Conspiracy of silence or lethargy?

KhalicBy Arthur Kallick

Local historian and politician, George Brian, gave the title “Island of Conflict” to his much acclaimed book about the history of the Grenada. In that book, he traced the historic evolution of the country as a saga of rebellion and conflict. The much vaunted mass suicide of indigenous Indian population in the face of an offensive by the French is probably the most bold-faced concoction that parades as history.

He then chronicled the Fedon Rebellion in the 1790s and the 1951 struggles of rural workers led by Eric Gairy. The turbulent 1970s with the attainment of independence, Black Power struggles, and the rise of the New Jewel Movement added more credence to the assertion that Grenadians are by “nature” rebellious.

However, since the return to office of the New National Party (NNP) in February 2013, one gets an uncanny feeling that the spirit of resistance and rebellion among the people has diminished.

The process through which the Electronics Crimes Bill was enacted into law exemplifies the point. When the draft legislation entered the public domain, many commentators opined that it was an attempt to reintroduce criminal libel through the back door. The regional and international press got into the fray. The local press association, Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG) was absent from the debate. The issue was bandied about on social media and drew international attention. It was only then that MWAG issued a somewhat bland statement, which was much more of bark than bite.

The Terrorism Amendment Act was another frightening piece of legislation that the administration intended to enact into law. It sought to give the attorney general the authority to declare any person or organisation as terrorist. However, the government backed away from that course of action.

The Cabinet of Ministers took a decision to install internet services in parliamentary elections offices around the country and to position the voter registration system on a shared network with the office of the prime minister. The then supervisor of elections objected and she was unceremoniously dismissed by the governor general. Except for a picket by the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), the issue quickly acquired nuisance value, as it seems that many citizens could not be bothered. The replacement of a competent systems administrator in the Electoral Office by a relative of a government minister further darkened the clouds hanging over that office.

The effective appointment of the spouse of a government minister as head of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), contrary to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) rules, hardly seem to raise objections from civil society networks on the island. Except for Sandra Ferguson, the issue is being treated as a non-event.

The Integrity Commission includes the spouse of the president of the Senate, a politically exposed individual, the CEO of the commission is reported to be a relative of the prime minister and the NNP administration sees nothing wrong with that.

Reports from the public service indicate that three appointed permanent secretaries have been appointed to head units and divisions of ministries rather that serve as administrative heads of ministries. These appointments are based on the perceived political opinions and affiliation (including family) of some of the affected public officers. To date the Public Workers Union has been mute on the issue.

Recently, the government attempted to increase the rates of property taxes in violation with the existing property tax legislation. The appointment of Hon. Gregory Bowen, an engineer, to act as attorney general raised many eyebrows on the island. Other than the main opposition NDC, the local Bar has remained silent. The local legal fraternity is well known for being verbose. In what is perceived to be a face saving gesture, the Bar issued a three-sentence statement questioning a decision that was taken twice in the last six

One is left to wonder if the veiled threats, which are so skillfully used by the political directorate to keep opponents and supporters alike in check, are the reason for this societal inertia. Self censorship may be a more appropriate explanation. A recent call by a local “militant” trade unionist for the IMF to come and rescue the country’s economy exemplifies to extent of the problem.

These actions by the present administration would have attracted howls of protest in the seventies and early nineties. Trade unionists, priests, pastors and the NGO communities would have been engaged in resolute pushback against such actions. Unfortunately, in 2013/ 2014 the reservoir of social consciousness has all but dried up in the spiritual drought that reigns over the country.

Some commentators are of the opinion that it has all to do with the state of partisan politics in the country. It seems that doing what is right and just comes in a distant second to the in the minds of many, who would rather remain silent than to openly criticise ‘my party’ in government. Others put the brakes on their advocacy because it may benefit the political opposition. God help us!

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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