THE NEW TODAY would like to commend the government of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas on its decision to strike off Criminal Libel from the law books of the country.
It was a promise made by PM Thomas and his National Democratic Congress (NDC) during their time in opposition to the then governing New National Party (NNP) of former Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
Ironically, it was Dr. Mitchell along with his controversial Special Prosecutor, Jamaican attorney-at-law, Hugh Wildman who resorted to the use of the Criminal Libel law for the first time in the history of Grenada to press charges against Editor of the now defunct GRENADA TODAY newspaper, George Worme.
As close aides to the former Grenadian leader intimated, the move was aimed at teaching Worme a lesson by sending him off to jail for as long as possible for writing articles against a Prime Minister who some within his own organisation now refer to as “The King”.
Even the late Eric Matthew Gairy who was hated by the so-called “bourgeois press” of the day controlled by elements that were loyal to the Grenada National Party (GNP) never resorted to criminal libel in response to his detractors.
There is widespread feeling even among legal professionals such as lawyers and judges that in a democratic and civilised society, adequate provisions exist within the judicial system for a court meeting in its civil jurisdiction to handle matters of libel against journalists.
A politician with dictatorial tendencies can subject the Criminal Libel law to abuse. A politician of that nature can use the threat of criminal libel to frighten the practicing journalist from reporting anything against him.
In the case of Dr. Mitchell, although both he and Wildman brought a case of Criminal Libel against Worme, the two more often than not failed to attend sittings of the court whenever the matter came up before then Chief Magistrate, Patricia Mark.
It is rather unfortunate that the Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG) has not seen it fit to issue a formal statement of congratulation to the Tillman Thomas-led Congress government on fulfilling its promise to do away with Criminal Libel on the law books of Grenada.
Was the association aware of this important action on the part of the government, which is a positive step towards the furtherance of press freedom in the country?
Perhaps, MWAG is too engaged at the moment in internal wrangling between its Executive and the general membership who are clamouring for a meeting in keeping with the constitution of the organisation.
The importance of the free and independent media cannot be under-stated especially as the country is once again forced to remember the bloody events of October 19, 1983 involving the execution of Revolutionary Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and three Cabinet colleagues.
It was the free press that the supporters of the late Prime Minister resorted to in order to get their views to the outside world as they themselves fell victim to press freedom by their own Comrades.
The executed former Foreign Affairs Minister, Unison Whiteman often used the airwaves of then Radio Antilles in Montserrat to inform the region about the stand-off between the imprisoned Bishop and the rival camp led by Bernard Coard and others.
Prior to this, the same PRG comrades often labeled Radio Antilles as a tool of imperialism and the reactionary forces who were bent on destabilising the Grenada Revolution.
Faced with a cut-off from their own so-called Radio Free Grenada, which was controlled by operatives of Coard and his Gang, one faction within the NJM/PRG regime was forced to use the Montserrat-based radio station to communicate their messages to Grenadians and the outside world.
It was also the free and independent Alister Hughes who, working as a journalist for the Caribbean News Agency (CANA) and Associated Press (AP) captured the last two words issued by Bishop within minutes of being freed from house arrest by supporters who moved into his home at Mt. Wheldale and took him away as soldiers looked on helpless in the face of People’s power.
“The masses”, these were the words that Bishop used to Hughes who sought to question him about the state of mayhem within his then ruling NJM as rival forces prepared to defend themselves against the unavoidable bloodshed.
Isn’t it ironic that 29 years later, the same free and independent media was the one that had to deal with a certain political development within the Congress government and party by some of the same players and actors of October 1983?
THE NEW TODAY makes no apology for allowing someone under the pen name of “Stone Crusher” to use its medium to expose those who were bent on taking away State power from Prime Minister Thomas.
The paper was correct in allowing “The Stone Crusher” to help in the so-called political “cremation” of the Gang that rose up within the bowels of Congress – similar to the clear attempt that was made by the pro-Coard group known as OREL which considered themselves as the real revolutionaries and the ones to guide the 1979-83 process under Democratic Centralism and not the one-manism of Bishop that was modeled under the Cuban brand of Communism.
The annihilation of the Gang had to be hurried up especially after Comrade Selwyn Strachan made the quite revealing statement that the September 30, 2012 Convention of the NDC was all about a battle for control of the party between the 1979-83 revolutionary figure in the person of Peter David and the jailed and imprisoned Tillman Thomas.
A noted world scholar once noted that all forms of governments are bad but democracy is still the best among them.
Our system still has a place for the likes of Peter David, Selwyn Strachan and Chester Humphrey and others of that bygone days to promote and sell their wares to the public unlike ’79-83 when the guns and heavy manners for counters were the order of the day.
Once again, congrats to Prime Minister Thomas and his NDC government for taking the bold step to remove the dreaded Criminal Libel legislation from the law books of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.