Long time patriotic donor to the government and people of Grenada, Mr Chester Simon, who is a born Grenadian but currently resides and operates a business in Switzerland, was singled out for the most horrible and unwarranted treatment by the local Grenadian authorities.
What is understood to be his fifth container shipment donated free of cost to the government and people of Grenada since Hurricane Ivan ravished the country in 2004, has turned out to be a dreadful experience for Mr Simon at the Grenada Customs.
Mr Simon, who was in Grenada for a short visit during the Christmas season to assist in the distribution and presentation of a shipment of merchandise that consisted mainly of medical supplies for the Ministry of Health, among other items for various institutions, had to extend his stay on the island in order to clear his name of alleged wrongdoing.
In what can be best described as an unanticipated move by the Grenada Customs to seize possession of the non-medical items identified within the container which was reported as not being properly declared. He was later advised by the authorities to consult with a lawyer if he so wishes, since a full investigation will be carried out on the non-medical items within the container.
The 1993 SRO.35 of the CARICOM Common External Order gives clear guidelines of how free donations of these sorts should be treated by the competent authority (i.e. the Cabinet of Grenada). In broad context, donations of this nature are viewed as contributions towards the development of the country and do not serve as a direct benefit to the person or organisation making such donation, therefore such items should be free of all taxes and levies.
It is only a Cabinet Conclusion alone and not the Comptroller of Customs that can authorise concessions to any person, business entity or organisation. If there was an error on the documentation presented by Mr Simon to the Customs that read “special effects” instead of “personal effects”, this error could have been easily corrected by the competent authority, i.e. the Cabinet of Grenada via a letter authorising concessions on the shipment, rather than bringing the gentleman to open embarrassment.
Things took a turn for the worse when the Government Information Service (GIS) put out a release that suggested that Mr Simon was trying to defraud the government of much needed revenues. The government should take full responsibility for their ineptness and lack of competence and sensitivity in dealing with a simple and important matter of a bona fide and patriotic Grenadian, who for love of country sees it as a sense of duty beyond pleasure to reach out and assist his fellow citizens in a time of gross economic depression and hopelessness.
This inhumane action meted out to Mr Chester Simon has not gone unnoticed by the citizens of Grenada both at home and in the Diaspora and so one is left to wonder what next will this administration do to prevent the rights and freedoms of Grenadians everywhere to give assistance freely without fear or hindrance to political victimisation.
Since resuming office almost two years ago this NNP administration has squandered the opportunity given to it to settle down and help repair the damage done to the Grenadian economy over the last 20 years. Fifteen of those 20 years were governed by the New National Party administration, and during that period the government struck many bad deals that resulted in the loss of millions of dollars to the Grenada economy. The consequence and effects of those bad deals are now being realised by all Grenadians as the country faces severe hardship in a very depressed economy.
The New National Party was voted into office on some well put together “catch phrases” such as “New economy”, “we will deliver” and “we will rescue you” from the recession by providing jobs, jobs, and more jobs within a matter of 100 days and so on, every school child was supposed to be given a laptop to replace the NDC free school book programme; the promised laptops were later reduced to tablets but to date none of these are being realised. This and many others grandiose promises were made to the populace.
Instead what the people are experiencing to date under this administration is a far cry in respect to the overwhelming mandate given to the administration.
The consistent negative reviews of blunder, slip-up and mix-up made by this NNP administration since assuming office is unprecedented and of major concern to our foreign policy initiative as well as our populace.
Grenadians are growing weary of this state of affairs. It is now left to the administration to take the necessary steps to treat its populace with dignity and respect or else face the wrath of the people whenever the next election is called.