Thirty-one years after U.S troops landed to restore democracy to this island, Grenada is still grappling with an issue that had dogged the Marxist leaders of the ill-fated 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of the late Maurice Bishop.
The issue of press freedom during the Grenada Revolution was one of the most powerful weapons used by opponents of the regime to garner regional and international support against the Revolution that was heavily backed by communist states like Cuba, the then Soviet Union and their satellites in Eastern Europe.
The current Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell was among the known opponents of the Bishop regime and was branded a CIA agent and declared persona-non grata from his own homeland in the Spice Isle.
The likes of Dr. Mitchell, Dr. Francis Alexis, Dr. Stanley Cyrus and the Trinidad and Tobago-based Grenadian attorney, Reynold Benjamin joined forces together in the Grenada Democratic Movement (GDM) to lead the battle against the excesses of the revolutionary leaders.
It is indeed a sad day that Dr. Mitchell, now as the Political Leader of the New National Party (NNP) and Prime Minister of Grenada is today being accused of trampling on the rights of the press due to the latest saga to unfold with the closure of CHIME FM radio station of George Grant.
It is noticeable that some of the strongest supporters of the NNP regime are the same elements who played a significant role in the dark days of the PRG like trade unionist Chester Humphrey, as well as the then Deputy Secretary for Information and Army Captain, Peter David and Cletus St. Paul, the former bodyguard of the slain Bishop.
The closure of CHIME FM is rather unfortunate from a government that took office in the post-PRG era and the blood shed by many to liberate Grenada from the communist den by President Ronald Reagan.
THE NEW TODAY urges Mr. Grant to take the matter to court and allow a judge of the high court to decide the issues at stake involving the radio station and not the political directorate.
Is Mr. Grant now paying the price for something that happened many years ago between he and Minister Bowen?
It is clear to this newspaper that the ruling NNP government of Prime Minister Mitchell is abusing its hold on State power to stifle CHIME FM using the NTRC as a surrogate.
This is similar to what takes place in Guyana under the current PPP-Civic government that has communist leanings to spite an independent newspaper in the South American republic that is not favoured by the regime.
The CHIME FM issue brings back memories of the PRG and the closure of the independent Torchlight newspaper in those dark and oppressive days of 1979-83.
THE NEW TODAY calls on PM Mitchell to intervene as Minister of Information – similar to his interventions in West Indies cricket matters – and bring an immediate resolution to the issue facing the local FM radio station in the interest of his much talked about legacy.
The CHIME FM dilemma makes a mockery of the so-called independence given to bodies which are supposed to be part of the governance structure in a democracy.
Bishop must be laughing aloud wherever his soul is, at Grenadians because those who bitterly opposed him and sought to champion press freedom and human rights abuses are now in power and engaged once again in the same thing that dirtied the image of the tri-island State of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique in the four-and-a-half years of Marxist rule.
As far as THE NEW TODAY is concerned if there is an issue with the application made by Grant for a renewal of the broadcast licence that was given to him then the correct thing to do is to point out the flaws and problem and ask the applicant to take corrective measures.
There is a procedure in place for Magistrates and others to renew applications made by shopkeepers and the like to renew their liquor licences granted by the State.
It is clear and transparent – not as the kind of political football that the current rulers are engaged with in order to spite those who are not in their good books.
The premature closure of CHIME FM is a case that should attract the media watchdog body known as the International Press Institute because most of the pro-NNP FM stations that are operating in the country are in massive default on their annual licence payments of EC$2500.00 to the Treasury.
It is an open secret in the country that a family who runs a media empire owes the state around half-a-million dollars in outstanding taxes but is allowed to continue to do business as usual.
Within certain media circles, the feeling is that the current Political Directorate is using the taxes as a hammer over the heads of those in charge of the media outfit in order to keep them in line.
It appears that it is only the court – and not the current government as set up that can bring an amicable resolution to the CHIME FM issue.
This government is demonstrating all the signs that it is moving in the direction of a one-party State and will be prepared to bulldose any obstacle in the way.
Today it is CHIME FM and tomorrow it will be Kem Jones and THE NEW TODAY that will face a most vicious assault and attack from the proponents of the one party State policy and philosophy – use any means possible including technicalities at their disposal.