Grenada has been without an Official Parliamentary Opposition for almost five years, following the results of the 2013 general elections which produced the lop-sided result in favour of the New National Party (NNP) led by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) was able to get a ‘small peep’ into Parliament when three of its Members were appointed to the Upper House as Senators by then Governor-General, Sir Carlyle Glean.
The real deal in Parliament is within the Lower House, comprised of elected representatives of ‘the People’ as historically the Senate has really been used as a “rubber stamp” for the Agenda of the Government of the day.
In face of these conditions as they exist in Grenada today, which bear an uncomfortably close resemblance to that of authoritarian regimes, it is quite easy for a Government to become increasingly non-transparent and un-accountable to the People, on issues large and small.
This is particularly so if other democratic institutions in the country, including the “Fifth Estate” fall asleep and turn a blind eye to these fundamentals of good governance.
A lower score for Grenada on the Corruption Perception index than any of the other OECS Countries is just one of several manifestations of questionable and rapidly declining quality of good governance which ought to concern every patriotic Grenadian.
Since the 15-0 electoral victory by the NNP in 2013 and in the absence of vigilant Opposition, the role of ‘guardian’ of our democracy and democratic norms, and the only check and balance to the malfeasants and excesses of the NNP Administration, has been taken up by the Civil Society Organisations – the Committee of Social Partners that comprises the Conference of Churches of Grenada, Private Sector and the Trade union movement.
The Committee of Social Partners were offered and accepted to play a role in the implementation of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that the government was forced into as part of the necessity to address Grenada’s parlous fiscal situation including the high national debt – most of which was contracted by the same NNP and Dr. Mitchell in the 1995-2008 period.
It is for this reason that THE NEW TODAY is hopeful that the Civil Society Organisations will insist that the current NNP Administration give the People of Grenada a truthful and accurate account of its stewardship on the bothersome and internationally scandalous issue of the ‘Sale’ of Diplomatic Positions complete with Diplomatic Passports to non-Grenadians.
The Committee of Social Partners, acting on the mandate given by their Members, must ask for details of all passport transactions including how many such Passports have been Issued – diplomatic and CBI over the past four years? The People deserve to know.
Congress, which is still the other major political party in the country even after the devastating results of the last general election, should make serious representation to our Civil society leaders like Rev. James and Fr. Shaun to have the Government account for the sale of CBI passports as was originally envisioned in the Act, as well as provide us with the names and positions of those non-nationals to whom Diplomatic Passports have been issued.
The NDC is also the most appropriate body to write to Civil Society as well as International Organisations, CARICOM Heads of Government, Leaders of Opposition Parties in all CAARICOM Countries, and the CARICOM Prime Ministers for Governance, to urge Prime Minister Mitchell to abide by the legislation to give Parliament reports every six months on the sale of Grenadian passports under the CBI programme.
As the longest-serving Prime Minister in the English-speaking Caribbean, our Prime Minister should today be setting the high watermark for accountability, transparency and good governance processes for other more recent leaders in the Caribbean to follow.
THE NEW TODAY is more than concerned about reports coming from high up within the NNP Party and the Government itself about the kinds of persons who have been granted diplomatic passports over the past four years.
The Prime Minister needs to publish the list in full in order to satisfy Grenadians that no questionable persons were granted diplomatic passports and that everything was done above board.
There is also a report coming from England and from international sources about a Pakistani operating in England who is carrying a Grenada Diplomatic passport.
If true – who is this gentleman, which at least two investigative Journalists have raised questions about? Can someone in Grenada tell us – where is this man accredited to and what is the diplomatic assignment given to him by Government?
Are we seeing a return to the decade of the ‘roaring 2000’, which was marked by Grenada doing business with the likes of convicted and imprisoned fraudster, Ambassador Eric Resteiner?
What will be the thinking of Luminaries such as Sir Richard Cheltenham after being so highly paid to make recommendations to Government in the wake of the ‘briefcase inquiry’ and the issuance of diplomatic status to non-nationals?
THE NEW TODAY is calling on the NDC as the party with the second highest number of votes in the 2013 general elections to actively seek out the Civil Society Grouping and to solicit the answers from Government on this delicate national security, if not Nationalistic Issue of our Diplomatic Passports.
Apart from the Prime Minister, the two elderly figures in the NNP Government – current Foreign Affairs Minister Elvin Nimrod and the ex-Foreign Affairs Ministers Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen along with the much younger, Nickolas Steele should also be made to give an account of their stewardship of the Foreign Affairs portfolio, particularly as it relates to the Diplomatic Appointments brought by them to Cabinet over the years.
Cleary, the principle of ‘collective responsibility’ links every Member of the Cabinet to such issuance of Diplomatic Passports to non-nationals as they would have occurred.
In all this the Minster of Home Affairs, Prime Minister Dr. Mitchell is really the person in charge of granting Citizenship. He is also the Captain of the “Team” as Chairman of the Cabinet.
Any new Government must be committed to taking a deep look into the critical issue of the Sale of Diplomatic Passports and the grant of Diplomatic Status to non-nationals between February 2013 and August 31, 2017.
In the 1979-83 era, late Prime Minister Maurice Bishop spoke and the world listened, when he stated…., “We are not in anybody’s backyard, and we are definitely Not for Sale”.
Grenadians must ask themselves if any part of our patrimony is for Sale today under the current dispensation.