Grenada heading to CCJ

Grenadian Legislators in the Lower House of Parliament have given their blessings to the country joining the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final appellate court.

Thirteen Members of the House who were present at last week Tuesday’s sitting, approved the passage of the Constitution Bill relating to the CCJ which will form part of the Constitution Reform process.

The Bill, entitled Constitution of Grenada, Caribbean Court of Justice and other Justice-Related Matters (Amendment) Bill, 2015, will see Grenada breaking away from the British Privy Council, and have all of its appeal cases brought before the CCJ.

Legal Affairs Minister Elvin Nimrod who presented the Bill advised the House that in order for Grenada to be under the jurisdiction of the final appellate court there has to be a constitutional amendment.

Minister Nimrod described the CCJ as a “home-grown court” where its operators know and understand the history, culture and tradition of the people they serve.

He said it is extremely costly to access services at the Privy Council, adding that this is where, sometimes, justice is being denied as many people do not have the resources.

“We know, as a people that our interest will be better served if we have our own people… determining our destiny,” he told Parliament.

Minister Nimrod dismissed the argument put forward in some quarters that the CCJ can be politically influenced.

He said this is further from the truth as there are no avenues where there can be political interference in the court.

The Legal Affairs Minister who is a Lawyer by profession, also spoke with confidence of the competence of the Caribbean Justices.

He said the facts will show that some of the most eminent Jurists in the region sit on the Privy Council.

The senior Government Minister also spoke of the financial soundness of the CCJ.

He indicated that it has a one hundred million dollars trust fund that used six million dollars each year from interest to finance its operations.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell who contributed to the debate also addressed the perception of the CCJ having political interference.

Dr. Mitchell said he was Prime Minister when the CCJ was established in 2001, and he never knew who was recommended to be appointed as the Chief Justice along with the other judges.

“The system was far removed from the political directorate,” he quipped.

PM Mitchell said the country cannot be fully independent until it dispenses its own justice.

He said it is now the job of the Constitutional Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) that is headed by Queen’s Counsel and Constitutional Lawyer, Dr. Francis Alexis to provide further explanation to islanders about how the CCJ functions.

At present only Barbados, Belize, Guyana, and the Commonwealth of Dominica have signed on to the CCJ as its final appellate court.

Minister of Economic Development, Oliver Joseph in his contribution to the debate said it never ceases to amaze him why all the Member-States of the Caribbean are not signatories to the CCJ in its final jurisdiction.

Minister Joseph believes that being a member of the CCJ, the Caribbean Countries will be saying to the rest of the world they are competent and can take care of its own business.

“I will like to see Grenada be a member of the CCJ, and I want to urge all Grenadians to go out there and support this Bill,” he said.

The CCJ was established in 2001 in Trinidad where it is headquartered, and Grenada which is a signatory to the CCJ has already signed on to its original jurisdiction.

The host country is still to sign onto the CCJ as its final appellate court.

The British Privy Council came into being under the Judicial Committee Act of 1833.

Enhancing the Education Sector in Grenada

At the J.W. Fletcher Catholic Secondary School in Grenada, 217 boys and girls have been making do with inadequate space.  Teachers and students work together creatively to make the best of the eight classrooms, spread across two blocks. But this arrangement is not suitable for optimal outcomes in the education sector in Grenada; nor does it meet regional best practice standards.

For this reason, J.W. Fletcher is one of six schools across the country that will be expanded or rehabilitated as part of the Grenada Education Enhancement Project (GEEP), funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

Teachers and students look forward to the construction of two new blocks whaich will provide three classrooms, administrative space, labs for Building Technology and Electronics, and rooms for Music, Art, Technical Drawing and Counselling.

GEEP was launched on June 15 in St. George’s, where Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell reaffirmed the duty of the Government and the right of the child to quality education.

“If we truly believe that every child deserves that kind of opportunity, and that every society deserves to have students who can access those kinds of opportunities, then our collective effort becomes extremely clear. Our work is to make sure that opportunity is not just a possibility, but a promise. Opportunity is a right that inspires educators to truly devote their lives to empowering our children. It is a right that encourages parents to expect their child will graduate from secondary school and college and succeed in life, even if the parents never had that chance themselves. A Government’s work is not done until we have lived up to that promise,” Dr Mitchell said.

In addition to J.W. Fletcher, other schools to be improved are Grenada Seventh Day Adventist Comprehensive, Bishop’s College in Carriacou, Presentation Brothers’ College, St. Joseph’s Convent, St. George’s; and St. Joseph’s Convent in Grenville.

The expansion and rehabilitation work is part of Phase One of the GEEP for which a loan of USD15 million and a grant of USD533,000 have been approved by CDB’s Board of Directors.  It complements the Government of Grenada’s efforts to address the substantial need for improved education infrastructure.

“The implementation of the project will allow our Ministry to be better positioned to serve its stakeholders at all levels, and to take on a professional approach towards the conduct of the business of education. The country on a whole will benefit by way of improving the availability and relevant professional skills. It is therefore my expectation that the beneficiaries of this timely investment, will seize the opportunity to make maximum use of the opportunities afforded,” remarked, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Anthony Boatswain.

Grenada was so badly affected by Hurricanes Ivan and Emily in 2004 and 2005 respectively, that some damaged schools have not yet been restored and some continuing to be housed in temporary structures.

Some of the country’s secondary schools, originally operated as primary institutions, must be expanded if the country is to achieve universal secondary education.

The Project also aims to enhance the quality, relevance and effectiveness of instruction and includes a component for training and professional development for approximately 1,700 teachers and principals.

Vice-President (Operations) at CDB,Patricia McKenzie, lauded Grenada’s work and leadership in education: “The experience of many countries has amply demonstrated the power of human capital development to expanding economic opportunities and reducing poverty.  Likewise in Grenada, education attainment is strongly correlated with economic gains and lower poverty rates.  Consequently, the government of Grenada has been investing approximately 5.2 percent of GDP annually on education, spending ECD102.1 mn, in 2015, higher than any other sector and among the highest in the OECS.

“As a consequence of the significant investment you have made in education, Grenada has made tremendous progress in reaching several measureable targets for basic education – achieving universal secondary education in 2012, reaching the Caribbean-specific Millennium Development Goals in 2015 and virtually eliminating enrolment disparities between males and females, you have demonstrated leadership in this area”, McKenzie said.

The Project is now officially underway, with construction expected to begin by 2017.

Training at Sandals

Sandals La Source Grenada Resort  & Spa has prepared yet another group of young persons for the world of work via on the job training and expertise education in the Hospitality Training Programme (HTP).

Far left- Human Resource Manager Stephanie Sylvester, Center- Cross Section of HTP Graduates, Far Right- Training & Development Manager Sheena Williams

Far left- Human Resource Manager Stephanie Sylvester, Center- Cross Section of HTP Graduates, Far Right- Training & Development Manager Sheena Williams

Fourteen young persons participated in ten weeks of intense training as they were taught technical and soft skills in various areas of hotel operations; Food and Beverage, Concierge Service, Housekeeping,
Sales, Engineering/ Maintenance, Entertainment and Watersports.

According to Training and Development Manager, Sheena Williams, ‘the aim of the program is to give our trainees the requisite skills to enter the hospitality industry with the core competencies required to pivot into further success.’

The successful trainees are: Anichell Thomas, Fidel Pezar, Keston Lewis, Nikita Charles, Stephan Noel, Sheforn Mitchell, Tanisha Lewis, Whitney Charles, Anel Alexander, Renisha Lewis and Sanandra Marecheau.

The most outstanding among the trainees were valedictorian Kesha St. John; and Dennyka Checkley who gave the Vote of Thanks at their graduation ceremony.

The training is not just Sandals specific but industry oriented aimed at equipping the candidates with necessary skills to make a solid contribution to Sandals La Source or any other service provider in the hospitality industry.

Once vacancies become available, HTP graduates are often top picks by managers at Sandals LaSource.

Who owns Mt Hartman?

Outspoken Labour Senator, Ray Roberts wants a direct answer from the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government as to the ownership of Mt Harman in the south of the island.

Sen. Roberts – wants answers to his questions

Sen. Roberts – wants answers to his questions

Speaking to reporters last week, Sen. Roberts said that as part of his efforts to find out the true owners of the property, he has submitted a number of questions to this effect to the Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Simon Stiell.

He pointed to a document which he retrieved from the Treasury indicating that the 240 acres of land at Mt. Hartman was sold to one, E.J Miller of Inter-continental Grenada Limited for US $7 million.

However, Sen. Roberts said the document has no corresponding Treasury number to show that there was a financial transaction.

According to the Labour representative, it is for this specific reason that he was prompted to ask for receipts from government showing proof of sale of Mt. Hartman.

“Generally when you buy a piece of land and it’s conveyed … there has to be a corresponding number that relates and reflects payment in the Treasury. This one has none, so it was on this premise that I requested that I see a receipt or receipts pertaining to that venture,” he said.

Roberts stated that the Leader of government business could obtain this basic information from the Accountant General in the Ministry of Finance.

“…If money was paid, it must be recorded…if E.J Miller pays US $7 million, there has to be some record of it”, he remarked.

Miller was able to get a former NNP government of Dr. Mitchell to guarantee a multi-million dollar loan with a Bank in Europe on the premise that he would construct a Ritz Carlton hotel at Mt. Hartman.

The American investor reportedly drew down the loan and disappeared without building the hotel.

The European Bank took Grenada to court and was able to get a ruling in its favour for the money owed to be repaid by the local Treasury.

Sen. Roberts said he is hopeful of receiving an answer to his question at the next sitting of the Senate on July 11th.

He suggested that the method used by Prime Minister Mitchell in providing answers to the last government dealings with the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) can be applied in providing answers about the ownership of Mt. Hartman.

“I notice the Prime Minister was able to provide answers to the last government dealings with the NIS. He has a complete record and I would expect the state to keep a record of this because I am not making this up…the name of the former Governor General (Sir Daniel Williams) is involved, so there must be some kind of record and we must set the record straight.

“…I would hope in the answer I am not given words, I am given documents so I can know who is the owner, whether the people of Grenada own Mt Hartman or there are new owners.

Sen. Roberts is believed to have resisted attempts by Senate President, Chester Humphrey to rewrite his questions.

The Labour representative is also seeking answers from government on questions related to another company named Spice Casino Resort and Entertainment Limited of which embattled Chinese investor, Charles Liu and his wife are named as Directors.

Liu has been charged by Security Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States with fraud in connection with his use of an EB-5 Immigrant Investor Programme.

The Chinese investor is accused of diverting monies earmarked for a cancer treatment facility in Canada to personal accounts involving himself and his wife.

The SEC has frozen all bank accounts of Liu who is known to be the major financier of a proposed US$2 billion tourism project planned for Mt. Hartman.

Sen. Roberts wants to know if the Spice Casino Resort and Entertainment Limited is part of the Mt. Hartman project.

“If he owns it, we must know when that was done and how it was done and the people of Grenada must be told these things because we’re hearing that the man’s assets are frozen.

“We are hearing that what is in the United States, we have no literature to back that up so we must know the status of Mt. Hartman and I trust that the respect and the courtesy would be extended to these questions because I am not making this up.

“…If this guy (Liu) owns Hog Island or he owns Mt. Hartman, let us know how much he paid for it or whether it was a deed of gift. The government can give you a deed of gift, let us know, but we don’t seem to know who owns it and it must be answered because whether we like it or not, the guy has been charged with fraud, you can’t escape it…”.

The Mitchell-led government has indicated that despite Liu’s legal problems in the U.S, the Mt. Hartman project is proceeding because there are other interested investors lined up.

Police clean “The Stones” at the St George’s Bus Terminus

The Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) has conducted another community policing act as the members of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) engaged in a clean up campaign of the St George’s Bus Terminus.

Bags of rubbish retrieved from the stones

Bags of rubbish retrieved from the stones

A number of CID officers along with a handful of bus men were seen retrieving garbage from the area known as The Stones – the spot where bus drivers and conductors alike go to have lunch and socialise.

This initiative was an activity held by the CID in acknowledgement of Police Week 2016, which is held under the theme: Embracing those who served; United, to keep Grenada safe.

Second in charge of the CID, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Earl Dunbar told reporters last week Wednesday that the initiative is part of the non-traditional policing of the Police Force.

“The bus terminus is the hub where thousands of commuters would meet their connection with transport to get to their respective destinations and as a result their first line of contact will be the bus drivers and conductors who also have a responsibility in selling the idea of cleanliness”, he said.

CID Officers in action cleaning the area

CID Officers in action cleaning the area

According to the senior police officer, the commuters are the ones who can disseminate the information on the issue of the cleanliness to the villagers in their communities.

He said RGPF is trying to spread the idea of safety and one of the ways of keeping Grenada safe is promoting healthy living through cleanliness.

“…As a result the department and by extension the force wants to encourage persons to keep their environment, villages and communities clean in order to alleviate the outbreak of diseases”, he added.

ASP Dunbar made mention of Mosquito borne diseases like Chikungunya and Zika, saying that the disease can be spread by rats, and that leptospirosis can be fatal to the human being.

He encouraged bus drivers, conductors and commuters to make use of the bins that are strategically placed at the bus terminus for the collection of garbage.

A bus driver known as “Marcus” who plies the Mt Moritz bus route complimented the CID officers for taking the initiative to promote cleanliness at the bus terminus.

“We really appreciate the fact that the police are here. However, it’s sort of difficult that you are not seeing so many busmen who are responsible mostly for the garbage here and it is simply because of the modus operation…”, he said.

“…What has been happening in relation to the back of the terminus is that the only place where bus men sit down and relax and when they sit and relax, most of them would eat here and leave the container just where they eat…men continue to throw their garbage in the stone simply because that’s where they are”, he added.

CID-GarbageAnother bus driver, working on the Grand Anse route, Dexter Francis also welcomed the actions of the officers.

“We’re talking health and if you’re talking health, our environment should be one of the best,” he said.

Manager of the bus terminus, Superintendent Dunbar Belfon encouraged the use of the receptacles at the terminus, noting that there are enough on hand.

“There are bins (at) every other pole at the bus terminus there is a bin. Bins are provided and what we want them to do is to discipline themselves and to work in a clean environment by throwing their waste, using the bins,” he said.

Blockade, Remains and Cuba Relations!!!

By Brian Lindsay-Campbell

I was a little bit surprised when the Consultant of the New Today Newspaper, Mr. George Worme said to me: “I thought that Dr. Marryshow was helping you with the articles”.

I smiled, knowing full well that I have come a long way, but also understand that I have a long way to go in that regard as an effective writer.

It is not my wish only but the wish of millions of people worldwide that the current financial and commercial and economic blockade against the Cuban Government and people must be lifted unconditionally in order for ordinary Cubans to have a better life.

The blockade has impacted negatively and severely, especially during the Special Period of the1990s in unimaginable ways, when Cuba lost 80% of its trade overnight and was forced to make changes and tremendous sacrifices in order to survive.

I was not amused or excited to hear Chester Humphrey, President of our Senate, making representation during a GBN Newscast on Tuesday, the 15th of September 2015 to table a resolution in our Parliament and the region in support of the lifting of the inhumane and immoral, financial and economic blockade against the government of Cuba.

Humphrey wanted this resolution to be presented to the US Congress as a matter of solidarity with the Cuban Government and people because we could get more from them when and if the blockade is lifted.

This resolution is not new because the world since 1992, started to vote against the USA and it self-imposed blockage against Cuba which was implemented on February 3rd 1962.

I see that not as solidarity but political expediency by him because the blockade against the Cuban People is more than fifty years old.

Moreover, as the second longest serving Parliamentarian in the history of the state of Grenada, the first time I heard his voice on this subject matter post the Grenada Revolution of March 13th 1979 was in July 1998 when both of us were on MTV representing the people who were in support of the visit of the historical leader and Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban Revolution, Dr. Fidel Castro.

The second time he touched the issue was during the NDC rule of Tillman Thomas in 2008-2013 when he was able to table a resolution condemning the blockage, which was passed in both Houses of Parliament.

Senator, where were you all these years from 1984-1998 on the issue of the blockade as a parliamentarian?

I am just making an observation of your trajectory on the issue, post the demise of the Grenada Revolution of October 19th, 1983 when our Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, Cabinet members and friends were executed in the then Fort Rupert.  As the saying goes it is still better to be late than never.

Cuba’s contribution towards our human resource and infrastructural development will continue whether the US blockage is lifted or not because of their foreign policy and solidarity regardless of which government is in office here in Grenada.

History has shown us in our recent past that the Government of Cuba will continue to share the little that they have with the rest of the world.

As for me I will not table a resolution on the economic and financial blockade on Cuba because we could get more from them when the blockage is lifted. That statement sounded very disgusting to me as a Grenadian.

I will table a resolution on the economic and financial blockade on Cuba because the Cuban people deserves to have a better life as the blockage has impacted negatively and severely on their overall development for more than fifty-two years especially during the special period of the 1990s when Cuba lost 80% of its trade overnight when the USSR and Socialist countries and Socialism collapsed.

I also believe that after forty-two years of independence and without any blockade we should be in a position to give also and not only depending on handouts – that gimme, gimme mentality.

Let me hasten to say that we must find a way to produce our way to prosperity. History will show why we are stuck in our overall development as a people and why we are going through hard economic times today?

When the history of Grenada/Cuba relations are finally written it will show that the MBPM of Kendrick Radix, George Louison and Dr. Terrence Marryshow were the first post-Revolutionaries who were advocates on this subject matter in a very honest and passionate manner.

If there is one bi-partisan agreement that exist between Caribbean Politicians is on the blockade against Cuba because all governments voted against the USA every October since 1992 at the UN General Assembly.

In our case both the NNP and NDC governments voted in favour of lifting the criminal blockage against Cuba on several occasions.

Furthermore, in October 2015 the new governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana followed in the footsteps of their predecessors at the UN General Assembly when they voted to lift the blockade against Cuba, 191to 2 – a record vote at the UN General Assembly.

The people must also know that it was the NDC of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite which re-established diplomatic relations with Havana on March 10th 1992.

And during the annual solidarity meeting with Cuba at the GBSS Auditorium in 2014, the Deputy Political Leader of the National Democratic Congress, Joseph Andall who spoke on behalf of his party, stated in his address that “we recognise that Cuba is part of our civilisation”.

Despite the reaching of a nuclear deal with Iran by the USA and its allies, re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba by the USA,  and the recent visit of the first American President in almost 90 years, Mr. Barrack Obama, there is still one outstanding issue to be resolved.

It is the remains of our former Prime Minister Bishop, his Cabinet colleagues and friends who were massacred on the fort by the RMC thugs.

The remains should be unconditionally returned to their respective families for a proper Christian burial, which is crucial for closure and reconciliation of our people.

I am not hearing any Parliamentarian at home especially the President of our Senate, Chester Humphrey making representation to our Parliament and to parliamentarians in the region in the form of a resolution here at home and the region to the US Congress for this very important exercise to take place.

Comrade, many persons want to see the proper burial of the remains of our former beloved Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop and his Cabinet colleagues.

We must also remember that former Prime Minister Bishop, Unison Whiteman and Norris Bain were parliamentarians before March 13th 1979.

We must always be mindful about our internationalist duties and responsibilities as a people but we must also remember that charity begins at home.

In closing we must take into consideration the words of the Flying Turkey’s “Grenada Belongs to Us”- Bear in mind that no amount of foreign assistance can ever compensate for our Nation’s independence”.

Constitution Bills receive abstention

Two of the Constitution Bills that are to be taken to the referendum for Constitution reform failed to receive the full support of all of the Members of the Lower House of Parliament who were present at last week’s sitting.

The Bills for the Term of Office of the Prime Minister, and the Bill to ensure the appointment of the Leader of the Opposition at all times sparked some lengthy debates which resulted in some abstention when the vote was taken.

In presenting the first Bill, Legal Affairs Minister, Elvin Nimrod informed the House that he is commenting on the Bill without indicating which way he will vote whenever the referendum was held.
Minister Nimrod felt that if the people choose to elect and re-elect a Prime Minister for whatever length of time this is the truest form of democracy.

“It means that they are satisfied with the ‘good job’ that the Prime Minister is doing,” he told legislators.

“If the people of Grenada believe that their Prime Minister is leading the country in the right direction… they do have a right to decide to return their Prime Minister to Office,” he said.

According to the No.2 man in the New National Party (NNP) administration, the current Constitution does not set any limit on the length of time a Prime Minister can serve.

However, he said the proposed amendment is mandating that a sitting Prime Minister cannot serve for more than three consecutive terms.

Economic Development Minister, Oliver Joseph who abstained from voting felt that since Grenada follows the Westminster system of governance there is no need to introduce in the Constitution any term limits for the Prime Minister when the people already have the power to limit the term of a Prime Minister.
Minister Joseph said he does not understand the problem that the amendment in the Bill is trying to address.

“We have free and fair elections, and people have a right to choose who they want to be Prime Minister, so we have to be very careful that we are not depriving people of that right,” he added.

Both Joseph and Health Minister Nickolas Steele also abstained from voting for the Bill to ensure the appointment of the Leader of the Opposition at all times.

Due to the fact that the NNP swept February 19th 2013 poll winning all of 15 Parliamentary Seats, the Lower House is currently without an Opposition Leader.

Agriculture Minister Roland Bhola who piloted the Bill said should any political party once again command all 15 seats, the amendment is now seeking to have enshrined in the Constitution the appointment of a Leader of the Opposition coming from the other political party having the second most number of votes.

“My personal feelings about it, I will not declare, but I will say… that the people, when that day and time comes will determine what they do. Whether they will want to stick to the fact that they have voted unanimously for one party and that is enough, or whether they feel it is necessary to have an Opposition Leader being appointed, even though not voted for,” Minister Bhola said.

However, Minister Joseph said Grenada will be the only country in the Commonwealth in which there will be elected and selected people sitting in the same Chamber.

He stated it is the right of the people if the electorate in a fair and free election elect all 15 Members of one political party and that has to be respected.

“We have to ensure that the rights, and the freedom and the will of the people in a democracy take precedence over anything else,” he told Parliament.

In his contribution, Minister Steele said the present Constitution prescribes a route in which an individual gets to the House as a Representative.

He said the Constitution is not flawed when it speaks to representation in the House.

“The issue at hand is that certain political parties are flawed in their ability to get a mandate from the people,” he added.

“Parties that have been denied access to this House by the people are the ones that need to be changed, not the Constitution,” he said.
Member of Parliament for St. Patrick West, Anthony Boatswain who supported the amendment to the Bill indicated that there are situations where a party in opposition might have more popular votes than the party that eventually emerged as the winner of the elections.

“We must be prepared to open our minds to new models. Maybe what we are condemning now might be the more acceptable model in time to come, but yet we are afraid of change,” Minister Boatswain told his fellow Parliamentarians.

He said at the time the Constitution was written, it was never anticipated that there will be a situation where one political party will control the entire House.

“I believe if that was contemplated, maybe a different model would have been adopted,” he added.
Minister Boatswain expressed his disappointment over the level of debate that one party brings to the House.

“You come to Parliament, you debating, you don’t feel the sense to debate. Who you’re debating with? You are not exposed to alternative views, and no wonder why most people say well, “I’m not even coming to listen to you guys because you all saying the same thing”. They might prefer to go to the Senate where they get some opposing views, and nothing wrong with getting opposing views,” he said.

The Education Minister pointed out that having all 15 seats in the Lower House puts a strain on the democratic process where it makes it difficult in constituting a Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

During the debate, Member of Parliament for St. John, Alvin DaBreo felt that “opposition is healthy” as not every time the governing party could be correct, and it needs to hear opposing views on a particular subject or law.

Minister DaBreo informed the House that the Bill will ensure that at least the people who did not vote for the political party that won all of the seats will still “have a window” to create some form of opposition to represent their views.

“With this Bill what it would do, it will ensure that at least the country has the benefit of a healthy debate in Parliament, and that the people who did not vote for the particular party that form the government would still have an avenue to represent their views,” he said.

Meanwhile, the issue of fixed date for elections triggered differing views from the NNP-controlled House of Representatives.

Legal Affairs Minister Nimrod who presented the Bill indicated that under the current system the Prime Minister can call an election any time within a five-year period.

He stated that if the system is changed to a fixed date, the sitting Prime Minister will loose the advantage of having the option to set the date for General Elections.

In her contribution, Member of Parliament for South St. George, Alexandra Otway-Noel felt that although certain changes are needed in the Constitution, having a fixed date for General Elections is not one of the changes needed.

Otway-Noel said the objective of the parliamentary exercise is to give the people the opportunity “to have their say.”

“Although I am not necessarily in favour I will make my own decision come the time to vote,” she told colleague Parliamentarians.

Member of Parliament for St. Mark, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen who supported the views of Otway-Noel felt that the Westminster system of governance has worked very well for the country.

According to Minister Modeste-Curwen, she does not believe that the incumbent government will have an advantage of facing the polls without having a fixed date for elections.

However, St. John MP, Alvin DaBreo expressed a different view, indicating that the present system gives an unfair advantage to the party in government.

DaBreo said the time for General Elections should provide a level playing field for all of the contesting political parties so that they can all properly plan for that important exercise.

He said the Bill also serves to protect the electorate by making provisions for a snap elections if there is disarray in the functioning of the government.

Back-Bencher Tobias Clement, the Member of Parliament for St. George North-east articulated that the Bill brings out justice and fairness in the electoral system.

Clement said everyone will love to play on a level playing field.

“I am not only speaking now because this (New National) Party is in government… I will love to keep it this way but… maybe I should be preparing maybe for when we are on the other side too because I do not believe the status quo of how things are will always remain this way. So if we put ourselves and our country in a position where everybody will be treated equally, just and fairly… I think this speaks to what we want to do,” he added.

A date is still to be announced by the Mitchell-led government for the holding of the referendum to effect constitutional changes.

The Chinese connection!!!

Our passport selling scheme has once again attracted world headlines with the arrest and return to China of two fugitives from justice.

Chinese Fu Yaobo and Zhang Qingzhao who were on Beijing’s official list of China’s 100 most wanted fugitives were able to obtain Grenadian passports under the Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programme.

The two were captured in St. Vincent & The Grenadines after law enforcement officials in some Caribbean islands including Grenada were notified of their wanted status.

Prior to their arrests, the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration in St. George’s had announced in the Government Gazette that the State had revoked the citizenship granted to the wanted individuals.

As far as THE NEW TODAY is concerned some damage was already done to the image of the island over the granting of the citizenship to both Fu and Zhang.

The role of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) should come under the microscope in the matter involving these two Chinese wanted nationals.

The FIU is charged with the responsibility to do the due diligence on any person who is seeking a Grenadian passport under the CBI.

It begs the question – what exactly did the FIU do as part of its investigation to ensure that Fu and Zhang were clear and above board and of sound reputation to be granted Grenadian citizenship? How competent is the FIU to do the necessary effective due diligence for this country?

How many more Chinese were given passports under the CBI and might embarrass our country over the next 12 months?

Events within recent months should send home the message to the NNP regime that China is too much of a hot bed where corruption is concerned.

THE NEW TODAY holds the view that nationals of China should be excluded at this stage from getting economic citizenship with Grenada due to the high risks involved with their citizens.

China is still a secretive country and questions have been raised about the type of co-operation that will be given to foreign agencies making inquiries about its nationals.

This latest episode comes so quickly on the heels of the Charles Liu matter in which this businessman has been charged with fraud by the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States in connection with a cancer treatment facility.

Liu was also able to land a diplomatic passport with the Government of Grenada to serve at its Embassy in Beijing as a Commercial Attache’.

The Charles Liu matter will be around for sometime as apart from the United States, he is facing a lawsuit in the Spice Isle from a former employee who felt she was unlawfully dismissed from her jobs with four of his registered companies.

The buzz word in the country is that the negative publicity given to the island over the Charles Liu matter could have been avoided based on information submitted to the hierarchy of the administration by former Ambassador to China, Karl Hood.

Ironically, it was Hood who “discovered” Charles Liu and steered him to the powers-that-be in St. George’s to sell and promote the so-called US$2 billion tourism project at Mt. Hartman.

Documents now before the Supreme Court Registry point to a fallout between Hood and Charles Liu.
Was Hood’s removal from China as Ambassador and dispatched to London to serve as High Commissioner had anything to do with the fallout with the Chinese businessman who was also an employee in the Beijing office?

Did Hood inform his employers in Grenada that Charles Liu was not for real and should be avoided?

Is the NNP regime holding back anything on Hood due to allegations of his relationship to the Chinese businessman? In other words, are the two holding certain secrets for each other?

Would the Karl Hood/Charles Liu fall-out result in more casualties in St. George’s in the coming months?

What will be the fate of Hood’s brother, Attorney-General, Cajeton Hood in the coming months?

Will Dr. Mitchell renew Hood’s 4-year contract when it expires around March next year?

The answers to these and many more questions will be provided “all in the fullness of time”.

“Springboard for greater things to come”

Following is the speech delivered by President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants – Grenada Branch, Henry Joseph, FCCA on June 4, 2006 at the conclusion of a week of activities for local accountants

 

Henry Joseph

Henry Joseph

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen and we are pleased that so many of you have taken the time to join the Institute of Chartered Accountants of the Eastern Caribbean – Grenada Branch as we celebrate what could be described as an all-encompassing week of activities.

Initially there was some apprehension because of the low level of registration for the various seminars, but tonight I can say with pride that attendance exceeded our expectations. Thank you all very much. I feel confident that when the numbers are collated we will be in a position to honour all our commitments.

Some may ask why an organisation with only thirty-five (35) members would undertake such a task. Firstly, we wanted the public to know that we exist. We also wanted to demonstrate that we have theorganisational skills to make this venture a success and most of all we wanted to give the business sector an opportunity to get exposure to a number of current issues – Good governance and transparency. In fact the theme for the week was “Shifting the paradigm – promoting good governance”.

The over eighty business and professional persons who attend the session on GOOD GOVERNANACE would attest to the fact that their expectations were exceeded at those lectures. For those in the accounting field it was also a means of obtaining continuing professional education without having to travel abroad at exorbitant costs.

This start therefore is the springboard for greater things to come. We all understand the difficulty of organising seminars and events generally. The holding of a week of activities is not an easy one as committed and dedicated persons are an essential part of the process.

Volunteerism comes with dedicated service and hard work as the burden usually falls on the shoulders of a few. Notwithstanding these limitations we will persevere.

Aaron and his team did an outstanding job – Thank you all very much ladies and gentlemen.

Of course we want to continue to take the necessary steps to expose our organisation to the general public. We know that it is an uphill task but feel confident that before too long we will get there.

Our numbers continue to grow as we seek to attract all those persons who are members of the various overseas institutes. The records show that there are approximately seventy professional accountants on the island and hopefully the vast majority will come to recognise the benefits to be derived from participating in the organization.

We do believe that as a group we can make a significant impact on the regulatory framework in our country. Accountants must of necessity make their voices heard as they seek to influence the path of development of the island. We also have the contacts that would facilitate due diligence in short order.

We also are satisfied that we possess the skill and the technical knowledge to shape the course of development. A single voice will have little or no impact on policy issues. We are however convinced that as a body we can offer assistance that may not now be available.

As we go forward therefore we are hoping that those in the Executive branch will recognise our abilities and make use of it. We are not about challenging the status quo but to provide sound professional advice. After all we offer advice to the largest businesses on the island.

ICAEC – Grenada branch was enacted as a legal entity in 2010.

Somewhat behind islands like St. Kitts and Antigua. Six years may seem a long time but in fact we have just begun to advance the main functions of the ICAEC. Over the years of our existence we have organised a number of training sessions and have endeavoured to provide creative opportunities for our members.

Nevertheless we believe we can do more. We are seriously considering having a Secretariat not only to assist members but also to lend a helping hand to students and persons who want to make Accounting a career. Current economic conditions are also a major limiting factor in driving our work.

We are however emboldened by the support received not only from corporate sponsors but also from all those who gave of their time and effort either as facilitators or as participants. We promise that the next one will be bigger and better.

PWU speaks out

The Public Workers’ Union takes this opportunity to inform and clearly establish to all Citizens of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique that this Union’s sole objective is to safeguard and preserve the rights, privileges and freedom of its members (public officers), citizens of this country.

Acting PWU President Rachael Roberts – created labour problems for the current rulers

Acting PWU President Rachael Roberts – created labour problems for the current rulers

As a trade union, the PWU has a responsibility to represent the employed and the unemployed and to guard against any issue that it recognises would present grave implications for the stability of members and present challenges now or in the future. Therefore, the PWU reiterate clearly that it does not have, and never had, any opposition to employment, and most importantly the employment of Nurses. It welcomes and supports employment, however, the PWU opposes the practice of employment through a private agency, which it views as detrimental to the Public Service in general and undermines the system and stability of employment of public officers.

Citizens, our wise and noble forefathers had foresight and a vision for a neutral Public Service. They recognised the importance of insulating public officers from the political directorate who would become the Government and the policy makers of the Country. Therefore, they did not just institute laws, they enshrined in the Constitution of Grenada the roles of the various offices of the Public Service and above all how appointments to these offices must be made. They safeguarded and secured public officers appointment by preserving it in the Constitution, making any changes to this appointment only possible through a national referendum of 2/3 majority of citizens. They created the Public Service Commission and made it a check and balance to give it some semblance of independence from the political directorate.

However, placing faith in the Government of the day, to exhibit impartiality in its operations, it made the Prime Minister responsible for appointing the majority of members to the Commission as well as the Chairman. One wonders if this was the one error made by our wise forefathers. Therefore, what do you believe the attempt by Government to employ Nurses through a private agency does to the objective and desire of our forefathers to insulate the appointment of public officers from the political directorate? Does this violate the foundation for shielding the appointment of public officers? Can it be upheld and justified on the grounds of not increasing the numbers of the established Public Service? If this can be achieved in this simple manner then it appears that the objective of our forefathers was not met.

This appears to suggest that our Constitution is a simple document that does not require a two thirds referendum by citizens to be revised and can be reformed and violated at any time by the policy of the Government of the day when and under any circumstances it sees fit. Was this the intention of our forefathers? Does this demonstrate respect for our constitution and the rights of citizens, the laws and institutions of our land? Does this demonstrate the standards of a country that upholds the principles and ideals of good governance and integrity? Does this demonstrate the values of a country that upholds the ideals of justice and involvement of the people in the constitutional reform process?

THE ESSENCE OF THE FOUNDATION OF PUBLIC OFFICERS EMPLOYMENT IS BEING THREATENED

Citizens, public officers, our Constitution of Grenada created checks and balances to seek to guard public officers from the Executive. Section 84 (1) and (2) of the constitution enshrined the appointment of public officers under the Public Service Commission. This appointment is therefore, considered free from the influence of the executive.

This appears to give every citizen within the state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique a free and fair chance to gain employment within the Public Service under the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in Section 1 of the Constitution. Section 84 (1) and (2) therefore clearly explains that the power to appoint persons to hold or act in offices in the public service, confirm appointments, exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices and the power to remove such persons from office, and the power to grant leave, shall vest in the Public Service Commission.

The PSC may by directions in writing and subject to such conditions as it thinks fit, delegate any of its powers under subsection (1) of this section to any one or more members of the Commission or, with the consent of the Prime Minister, to any public officer. This raises two very important questions, what is the public service and who is a public officer? The constitution did not fail to provide an answer to these questions under Article 111. Sect. 1 it states that ““the public service” means, subject to the provisions of this section, the service of the Crown in a civil capacity in respect of the government of Grenada;”.

“Public officer” means any office of emolument in the public service;” or “public officer” means a person holding or acting in any public office”. How then could it be debated that a Nurse working in a public hospital is not holding or acting in a public office and is not a public officer based on this definition? Is the Nurse not providing a service in a civil capacity in respect of the government of Grenada? Why are our Nurses, public officers referred to as “existing providers of such service” by officials of Government?

These officers once they step into the walls of a Public Health facility are providing services of the crown in a civil capacity in respect of the government of Grenada and in fact are public officers. In fact, any person working within a public office and providing services of a civil capacity is in truth and in fact a public officer. Therefore, whether it is clerical, administrative services or technical services as long as it is services of the crown in a civil capacity in respect of the government of Grenada that officer is in fact a public officer.

The simple cry of the Public Workers’ Union is to uphold the constitutional appointment of public officers. Keep our public officers insulated from the executive. The desire of our forefathers was to preserve the Public Service and safeguard its continuation in periods when the Public Service is operated solely by public officers. Therefore, should the civil services of the state to its citizens be operated under the same principles of the private sector?

By clearly outlining how public officers should be appointed into the public service under the Public Service Commission the constitution sought to safeguard their stability for continuation of the Public Service. In so doing the composition and powers of the Commission created many checks and balances to ensure the running and functioning of our country during transition periods of Governments before and after any general election and create the separation of powers.

The PSC consists of a Chairman and four other members. The Chairman and two members are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The other two members are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister after consultation with the representative bodies namely the Public Workers’ Union and the Grenada Union of Teachers. (Article 83 Sect. 1).

It further strengthened the Commission by ensuring that the members who are allowed to serve on this body were not a Senator or Member of the House of representative, a Judge of the Court of Appeal or the High Court or a public officer. (Article 83 Sect. 2). This therefore, ensures that the PSC as far as possible is free from bias.

The Public Workers’ Union therefore is willing and ready to welcome Public Officers in the true meaning of the word, into the Public Service. The PWU objective is to ensure these officers enjoy all the rights and privileges provided in our constitution for public officers.

PWU and its members are fully cognisant of the limited staffing in our health care facilities that create fatigue and health challenges to its members and is frustrated expressing concerns in this regard. Therefore, the PWU welcomes the employment of citizens to provide citizen-centered public service under the same equity and stability of tenure as enshrined in our Constitution.

The question is why would the IMF insist against the provision of quality health care for citizens of Grenada? Why would the IMF prevent the Government from implementing the requisite numbers of staff to ultimately achieve this goal?

It was not the intention of our forefathers to have any public officer exposed to the victimisation and desires of the political directorate by being given second class employment, and as such the PWU would not support such a decision by the Government on the advice of the IMF who said that the programme was that of the Government of Grenada.

Every citizen of this country of Grenada has a right to be treated as denoted in our National Pledge which states “…Liberty, Justice and Equality for all.” Further, our Government above all others have to set the first example to honour the words of our National Pledge that states “…I pledge also that I shall defend and uphold the Honour, Dignity and Laws and Institutions of my country.”

Is it then that we can simply violate our laws and institutions in the name as stated by the government “not increasing the established public service staff which size has come in for serious criticisms over the years by reputable financial institutions for being too bloated,” “…further increasing the established staff would jeopardise the Government’s home grown Structural Adjustment Programme, which programme was arranged in sync with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)”.

Citizens, would IMF officials and citizens of the United States of America accept this explanation by President Obama to violate their Constitution which governs the basis of democracy within their nation? Would they allow that explanation to hinder the provision of quality health care to citizens of the USA which is a very important and critical need to its citizens and a factor that determines the Presidency of the USA? Therefore, should our Government violate our Constitution and not be made to provide Constitutional employment to our citizens. Should Government coin employment to our citizens, health care providers, Nurses as “humanitarian effort, to the vulnerable?”

These are the words of officials of government not the Public Workers’ Union. Are our Nurses begging? Is this the treatment that citizens deserve? Should Nurses be allowed to be treated any less than what we all deserve under our constitution, first-class citizenship? Is our Government not employed to seek the best interest of all its citizens?

One reason why the Commission was given the authority to establish and remove public officers at will was to prevent exposure from the political directorate’s desire to hire and fire public officers at will. The Commission is therefore given supreme independence in the exercise of its functions and is not subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority.

Further, the Commission has the authority to regulate its own procedure and, with the consent of the Prime Minister, may confer powers or impose duties on any public officer or on any authority of the Government of Grenada for the purpose of the exercise of its functions.

The PSC is therefore a body whose members cannot be changed if the Government wishes to do so, for reason, or reasons that are superficial, as a member of the Commission can be removed from office before the end of its three year term only for inability to exercise the functions of his office arising from infirmity of body or mind or any other cause.

In addition, this can only be carried out through a tribunal established by the Governor General. (Article 83 Sect. 6 & 7). These checks and balances the PWU believes makes the Public Service Commission an independent body removed from Executive powers. Therefore, safeguarding the employment of public officers as it is under the control of the PSC a check and balance purposefully created by our fore-fathers who so ably wrote our Constitution and created a structure that appears to seek to insulate public officers from the executive powers.

The Public Workers’ Union is not opposed to employment. The PWU seeks to safeguard and preserve the rights and privileges of public officers. The PWU seeks to ensure the continuation of the Public Service so that all our children and children’s children who wish to serve can do so as first-class citizens and true public officers.

The PWU seeks to ensure that public officers can enjoy a Pension, benefits and privileges of the Public Service just like true public officers of yesteryear. The PWU condemns and is opposed to any other form of employment for public officers and challenges its Government to uphold our constitution and honour the words of the National Pledge of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.