Nazim Burke, NDC and constitutional reform

February 10, 2015, is the date set by the NNP administration of Keith Mitchell for the referendum on Grenada’s constitutional reform.

Minister of Legal Affairs, Elvin Nimrod indicated that 25 items were presented to Cabinet as advised by the Constitutional Review Committee led by Dr Francis Alexis, former political leader of the PLM but only 12 were approved.

Among the 12 that were approved by Cabinet, the ones that seem to be more at the forefront of the minds of this NNP administration are:

(a). Grenada joining the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final appellate jurisdiction.

(b). Grenada becoming a republic with a Prime Minister and Executive President.

(c). The appointment of an Election and Boundaries Commission.

While the government has been pushing ahead at full speed towards a referendum on February 10, 2015, the political leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and his party appear to be rather muted on the issue.

There is an old saying that silence is consent. Is this muted response by the Hon. Nazim Burke and the NDC an indication to the general public that the party is in support of the referendum on constitutional reform?

This process was started by the NDC, led by Dr McIntosh. The process didn’t achieve maximum result for a number of reasons, including the sudden death of Dr McIntosh.

Following the last elections, Keith Mitchell indicated that Grenadians will vote in a referendum in two years on the issue of the CCJ.

The supporters of the National Democratic Congress and independent voters are waiting patiently to hear from Hon. Nazim Burke and the NDC on where the organisation stands on the issue of the referendum and the items identified by the NNP.

It is not clear how much input the hierarchy of the NDC had, if any at all, on the items selected for the referendum.

With no official opposition in the Parliament of the country, the NNP administration seems to be the only one making the decision without having to consult with anyone.

A referendum to change the Constitution needs 67% of the total votes cast in order to take effect. One can’t see this referendum being successful if it is opposed by the main opposition party, the NDC.

It therefore means that, for the government to be so confident so as to set a date for the referendum, they must probably know that they have the support of the political leader of the NDC and his party.

Hon. Nazim Burke and the NDC need to make the position of the party abundantly clear to the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique on the issues that they would like to see go to a referendum.

The NDC has been too quiet on such a critical and sensitive issue that would forever change the lives of the people of tri-island state.

These issues, in my view, should be issues of national interest and importance that would advance the nation’s democracy and improve the standard of living of its citizen. The premier issues put forward by the NNP administration are extremely political and I really don’t see how these issues will have any major positive impact and advance the social, political and economic interest of the people.

Nazim Burke and the NDC have to be very careful how the party approaches this issue of constitutional reform. The experiences of St Vincent and the Grenadines should be pivotal in their minds.

There isn’t much cultural difference between the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada.

Vincentians voted NO in their referendum after Arnhim Eustace and the NDP put up a very strong fight against the process. In the subsequent elections Ralph Gonsalves’ ULP won the election by one seat.

The end result is a country that is dangerously divided along political lines with a ‘bleeding economy’ increasing crime and violence.

Historically, political parties in the Caribbean don’t work together for anything. There is very little trust among regional politicians and so the issue of constitutional reform if handled poorly can cause more harm than good as seen in the case of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Regional leaders appear to lack sincerity and always have some malicious and sinister political motive on such issues. Since the failure of the Vincentian referendum the ‘bad blood’ between Dr Ralph Gonsalves’ ULP and Arnhim Eustace’s NDP has increased to the point whereby St Vincent now seems to have political enclaves and zones. The apparent ‘booing’ of Dr Ralph Gonsalves at the funeral of E G Lynch is evidence of this polarisation.

The social, economic and political situation in Grenada isn’t conducive to the holding of referendum on constitutional reforms. The country is too divided, first and foremost. Secondly, the economic situation is at crisis proportions as the country grapples under a severe structural adjustment program monitored by the IMF and, thirdly, the construct of the parliament with no official opposition.

The NDC has to analyse, examine, assess and evaluate the process very meticulously so that any decision that the party takes will be in the long term interest of the country, its people and the party.

This pending referendum is the first real test that Nazim Burke is faced with. This process may either elevate him to the pedestal of political power or condemn him and the NDC to the political grave.

My own suspicion is that Keith Mitchell and the hierarchy of the NNP want to call the referendum before the 2015 convention of the party so that he can pander to Peter David and his socialist faction who recently joined the party. It appears that Mitchell wants to become the Executive President of Grenada for life, while Peter David vies to be the Prime Minister.

It appears that the rush to a referendum has more in the mortar than the pestle. Some one is trying to crown himself king. It is, however, the view of thousands of Grenadians that the country has had enough of Keith Mitchell and Peter David.

Despite all the political rhetoric and propaganda, these two men have had a very depressing and negative impact on the lives of too many Grenadians. New leadership is needed.

Former prime minister Tillman Thomas is a strong advocate of term limits. Term limit is not an item down as part on the constitutional reform. It is therefore left to be seen how Nazim Burke and the NDC will deal with this particular issue.

The constitution of Guyana has term limits for the nation’s President. With term limits not up for referendum it is apparent that some politicians are trying to become Executive President for life through a selection process by parliamentarians and not the electorate.

I firmly believe that Presidents and Prime Ministers should be elected by the people.

Leaders shouldn’t be imposed on the people.

The NDC champions accountability, transparency and good governance. Are Naxim Burke and the NDC leadership satisfied that these noble principles will be advanced and promoted with constitutional reform. I really don’t think so. A dark and ominous cloud is hanging over the process.

Nazim Burke and the NDC shouldn’t give Keith Mitchell, Peter David and Chester Humphrey the opportunity to create a one party state in Grenada. It is no secret that is the long term object of this trio.

Peter David allegedly made this abundantly clear a few months ago.

While there is a need for constitutional reform, I am in agreement with an individual known as Rullow who indicated Grenada needs a new constitution, however not under this present construct.

Time is quickly running out. With only six months to go, Hon Nazim Burke and the NDC need to get into gear immediately after the carnival and take the position of the party to the people. The party needs to come up with its own list of items that they would like to see voted on, including the issue of term limits.

The party shouldn’t wait and go into the referendum blindly; neither should it fail to demonstrate strong and decisive leadership.

Nazim Burke has the potential and capability to lead the party effectively into this process. He should use the referendum as a test run for the upcoming national elections. I am certain that Keith Mitchell and Peter David will use the February 10 referendum to gain any political mileage they can as they aspire to create their one-party state.

NDC supports constitutional reform in principle since the party started the process, however Naxim Burke must ensure that any referendum that the party engages in is a win for Grenada, the party and its supporters and not an exercise in futility or one which advances the political interest of any specific individual or gang.

There is a possibility that the referendum can pass even if the NDC doesn’t support the process. This can however happen only if Nazim Burke and leadership of the NDC are not decisive, resulting in many supporters of the party boycotting the referendum.

It is expected that the supporters of the NNP will vote in the affirmative even if they don’t know what they are voting for. Such is the culture of the diehard NNP supporters.

The supporters of the NDC and independent voters are therefore looking to Nazim Burke for leadership and guidance as February 10, 2015, approaches. This is serious business and it must be handled in like manner. Burke must get up and get. Time is running out. He needs to know that bad men prosper when good men remain silent.

Grenada is at the crossroads and it will only take good leadership to bring the country back on a straight path. Nazim Burke, you can do it.

Stand up and be counted. Grenadians are depending on you.

Grenadian Class

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