When is a Grenadian citizen not a citizen?

It was Prime Minister Harold McMillan (Super Mac as he was known) that said: “Events dear boy events.” These words spring to mind whenever I encounter issues relating to services provided by people working in various government departments and the man/woman in the streets of Grenada.

It has not occurred recently however; consider our experience coming through Customs at Maurice Bishop International Airport. My Passport states quite clearly that I was born in St George’s; my wife is travelling on a Grenadian Passport issued in St George’s and endorsed by the current Prime Minister yet we are being asked how long we intend to stay in the country. If this is not gross stupidity what is? When we point out we are citizens of Grenada we are told: “But you don’t live here.” Is this ignorance or just individuals just being difficult?

When we came last November, the very next day I took my car to Dusty Highway to have its annual inspection; the Officer in uniform that carried out the inspection told me he will not pass the vehicle because the R.H.S tail light was not working. At that point in time it was the one and only defect/fault he mentioned. I immediately took out a spare bulb from the glove compartment of the car, open the door; went round to the rear of the vehicle and open the tailgate to replace what I suspect was a defective bulb. As soon as I did so the Officer who was looking on pointed to the rear number plate and said: “Also the number plate needs replacing, you must look after your car daddy.” Having got the message I got into the car and drove off.

The government needs to carry out a review of how these inspections are carried out and at least introduce an inspection check list that must be filled in by the Inspector. This form should clearly indicate why a vehicle failed the inspection and at least it will give the vehicle owners the opportunity to challenge the decision of the Inspector if necessary. They should also be a section on the form that says: “Advised” for things such as a tail light or minimum tyre wear.

I have since replaced the rear number plate but I have kept the replaced plate as a souvenir; so far no one that I have shown this plate to can understand why the Inspecting Officer felt it needed replacing – they cannot see anything wrong with it neither can I.

I had a request from a family member for a citizenship application form so my wife and I went to the Ministerial Complex to get one. At first we went to the Passport office but a well spoken, courteous gentleman in uniform redirected us to the main building across the road.

The young woman at the reception who never once made eye contact with either of us redirected us to a building next door that was sign-posted Birth and Death records or something to that effect saying to ask for Mrs. X. We followed her advice however on our arrival we encountered another courteous, and very helpful young woman who told us Mrs. X was away on holidays, the person who directed us to her office is well aware of this also.

Mrs. X is the only person in the department that has access to the forms in question because it is a new experiment that is on trial. You need to go back to reception.

On returning to reception we encountered the same woman at the desk. This woman was rather discourteous, rude and argumentative claiming she was not aware of Mrs X disposition. There was no apology, please or thanks; never looked at us apart from the odd glance, never once a smile and kept her face like a salted prune at all times.

She told us: “You have to go to Foreign Affairs on the 6th floor but the lady can’t.” My immediate reply was: “What is wrong with my wife?” She replied: “Dress code.” I replied: “What is wrong with the way she is dressed?” Just then a male security officer pointed to a notice taped down on the desk indicating sleeveless tops are not allowed. My wife was wearing a sleeveless blouse.

I must point out that at reception they were two security officers one male, one female both in my view and my wife’s, and they treated us with the utmost courtesy and respect at all times.

I think the receptionist could learn a lot in terms of how to treat members of the public from both these officers. This woman is clearly not cut out to be a receptionist. Sadly her attitude makes it clear to everyone that a hog in a palace is still a pig.

Some historical sites that are open to the public, entrance is free to citizens yet the people manning them expect us (my wife and I) to pay the entrance fee even if we produce a Grenadian ID card. Now is that fair?

We visited Fort George and paid an entrance fee. Here they are a lot to see. However; when we visited Fort Fredrick we saw a sign that clearly stated entrance was free to citizens so I objected strongly to paying an entrance fee and for some reason encountered problems.

It would appear in Grenada the way people dress, the way they speak and sadly, the colour of their skin sometimes is significant in the way they are seen and treated by some officials and members of the general public. Unfortunately for me my parents always insist that I speak proper English.

I will not go into details of what happened that afternoon at Morne Jaloux except to say, my wife and two guests travelling with us paid but I bluntly refused to pay on principle.

Fort Frederick and Fort Matthew (the crazy house as it was known) I knew very well as a child travelling through the arch road to visit my grand aunt who lived at Morne Jaloux Ridge or going on my parents business to Richmond Hill prison from La Borie Road where my grand parents had a property.

My family and I are perhaps more linked or familiar with the history of the area than the people currently working on site. On a matter of principle I refused to pay an entrance fee to visit a Historical site that as a citizen I am entitled free access to regardless of whether I live in or out of the country or speak the Queen’s English.

My wife and I were relieved when finally we were able to travel in the comfort of our car to Grand Anse two weeks into our current holidays. On route we stopped off at a supermarket on Kirani James Boulevard and purchased some items which included two Rotis for our lunch.

We parked the car in Camerhogne Park, sat down making use of the table and bench facilities. As we started our lunch we heard: “Boss, boss, boss.” The voice became closer and closer until we saw a man perhaps in his 30’s who approached us. This guy was wearing only a flimsy pair of filthy shorts, sweating from head to toe and smelling. He was told to go away and to leave us alone but he continued to say some sort of nonsense that we did not quite understand so, we again asked him to leave us alone only this time we said if he did not leave we would call the police; so he switched from what he was saying to a barrage of verbal abuse including the use of the four letter word several times. He also referred to us as drug dealers from Trinidad and threw in the names of illegal drugs that according to him we were involved in.

This chap has harassed us in this same park in the past. We were sitting having a snack in November/December of last year when he turned up, sat right in our face and started to make funny faces as he looked straight at us. We got up and left without saying anything. He appears to only harass people who to him appear to be tourists.

Something needs to be done about these people who developed this nasty habit of going around harassing people for their own benefit and if you object they switch to verbal abuse. Such individuals are damaging our tourism industry and giving our people and our country a bad name and image.

We have also experienced abuse while walking on the Carenage. My wife and I went to the Tourism Authority to get some latest magazines. As we walk along Wharf Road near the Christ of the Deep Statue, a woman perhaps in her late 20’s who was sitting on one of the walls made reference to my wife’s skin colour.

This I found to be the lowest and most intolerable behaviour one could ever encounter any where in the world today. This woman not only made me feel ashamed; for a minute I was absolutely mad and without saying anything I just turned around and had a good look at her. Later I said to my wife she (the woman) must be loopy.

These are some of the behaviour of local Grenadians I find difficult to stomach. This country has come a long way but going forward we still have a mountain to climb in terms of the way we treat our fellow man or woman. We need to learn to treat people as equals, with respect, dignity, kindness, tolerance and perhaps most of all show a bit of love and friendship.

Common courtesy goes a long way. If you show respect you will receive respect – morning, please or thanks with a little smile takes nothing away from you and believe me you will feel a lot better within yourself.

Winston Strachan

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