40 years after Independence

The island is in the midst of activities to mark the 40th anniversary of political independence from Great Britain on February 7, 1974.

It was on this day 40 years ago that our political leaders took charge of every aspect of life on the Tri-island State of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique.

Most of the politicians who were engaged in the struggles leading up to independence have since departed this life such as first Prime Minister, Sir Eric Matthew Gairy, then leader of the Opposition, Herbert Blaize, as well as the likes of Maurice Bishop, Unison Whiteman, Dr. Wellington Friday, Ben Jones, George Hosten and countless others.

Today, the only active politician from the pre-independence era is current Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.

It would be recalled that Dr. Mitchell entered the political arena in the 1972 elections when he contested the St. George North-west Constituency on a ticket of the Grenada National Party (GNP) then headed by Blaize.

As a young Maths teacher at the Presentation Brothers College, Dr. Mitchell contested against the might of late Finance Minister Hosten of the then formidable and powerful Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) of Sir Eric.

The GNP platform then had some “young turks” with most of them going on to play leading political roles in the country in the post-Independence era.

The NEW TODAY refer specifically to late Foreign Affairs Minister Whiteman, and former Mobilisation Minister Selwyn Strachan who were involved in the historic coup’ d’etat, the first armed overthrow of an elected government in the English-speaking Caribbean on March 13, 1979.

Whiteman contested the 1972 elections for the Constituency of St. David’s on the GNP ticket in the 1972 elections and appeared on the same GNP platform with Dr. Mitchell.

Whiteman would then move on to help in the formation of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) with Maurice Bishop and Kendrick Radix after he was soundly beaten at the polls by Cynthia Gairy, the wife of Eric Gairy.

Two years after the 1974 independence, Whiteman stood as a candidate in the 1976 elections as a member of NJM on the “People’s Alliance” platform and was one of the six victorious candidates among the joint opposition forces.

He duly won the St. George North-east seat and entered Parliament for the first time in 1976.

The late Maurice Bishop also entered Parliament for the first time two years after independence when he won the St. George South-east seat for the Alliance by defeating Norman De Souza of GULP.

Another person who helped change the face of the Grenada political landscape after independence was Strachan but unlike Bishop and Whiteman, he was not successful at the polls both in 1972 and 1976.

Strachan was defeated on both occasions by Sir Eric who was regarded as virtually unstoppable in the sugar belt era of the south.

So politics has dominated the landscape in Grenada since independence and in some cases leading to bloodshed.

The change of government by the use of arms in 1979, another use of force to stage a second coup when Bishop was killed on October 19, 1983 and then a U. S-led military intervention to restore democratic rule of law on October 25, 1983.

Despite our political problems over the years, the economic situation has continued to plague Grenada and has always been a nightmare for our leaders.

In the post-independence period of rule by Bishop’s People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), the island was pursuing a socialist-marxist path of development with the State sector playing the leading role in economic activities.

The experiment proved disastrous as the revolutionary leaders were very skillful in hiding the true state of affairs from the people.

When the NJM/PRG experiment collapsed, a plethora of documents surfaced from the Ministry of Finance which showed that the Bishop government with Bernard Coard as Minister of Finance was engaged in advanced talks with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a plan to rescue the Grenadian economy.

The top secret documents outlined an action plan in which hundreds of civil servants were earmarked for retrenchment under the PRG in order to bring expenditure in line with revenue collection.

Massive direct budgetary aid by the U.S government of then President Ronald Reagan saved the day for Grenada.

Forty years after independence, Grenada has still not got its economic policies right and the economy is now in dire straits and badly in need of budgetary support.

The current NNP administration of Prime Minister Mitchell is facing the same problem that confronted the PRG towards the end of 1983, the Congress government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite in the 1990-95 period and Dr. Mitchell himself during his earlier stint between 1995 and 2008 and the last NDC government of Tillman Thomas.

It is clear that the issue now confronting us as a people is that the government is financially “broke” and not having a clear policy on how to deal with a massive EC15 million dollar monthly deficit on the budget.

After 40 years of independence, the problem is compounded by a commitment given by the current rulers to deliver jobs as opposed to the real prospects of having to take serious decisions on issues of wage freeze and possible retrenchment to curtail out of control expenditure.

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