Vote “No” on Referendum Day

Public Officers should register and use their vote wisely in the upcoming referendum to amend the 1974 Grenada Constitution to send a strong message to the government on Section 84.8 dealing with workers’ pension.

Sen. Ray Roberts

Sen. Ray Roberts

Each civil servant should cast a big “No Vote” on the ballot paper to awake the powers-that-be who are continue to sleep on this issue that is affecting a lot of workers.

A protest vote could undoubtedly impact on the outcome of the referendum to the point that it fails to achieve the required two-thirds majority to change the document.

The message to be sent by our vote in the referendum to Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and his Cabinet of Ministers is that public officers and their family demand that government address the issue urgently due to the negative impact it is having on workers.

Except for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to replace the Privy Council in London as the final appellate court, none of the other proposed amendments has a significant impact on workers’ every day life.

In fact, the Prime Minister and several of his Cabinet Ministers do not totally support several of the Bills being put to the nation, among them term limits for the Prime Minister, fixed date for election and the appointment of an Opposition Leader if one party wins all the seats in the House of Representatives in an election.

It should be recalled that some of the elected Members of Parliament who all belong to NNP abstained during the debate in the House of Representatives on some of the bills.

There is absolutely no genuine or good reason why the government of Prime Minister Mitchell did not instruct the Constitution Review Commission, headed by Dr. Francis Alexis to deal with the sections on pension in the 1974 Constitution.

The non-payment of a pension to workers who joined the service after 1983 is impacting negatively on hundreds of workers who have retired from the public service and do not receive a pension as clearly prescribed in the Constitution.

All succeeding governments following the collapse of the 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) have relegated the pension issue to the back burner with the current NNP Government being the most blatant.

It should be noted that Dr. Mitchell has been the leader of this country for 17 of past 21 years and did absolutely nothing, except giving lip service to the pension payment issue in national addresses and budget presentations.

One has to admit that whether NNP or NDC is in power that what is written in the 1974 Grenada Constitution cannot ever again be a reality.

To quote from the Constitution – (84,8): “Every officer who is required to retire on abolition of his office or for the purpose of reorganisation of the Ministry or department shall be entitled to pension and retiring benefits as if he had attained the compulsory retiring age “.

No government can afford that luxury because of the horrible state of our economy and Dr. Mitchell would go down in history as the architect of the destruction and he knows that better than anyone else.

The current Prime Minister is the master in the world of promises – exploiting the unsuspecting and always leave the pension issue for another period because it is too hot for him to handle.

When the colonial authors of our Constitution wrote those words about the pension they never envisaged a Grenada Public Service of almost 10, 000 workers – paying all established officers upon retirement a monthly pension of half their last salary.

During their reign, the Revolutionary Government of late Prime Minister Maurice Bishop recognised that and established the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and declared that section of our Constitution void with effect from April 1, 1983.

This is illegal because the methods in law that should have been used to change the Constitution were never done by the PRG. It should be recalled that the Bishop government suspended the Constitution and ruled instead by decree through the passages of a number of People’s Laws.

With Grenada having returned to democratic elected Government in 1984, the Constitution was reinstated, and so too was the pension.

Government fought against it but the Court ruled in favor of the public sector unions who held steadfast.

Workers of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, do not forget that Dr. Mitchell and his government must take maximum blame for ducking this basic human rights of civil servants.

The nation’s longest serving Prime Minister should have been more responsible and up front with the public sector unions  – namely the Grenada Union of Teachers, Public Workers Union, and the Police Welfare Association.

The best solution to this problem is for both workers and government to contribute to a future new pension plan.

The rewriting of this section of the constitution is inescapable and it is the government to provide the leadership there.

To vote yes in the Referendum to the proposed changes is to allow Dr. Mitchell to continue to get away with another of his bag of tricks and using opponents and others to achieve the results of the end game.

Our vote on October 27 or Referendum Day should be all about sweet Grenada. Let us vote for those things that are Good for Grenada.

As workers, we ought not to be fooled because the Grenadian people deserves much better than window-dressing from the present controllers.

Workers, do not forget that our strength lies in unity and a united and vigilant work force can never be defeated.

We have to use the power that lies in our hands to register a “No Vote” on Referendum Day.

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