The ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has once again refused to sign onto the Civil Society-promoted Code of Political Conduct to govern the holding of general elections in Grenada.
The NNP was the only major party on the island that stayed away from Monday’s signing ceremony that took place at the Public Workers Union Building (PWU) along the Port Highway.
The Mitchell-led party has only signed the code on one occasion and refused to sign the document in the 2008 and 2013 general election.
A party insider told this newspaper that the Grenadian leader is vehemently opposed to a leading member of the Civil Society grouping – Judy Williams of Grencoda.
He spoke of Dr. Mitchell often questioning the authority of Williams and Civil Society to summon political organisations like NNP to sign Code of Conducts.
During Monday’s event, six Political Parties and one Independent Candidate agreed to adhere to the Code for the upcoming election campaign.
The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) was represented by its Chairman, Vincent Roberts, the Grenada Renaissance Party (GRP) by Washington Edwards, People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) by Terry Forrester, Movement for Independent Candidates by Lawrence Amade.
The person who signed for Grenada Empowerment Movement Inc was Earl Maitland, The New Beginning was represented by Rolley Duncan, and the Independent Candidate was John R.A. Fletcher of St. Andrew South-west.
The Code of Political Conduct, which was first initiated for the January 1999 general elections, sets out guidelines for the political campaign to which candidates are being requested to voluntarily adhere.
It encourages persons putting themselves up for office to address issues of concern to the electorate and pertinent to the development of the country.
According to Judy Williams, the long-term goal of the Code of Conduct is for citizens to be involved in the governance process while understanding their rights and how they can respectfully discharge them.
She said, “The Code of Political Conduct is a positive tool for engagement (and) seeking to have the electorate better informed on issues, plans and programmes for sustainable development – surely this is not too much to ask. Grenada though small and yet very vulnerable can set standards and we can lead by example.
“The positive engagement that we are expecting is having all persons; individuals and parties enlighten us on the approaches and strategies they may use to include and involve us in the sustainable development agenda for Grenada over the coming five years.”
“We the people are encouraged by those who have taken the opportunity to want to sign on to this code this afternoon. We believe that it will only help us as a small nation with many challenges to do better and to show the world that in fact, though small, though vulnerable, though challenged, we can in fact do good things that will propel our people upwards. Be assured that we will affirm you when you adhere to the code and also know that we will call out to you when you have gone off track”.
Another member of the Civil Society Organisations, Sandra Ferguson highlighted some of the actions or inactions expected of political leaders and candidates.
Ferguson said it is the hope of civil society that political parties should refrain from the use of half truths, lies, innuendos, bribes and threats to gain political advantage, speak out against sex gender, religion, or class and to mobilise support or to vilify any individual, family, professional group, or sections of the community.
In addition, political parties are asked to refrain from engaging directly or indirectly in character assassination, as well as making derogatory and degrading comments about men and women holding public office or offering themselves for public office.
They are also asked not to say or do anything to invite, encourage or foster hatred, resentment or any form of violence, disrupting religious services and other organised community activities, defacing public and private property and structures, using threats and all other forms of intimidation against members of the media, and the use of state resources for political campaign purposes.
The youth and their contribution to the development of Grenada were recognised and a youth message was delivered to the political parties by 13-year-old Jada Glean.
She said that persons who are successful in the election campaign to represent other people are always required “to take an oath and swear to uphold the very high ideals reflected in the Constitution”.
“Our behaviour must be a positive example that promotes respect, tolerance, harmony, peace, goodwill, and unity as we endeavour to build this nation together”, she remarked.
The Code of Political Conduct provides for a Watchdog Committee to be set up to monitor and evaluate adherence to what was signed by the political parties and candidates during the campaign process.