Is Grenada’s Governor General destroying the country’s democracy?

The office of the Governor General in many democracies in the Commonwealth is a representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors. This prestigious office is widely respected by all citizens of the Commonwealth, and in times of challenges look up to this office for good counsel.

The constitution of Grenada specifically outlines the roles and responsibilities of the Governor General. In many Commonwealth countries these roles are seen as primarily ceremonial; however, in the execution of these roles there can be far reaching consequences to a country and its citizens.

Since independence, Grenada has had a number of Governors General, predominantly male. History will recall the role played by Sir Paul Scoon in restoring parliamentary style democracy to Grenada following the demise of the people’s revolution in 1983. Sir Paul was an exceptional Governor General and true Grenadian patriot. No one can accuse him of tampering with the democratic institutions of the nation or being overly political. Sir Carlyle Glean also served with distinction.

The office of Governor General, however, has not functioned without controversy. Between 1995-2008, this office was put into the spotlight and under the scrutiny of the public when Sir Daniel Williams became the Governor General under the Keith Mitchell NNP administration.

Sir Daniel was a high profile politician and member of the NNP and, as such, found it extremely difficult to transition from the role of a politician to that of Governor General. His tenure was marred by controversy and allegations of corruption. The office of the Governor General was grossly disrespected and Sir Daniel was ridiculed in the local media. On many occasions his actions had to be defended by himself and the Prime Minister. The office of the Governor General was brought into disrepute during that era.
The office of the Governor General is an independent one. However, because the Governor

General is appointed on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister seems to have a high degree of influence over the GG. Keith Mitchell has seemingly been able to manipulate and intimidate all the Governors General in his capacity as Prime Minister of the country.

Following the elections of February 19, 2013, Grenada got its first female Governor General in the person of Dame Cecile La Grenade. She replaced Sir Carlyle Glean, an outstanding Grenadian patriot. The news that a female will be the new Governor General was generally welcomed throughout the tri-island state. Many thought a new perspective will be brought to the prestigious office.

Dame Cecile is a very successful businesswoman as owner and CEO of the De La Grenade Industries.

It is a widely accepted protocol that the person holding the office of the Governor General and the office itself should be respected. Dame Cecile La Grenade however came under scrutiny when she unceremoniously fired the Supervisor of Elections Judy Benoit.

The circumstances leading up to her dismissal were indeed troubling and unprecedented. The manner in which she was dismissed was even more callous. Never in the history of Grenada has a Governor General acted so irresponsibly.

Judy Benoit, in her capacity as the Supervisor of Elections, came in for high commendation from the Organisation of American States (OAS) for the professional manner in which she conducted the 2013 general elections. The elections were conducted without any major incident or allegations of electoral fraud from any of the political organisations or the OAS. There will never be a perfect election, not even in the greatest democracies including the United States. One can recall the hanging chads in the US Presidential elections between George Bush and Al Gore. It took the US Supreme Court to decide the winner.

Following her unceremonious dismissal as Supervisor of Elections by the Governor General, Judy Benoit in seeking justice took the GG to court. The first time that a lawsuit has been filed in the courts against any Governor General in the English-speaking Caribbean.

Having fired Mrs Benoit, Aaron Francois, a Permanent Secretary was appointed Supervisor of Elections. Mr Francois has since resigned as Supervisor of Elections following an alleged contention with the Mitchell-led NNP administration.

Hon Nazim Burke and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) must be commended for their strong opposition to the manipulation of the electoral system by Keith Mitchell. The public should be informed and be aware of the plans of this anti-democratic and reckless NNP administration.

Having failed to deliver on the many “fairy tale” election promises, increasing taxes on the people daily, implementation of the structural adjustment program, and taking the country to the IMF!

The young people are becoming more and more vocal. With youth unemployment approaching 60% a youth explosion is brewing. Times are hard, things are extremely tough and so Grenadians have had enough of old talk. The NNP can’t manage and so it’s time for Keith to go.

Finally, the Governor General must adhere to her responsibility to the country and its people. As the head of state, she has to do all within her power to protect and preserve Grenada’s democracy. If she is too weak and is easily manipulated and intimidated by the Prime Minister thus violating the constitution, then she should also do the right thing and resign.

She should follow the principled position taken by PS Aaron Francois, resign and protect her legacy and integrity. Dame Cecile La Grenade has lived through the 1970s under Gairy and she observed firsthand the excesses then, culminating in the people’s revolution.

Grenadians are not prepared to sit idly by when their fundamental and constitutional rights are violated. The GG should have learnt some lessons from the past and do the right thing, defend the constitution, defend Grenada’s democracy. That is all the people of Grenada are asking for. Failure to do so is tantamount to a dereliction of duty and treason.

The Queen will never be proud of Governor General Cecile La Grenade and what she is doing to democracy in Grenada in her capacity as Her Majesty’s representative. Cecile La Grenade should hand in her resignation immediately. She is being used at the whims and fancies of a dictator and is of no relevance to the people of the tri-island state.

Grenadian Class

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