 2013 budget puts people first as they have listened to the needs and cries of the people and have put “our people especially the youth at the centre of all policies and programmes”.

Dr. Mitchell told Parliament that government’s major challenge is managing the payroll going forward, which now accounts for close to 65 percent of current expenditure including Pensions and Gratuities.

He said the government has already begun to engage the Trades Union Council on the shared sacrifices required at this time.

Dr. Mitchell admitted that both his administration and the previous National Democratic Congress (NDC) administrations are guilty of living beyond their means in managing the island’s affairs.

Recently, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine told trade union leaders at a session that the island’s inability to service its debts is due to borrowing by the State of some loans at commercial interest rates in the region of 9%.

The high interest paying loans were said to be borrowed by Dr. Mitchell and his previous government before it lost power in July 2008.