Head of State may face the Court

The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is contemplating taking legal action against the Head of State, Dr. Cecile La Grenade.

The proposed action against the Governor General is in regards to her unceremonial dismissal of Judy Benoit as the Supervisor of Elections.

NazimBenoit who supervised the February 19 General Elections was dismissed days after she questioned the legitimacy of some directives given to her by the Cabinet of Ministers.

A letter written by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works, Lana Mc Phail dated August 28 Mc Phail informed Benoit that at its meeting of July 29, Cabinet approved the use of eight centres for registration into the MPID System and issuance of cards.

The MPID System is integral to the EGRIP (Electronic Government for Regional Integration) that the country is entering into as a means of networking government offices.

The EGRIP computer server that will control, direct and regulate the entire operations of ICT in the government services will be based at the Ministerial Complex at the Botanical Gardens which also houses the Office of the Prime Minister.

The letter also informs that Cabinet has authorized the installation of internet services at all the sites through telecommunications provider, LIME.

In response to the directives given to her, Benoit pointed out that the EGRIP project involving the Parliamentary Elections Constituency Office may constitute a breach of legislation, which governs the electoral process.

Benoit sought to find out through a letter to Mc Phail dated August 30 if the authority of the Supervisor of Elections over the Office was being removed, and to what use internet service will be relative to the system.

However, on September 30, Benoit was written to by the Governor General to indicate that her services in the Office of the Supervisor of Elections will no longer be required, effective October 1.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Aaron Francois, has taken up her job.

The move against Benoit by the seven-month old Keith Mitchell-led government has raised the eyebrows of the NDC which views it as an attack on the country’s democratic process as it violates the provisions of the Constitution of Grenada as it relates to the independent post of Supervisor of Elections.

Section 35 [6] of the Constitutions says: “In the exercise of his (the Governor General) functions… the Supervisor of Elections shall not be subject to direction or control of any other person or authority.”

At a Press Conference last week Thursday, Deputy Political Leader, Senator Nazim Burke said legal counsel will be sought as to whether and at what extent legal action can be taken against the Governor General and/or the Cabinet of Ministers in respect of the Benoit matter.

Sen. Burke made a call to all stakeholders including civil society and the Conference of Churches of Grenada (CCG) to address the issue.




He said the NDC will ensure that international organisations like the Organisation of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Commonwealth and Caricom Secretariats are informed about the issue.

The Deputy Political Leader of Congress believes that in the light of the move made against Benoit, the country is facing a very grave danger.

“This is a clear, deliberate, willful, unlawful attempt by the New National Party to effectively hijack the Office of the Supervisor of Elections,” he said.

The NDC number two man alleged that once the internet service for EGRIP is placed at the Office of the Prime Minister then that Office will have direct access to the island’s entire electoral system.

Political Leader Tillman Thomas who is known to be committed to the independence of the country’s democratic Institutions charged that the Cabinet of Ministers have clearly set out to usurp the authority of the Supervisor of Elections.

Thomas who served as Prime Minister of the country between 2008 and 2013 said no other office or entity should be permitted to get involved in the electoral process.

“To take away the authority from the Supervisor (of Elections), or to share the authority with another office somewhere in the Ministerial Complex… is a threat to the integrity of the electoral process,” he added.

“If there is any directive to be done, I submit, it must be done by the Governor General and not the Cabinet of the country,” he said.

Chairman of the NDC, Sen. Franka Bernadine who was also present at the Press Conference, indicated that the manner in which Benoit was removed as Supervisor of Elections makes one feel very uncertain about what is happening democratically in Grenada.

Sen. Bernadine urged Grenadians to become very vigilant with all that is taking place as it relates to the dismissal of a number of persons since the NNP took office in February.

“We’re not into building an NNP State in Grenada. We are here to build democracy and for people to decide who is going to take them forward… It is not about consolidating a party into position. It’s about democracy and ensuring that everybody has the right to operate. ” she said

Public Relations Officer, Glen Noel who chimed in on the issue indicated that as a party in opposition, the NDC believes it has a responsibility to safeguard and defend the rights of all citizens.

Noel said that as the party repositions itself after its loss at the poll and to enable it to be in a better position to protect the rights and interests of the citizens of Grenada, it believes that it has to be in the forefront of all matters that affect the people.

“Parliament is sacred, the judiciary is sacred… and also our electoral system,” he remarked.

Noel described the NNP’s onslaught on Benoit as being a very callous attack on the rights and freedoms of an individual and on the country’s democratic Institutions.

 

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