Grenada’s democratic system under renewed threat

By Arthur Kallick

By Arthur Kallick

By Arthur Kallick

In an unprecedented move, Mr Aaron Francois, the supervisor of elections tendered his resignation to Governor General Dame Cecile La Grenade. This is the first time that a holder of this office has taken this course of action. When questioned by the local press, he indicated that it was done for “professional and personal reasons”.

Mr Francois succeeded Ms Judy Benoit, who was unceremoniously fired by the Governor General less than a year ago. Ms Benoit dared to stand up to the government’s plan to install internet services that would put the voter registration system on a shared network with the Office of the Prime Minister. Her objection was based on a concern that access to the list of electors and the issuance of ID cards may end up in the hands of unauthorised persons.

In this regard, in a memorandum to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works, Ms Benoit stated, “I submit that this is not a matter of resistance but a commitment to the independence of this institution and to work within the confines of the laws governing the process.” Her dismissal came shortly after without being given a hearing to explain her position.

Whether the Governor General did “what she had to do” or “did what she was told” is still a subject of public speculation. Ms Benoit, however, has taken legal action against the Office of the Governor General on matters pertinent to her dismissal.
After Mr Francois assumed office, the issue receded out of the mainstream of public discussion. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the plan to connect the Electoral Office to the shared network in the Office of the Prime Minister did take place. This may be a good opportunity for the office of the Governor General to clarify this in the interest of maintaining public confidence in the electoral system.

There have been consistent reports that the current administration is hell bent on making changes in the electoral office. News broke that the System Administrator of the voter registration and card issuance system at the office of the supervisor of elections will be removed from his position. It was reported also that the administrator is a competent and dedicated employee who was trained extensively under an aid package supported by the Organisation of American States (OAS). Apparently Mr Francois resisted efforts to terminate the administrator’s contract.

The unfolding events became more confusing as it was reported that the replacement is a close relative of a government minister. A dark cloud hangs over the office of the supervisor of elections since Mr Francois had only taken up duty less than six months ago.

On Friday 4th April, the main opposition National Democratic Congress staged a peaceful picket of the Elections Office to highlight public concerns over the unfolding events at that office.

The appointment of Minister Gregory Bowen , an engineer, to act as Attorney General on two separate occasions, the appointment of the wife of the Foreign Minister and the President of the Senate as agents under the Citizenship By Investment programme and the effective appointment of the spouse of a government minister as head of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and contrary to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) rules are worrying signs that the NNP administration is using its monopoly in Parliament to act with impunity.

My sainted grandmother once said that, in Grenada, the more things change, the more they remain the same. Maybe the nation should take a page from Dr Mitchell’s oft used slogan that “what goes around comes around”.

Arthur Kallick was born in Trinidad and lived in Grenada until he moved to Canada in the late 1980s after completing secondary school. He has a Master’s in family counselling and child physiology from the University of Toronto. He is now a freelance writer and has been living in Grenada for the past six years, and at present works with Caribbean Family Planning unit as a counsellor

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