Get Serious About Long Term Planning

In May 2015, on the insistence of Civil Society and as a precondition to them participating in the so-called Social Compact, Government set up the National Development Plan 2030 (now 2035).

The NDC, wholeheartedly believing in long term development planning, have to date participated in this effort. Unfortunately, we doubt Government’s sincerity because very little resources have been allocated and after 6 consecutive years in office, the administration shows no real appetite for long term development planning.

A vital component of long term development planning is robust and well thought out urban planning policy, backed by strong laws that are enforced.

Just as Gregory Bowen is a failure in the Ministry of Works, so is Mitchell as the Minister responsible for Physical Planning.

Despite repeated amendments to the Physical Planning Act, the lack of a clear Land Use policy and Governmental commitment have resulted in no real improvements taking place over the years.

To compound matters, the Physical Planning Unit has been consistently understaffed and under equipped.

In November 2018, the Unit was re-named, the Planning and Development Authority, this was only a name change. The Unit is still poorly staffed with only 8 persons. Moreover, it lacks real autonomy in the conduct of its affairs as the level of political interference is reported to be acute.

Political meddling in the work of such an entity can have long term devastating consequences for the country. We need only to consider the recent issues with the Silver Sands project, where there were clear breaches of the law to which the developers appear oblivious and the officials of the Physical Planning Unit seemed not to be part of the decision that permitted the breaches of the law.
With this political meddling, the Unit is unable to do its work professionally and without fear or favour.

Government well know of the deficiencies in the unit because reciting them is a recurring decimal in the annual budget speech. It is time to stop the “ole talk”.

Rather than implementing a strict land use policy and adhering to the Building Code, it is commonplace for Ministers to “approve” occupation of state lands without following the required procedures. In effect, this is ministerial approved squatting and many citizens who wish to own land are unable to do so, even though a politician, to them, someone in authority gave permission to occupy the land.

A well thought out Land Use Policy will empower our people by regularising their status on Crown Lands.

The penchant to haphazardly allow good agricultural land to be converted for alternative uses without regard for future food security needs shows Government’s lack of proper focus as our food import bill increases.

Granting long term leases on some Government controlled agricultural land has not yielded dividends. The Laura Estate in St David’s and Grand Bras Estate in St Andrew are two prime examples. Meanwhile, real opportunities for agricultural investment are passed up.

The unplanned, chaotic development in the south of the island is already resulting in dire environmental consequences. Studies advising against further development on Grand Anse are blatantly ignored.

Damaged sewerage lines polluting the sea are not addressed while more strain is brought on the system with uncontrolled construction and drainage is not attended to as areas such as Morne Rouge reek with putrid waste water.

Even more glaring is Government’s complete recklessness in treating with our heritage buildings and historic sites. Our heritage buildings were left to waste and rot after hurricane Ivan. Recently, we learnt of a secret arrangement with a foreign entity which will put certain heritage buildings in the town of St. George, including Government House and York House, out of the hands of the people of Grenada.

In the face of increasing lack of transparency, we sincerely hope that this secret deal was in fact not struck. We call on Government to tell us to who and under what conditions our properties are being transferred.

We in the NDC understand the need to protect and preserve our natural and historic assets for present and future generations. That is why in our 2018 election Manifesto we said we would: “Zealously protect ALL of our National Parks, heritage sites and Protected areas, and ensure that they remain the patrimony of the Grenadian people forever not to be sold or given away to any person.” and that we would:

“Introduce and enforce urban planning legislation to include provision for the restoration and conservation of buildings and sites of special historic and architectural interest and value, with a view to declaring areas such as the Town of Saint George as specially protected historic districts.”

The situation seems now out of hand and it will take a herculean effort to correct this travesty against the present and future generations.

The NNP and Mitchell in particular as the longest standing Minister responsible for Physical Planning, must shoulder the blame and take responsibility for fixing this.

However, the issue will only be properly addressed if we as a people are prepared to hold them accountable.

(The above reflects the views of the main opposition National Democratic Congress)

2019 Lent Message from Bishop Clyde Harvey

Bishop Clyde Martin Harvey

IT’S LENT AGAIN!

“It seems like just the other day that I was in Church for Good Friday and Easter Sunday.” Without Carnival to warn you, Lent just creeps up on you. We have to take personal responsibility for our awareness and practice of Lent. This year we join the three Lenten disciplines: PRAYER, ALMSGIVING, FASTING – to our three diocesan watchwords – LIVE CHURCH, BUILD COMMUNITY, SERVE COUNTRY.

We cannot hope to make our watchwords real and true unless we become people of prayer, generosity and self-denial.

I ask every Catholic in the diocese to give serious thought and prayer to the three watchwords, especially LIVE CHURCH. Our faith tells us that we are all parts of one Body (1 Cor.12). When we come to Church, we meet our Body in Church. If we look around as we enter or leave the church building, we are seeing our Body, a fellow member of the Body of Christ.

Lent has six weeks. We can promise ourselves to get to know one new member of the Body every week. Get a telephone number. Greet a fellow Catholic who lives on your street, in your area. Invite two or three of your fellow Catholics to Mass or some other Church function every week, especially those who have lapsed.

When you meet them at a funeral, remember to greet them. Take note and pray for them before the day is through. The communion which we share at Mass is not just a piece of consecrated bread.

It is a network of relationship with God, one another and everything that is, which relationship is meant to animate our whole life.

WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST. We must LIVE that both inside and outside the building we call CHURCH. The building means little unless the relationships are alive and active, transforming hearts and communities.

This year 2019 I invite all those who can, especially from 16 to 60 years of age, to FAST for Lent, especially on Fridays, but not only on Fridays. Our Catholic practice of fasting means that we have only one full meal during the day, avoiding solid food, preferably from 6.00 a.m. to 6.00p.m. Any pangs of hunger or longing for food should be turned into a prayer. Any money saved should be given to the poor.

I encourage the parishes to have fasting envelopes in which the money saved by the denial of food is given to a charity to be determined by the parish.

Most important of all, I invite you to join me in turning our fasting into PRAYER FOR THE NATION AND OUR LEADERS. lt is not easy to guide a nation, especially when one is committed to building a genuine democracy. The temptations to pride, greed and arrogance are very great. The very adulation of the people can become a noose around our necks which slowly destroys our true soul.

Join me every Friday in prayer and fasting for all our leaders in every sector of national life. May we all be trustworthy, honest and creative, beyond our self-interest and our fears, in the best interests of Grenada, and to God’s Will.

Rachel Roberts gets another two year term

Re-elected President of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Rachel Roberts has said that her immediate priority is to work for unity within the ranks following the bruising battle leading up to the election.

Roberts was challenged for her position by the outgoing Public Relations Officer (PRO), Brian Grimes who campaigned for weeks in the local media to try and unseat her.

In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper, Roberts admitted that the recent PWU election was one filled with division and that the first thing on her agenda would be to unite the new Executive so that there will be effectiveness in fighting for workers rights.

“The first thing on the agenda is to be able to bring members together, unite members, because we had an election that was one that was filled with malice, that was filled with a little sensationalism and filled with, as Mr. Trump said, fake news”, she said.

The female PWU boss pointed to a number of “falsified information” that came out in the public domain during the campaign which “really created some division and some hurt on the part of persons when that campaign was actually happening”.

Without calling names of who were engaged in pushing propaganda to gain election, Roberts said that “I always try to run as clean as possible a campaign” and “not malign anyone, but just stand firm on truth and integrity”.

“…Now that all of the campaigning is over and we have a team of persons, we need to ensure that that team gels and that team works together and that we do not have a team that would be one of confusion and conflict that we cannot speak, we cannot attend to the issues that are affecting our membership. We must ensure that we have a team that works together, united on the issues of our members because the important factor here is the interest of members; that is number one,” she said.

THE NEW TODAY understands that at least three members of the new PWU Executive were on the slate put forward by Grimes who lost the battle for Presidency against Roberts.
Grimes came under heavy criticism during the campaign as the favoured candidate of “Project Grenada”, a grouping of leftwing revolutionaries who are now part of the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.

The newly formed PWU Executive is: Rachel Roberts as President, Dr. Devon Francis as 1st Vice President, Arthur Pierre as 2nd Vice President, Paula Phillip as Treasurer, Agatha Alexis as Secretary, Daisy Hazzard as Public Relations Officer (PRO) and Deanna Isaac and Margaret Goddard as Assistant Secretaries.

According to Roberts the last two years was not enough time to achieve all that the previous Executive wanted to achieve in terms of the struggle of nurses and doctors, to the fight for pension for public officers.

Contract employment, she said, continues to be a challenge and this will be one of the areas that will be tackled by the new Executive.

“The vision of the union is to seek to get its members regularised as much and as far as possible and we know that government has the unjust law – the FRA (Fiscal Responsibility Act) – that stifles the unions from being able to achieve the benefits for the workers that they could be regularised easily.

“We would not allow that to stop us, we would continue to work at the table. First and foremost, we believe we must be at the table working and we have certain meetings once a month with the Government of Grenada that we believe we can utilise to be able to discuss HR (Human Resource) issues, and to be able to work with the Government of Grenada first and foremost to get as much of our members regularised.

“We know that there must be some form of equity across the Public Service and there must be fairness in the treatment of workers across the Public Service and we would be advocating also for fair treatment, for equality, for equity in the treatment afforded to our members as afforded to other members.

“We have other strategies – which I would not want to disclose at this time – that the union is going to be looking at. We know that section 29 (5) of the Labour Code clearly specifies if you are operating within a position of importance, of critical need for the organisation that you are said to be in a permanent position because the services that you provide are essential for that organisaton, meaning that they cannot do without those services and we must hold our employer accountable for that law and to be able to keep the law.

Roberts identified the continued fight for 25% gratuity and pension payment for public officers, as well as better health and safety at the work place as some of the issues that will occupy the new Executive in going forward.

The PWU has already announced that it was seeking to bring a “Class Action” lawsuit against the Keith Mitchell-led government on behalf of public officers to press their demands for the 25% issue.

4 years for drug addict

A LOCAL DEFENCE attorney goes to great lengths to try and convince Canadian visitors that a violent robbery which they experienced is not a reflection of the Grenada brand.

Jerry Edwin was at the time representing Kenton Clarence, who pleaded guilty to three charges stemming from home invasions he committed in February, during which victims had suffered injuries.

Clarence invaded the Canadian couple’s home in Lance Aux, threatened them with a wooden stick and stole their cellphones, iPad and hundreds of dollars in cash.

The man suffered an injury to his finger while trying to fight off the intruder and his wife, whom Clarence stuffed into a closet was also injured.

Edwin, admitting that his client is a drug addict, told the visitors, through the Court, that, “This is not us”.

He said, “the police take this sort of thing very serious and our courts treat them with equal seriousness”.

He called the crimes, “a stain and a smear on our lovely island” and said his client was a menace.

The couple have been wintering in Grenada since 1965.

Clarence committed the spate of early morning home invasions in February, just weeks after being released from Richmond Hill Prison after serving a four year sentence.

One of the crimes was committed hours after police had curtailed surveillance on Clarence, whom they had under suspicion.

Edwin said he had no mitigating factors to offer in his client’s defense and that an apology for his client’s crime would not make up for what he had put them through.

Edwin asked for prison time for his client, telling the court, “My client needs an intervention at Her Majesty’s Prison”.

However Edwin was able to reach an agreement with the prosecution to reduce the charges to summary matters rather than seek to try his client in the High Court.

Clarence also pleaded guilty to entering the home of Godfrey Ventour and stealing a number of items, including wristwatches.

The third victim of the crime spree was a member of the St George’s University Campus. Clarence knocked on his door and pushed his way in brandishing a cutlass.

The man was injured while trying to fend him off and left the island for medical treatment. However police prosecutors told the Court he is reluctant to return to the jurisdiction because of fear for his safety.

Clarence was sentenced to twelve years and four months in jail for the three crimes but will be out in four since the terms were imposed concurrently.

Clarence told the court he is a drug addict and he committed the crimes to support his habit.

Magistrate Tamara Gill also ordered that he should receive counseling for substance abuse, during his time in prison.

The couple were also concerned that Clarence had managed to exit a four year prison sentence with a full blown drug habit.

Addressing the court Clarence apologized for his crimes against the couple, who were the only complainants present for the trial.

The prosecutor told the Court the Canadian couple was particularly traumatized by the attack because they recall the murder of Jessica Colker, an American woman who was killed in the Winter of 2016, while they too were on the island.

Chief Magistrate Tamara Gill described the crime as a “high end robbery”, which warranted being tried as an indictable offense.

The elderly Canadians, because of their ages are considered vulnerable complainants.

“This is in my view a crime against the country,” Gill said in her comments.

New sentencing guidelines

The OECS Supreme Court is seeking to make major changes to sentencing guidelines in the jurisdiction for the purpose of achieving uniformity in the approach to constructing criminal penalties.

The Chief Justice has introduced the new sentencing guidelines, which differ from those used in the British system, and has invited the public and other stakeholders to participate in an online consultation via their website.

The new rules for sentencing are aimed at achieving uniformity in sentencing among judges and magistrates in the OECS and in the case of serious drug possession, specifically designed to change the way sentences are determined and imposed.

The Justices have said the issue of sentencing is an area of great public interest and comment, sometimes uninformed.

The changes are aimed at achieving a uniformity of approach to sentencing and not uniformity of sentencing across the jurisdictions of the OECS.

The new guidelines were developed by a Sentencing Advisory Committee, appointed by Chief Justice, Dame Janice M Pereira.

Its task is to draft guidelines which will be brought into effect following public consultation.

According to proposed guidelines, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, as well as judges, masters and magistrates are required to give reasons for the sentences which they impose and the new guidelines are to assist them in the process of considering and explaining sentences.

The SAC is comprised of the Chief Justice as President, under the joint-chairmanship of Her Ladyship Madam Justice Gertel Thom, Justice of Appeal, and His Lordship Mr Justice Iain Morley QC, High Court Judge.

Under the new system, there will be specific steps required to be taken when constructing a sentence.

ECSC says, “it is intended that the guidelines must be applied unless to do so would be contrary to the interests of justice.

“The reasoning process for any sentence must be given as well as for any decision not to follow a guideline. It is not intended that the guidelines will replace the discretion of the individual judge, master or magistrate in determining the appropriate sentence within the applicable range”, the ESCE said.

In the case of some offences, the application of the guidelines may alter sentencing practice. In the case of serious drug offences, it is intended to do so, it added.

According to the ECSC public statement on this issue, “the intent of the Chief Justice is that structured and well-reasoned sentencing remarks will become normal practice and would encourage their publication.

The documents said that “these remarks will build up a bank of authority to assist courts, students of law and the public to better understand the principles and practice of sentencing law.”

The Sentencing Advisory Committee has proposed a scheme of guidelines which start by assessing the seriousness of the offense by consideration of the aggravating and mitigating factors and then moving in to consider the offender by reference to person factors which aggravate or mitigate his position.

According to the SAC, this follows the Aguillera model from Trinidad and Tobago, rather than the England and Wales model, in which culpability is assessed first and then followed by harm factors.

Addressing a sitting of the Magistrate’s Court last week, attorney-at-law Anslem Clouden expressed his opposition to some of the new guidelines.

He offered an instance where, under the new sentencing rules, Judges and Magistrates would have to impose the same mandatory jail sentence on defendants found guilty of marijuana possession over 300 pounds, whether they are thirty or sixty years old.

Some of the crimes covered by the new guidelines are rape and other sex offenses, marijuana and cocaine possession specifically, robbery and stealing.

Chief Magistrate Tamara Gill has also encouraged the members of the local Bar to participate in the ongoing consultation process.

Chinese Embassy refutes claims

The Chinese Embassy in Grenada has refuted claims that Chinese companies in Grenada have not been hiring local labourers or supporting the local economy through the purchase of building material on the local market for use on the Chinese-built Low Income Housing project sites across the state.

Charge d’ Affaires, Interim of the Chinese Embassy in Grenada, Counselor Yang Shijun defends Chinese companies

Interim Charge d’ Affaires of the Chinese Embassy, Counselor Yang Shiju came to the defence of his country while addressing the media at a recent Chinese handing over ceremony of computers in Telescope, St. Andrew.

Shijun was responding to an article published in the January 25 edition of THE NEW TODAY, headlined “Tevin Andrews: Carriacou Labourers not benefiting from Chinese Projects,” which focused on the issue of Chinese projects on the island.

Andrews, a young politician with the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) contended that the Chinese are engaged in several major projects on the island but local manufacturers and labourers are not really feeling the economic impact and argued that foreigners are coming in and taking the jobs.

He suggested that the “Government of Grenada should have a standard where if work is being given to foreigners, our people should be sub-contractors or the main contractors, while the others are the sub-contractors.”

In responding to Andrews, the Chinese official described as “rumors” the content of the article.

“The Chinese contractors who are building the low income housing projects, they are trying their best to hire local labourers (on) the four (4) project sites in St. Patrick, St. Mark. St. David and even in Carriacou but unfortunately because of the short-term that we need and also some of the techniques that is needed…local labourers are not sufficient,” he said.

According to Shiju, the most important reason is because the Chinese-built low income housing project is a “gift from the Government and the People’s Republic of China, it is international practice that “we bring our labourers (and) our material”.

“So this is a gift…They, the Chinese companies are trying their best. They purchase the blocks, a lot of sand, a lot of material locally (it is) not (true) that they bring everything from China,” he remarked.

“I read news from the newspaper saying that they are purchasing things from a Chinese company in Trinidad and Tobago (and) I don’t think there is a Chinese company in Trinidad that can sell those materials,” he added.

Shijun affirmed that his government will continue contributing to the social and economical development of the country, despite the “rumors.”

“I believe that the Chinese Embassy will continue its efforts and also the Chinese companies here will also make their due contribution to the country,” he said.

“I am sure that most of our Chinese enterprises here in Grenada get along very well with the local Grenadians and they abide by the rules, the Grenadian laws and regulations and I can see (that) they have made their contributions in their way to the social and economic development of the country and I hope this would continue and of course thanks to the assistance and support from the government and people of Grenada,” he added.

A source close to NDC said the views expressed by Andrews in the January 25, 2019 article do not necessarily reflect the position of the party.

Error blamed for no lights at cricket stadium

The Keith Mitchell-led government is claiming that an error in the specifications provided to a British contractor is responsible for the two-and-a-half year delay in lighting the national cricket stadium.

Last Tuesday, the administration announced that the project is on again and would begin in weeks.

Almost three years ago government made the same promise.

Caricom affairs minister Oliver Joseph told reporters that the stadium had not been equipped with night lighting because the wrong specifications were given to the British company which had won the bid.

Recently, the Grenada government faced embarrassment when it came out that the lighting project had never been undertaken, despite specific promises at the time, of an imminent start.

Former sports minister Roland Bhola told this newspaper last week that the National Lotteries Authority was in charge of the project but after checking with the statutory body it appeared that up to one week ago, they had not been pursuing it.

The cost of lighting the cricket stadium, and the La Sagesse Playing Field is $10-million, according to the government.

Minister Joseph confirmed last week that Canadian Bank Note Company Limited is still willing to guarantee the loan which is being negotiated by the National Lotteries Authority.

According to the minister, the NLA is also still planning to cover the loan with the proceeds of license fees charged to gaming operators.

CBN Company Limited is already in business with the NLA, managing their Video Lottery Terminals, VLT and is also behind the gaming brand, Blast.

Sources have said CBN is hoping to secure the monopoly on gaming in Grenada.

The gaming sector is managed and regulated by the Gaming Bureau which was set up almost three years ago.

The Bureau is also responsible for regulating the larger gaming operators who are so far resisting being absorbed by Blast.

Minister Joseph was not able to give an explanation for the two-and-a-half year delay in correcting what government is claiming was a technical error.

The minister was asked whether he was concerned about the loan arrangement, given the situation in Dominica and St Lucia where the Lottery Authority borrowed heavily against guarantees provided by CBN and lost control to that company when the loans could not be paid back.

Minister Joseph was convinced that the local NLA would be able to service the thirty year loan.

Mixed emotions!!!

Dear Friends

We have sold our home and will leave Grenada in a few days. So, it is time to say, “good bye”.

I thank many of you for your friendship, the time we spent together and many inspiring discussions. I am also thankful for help received so often to solve problems and overcome obstacles.

We came to the Caribbean in 2001/2002 onboard our sailing yacht “Seven Seas” as a stop-over on our six-year circumnavigation. We looked out for a nice place in the sun from the BVIs to Grenada and purchased land in Egmont. After completing our long-distance sailing, we came back and built the house.

Once we had settled down, I closely watched and analysed the situation. The problem areas were evident, could be defined and quantified. However, I did not see actions to solve them despite well formulated strategy papers generated in abundance.

I had the illusion that with my long and broad business-experience, I could be of assistance to help improve the economic situation of the nation. What a misjudgment!

During these 10+ years, many countries, many hundreds of millions of people made substantial economic progress. The number of countries with consecutive 6+ % year-on-year growth rates is impressive. The people of these countries are feeling they are better off than years before. Some are in the same 12° N climate zone as Grenada is.

Not so in Grenada (and the entire Caribbean). At least I do not see it. Backbones for economic development are in the same desolate condition, or even worse.
Roads are as bad as 10 years ago, or worse. The number of accidents is rising. Some blue-eyed people say the increased number of cars on the road is an indication of increased wealth. I doubt it. I believe it is only the mirror image of demographics. Those directly imported second hand cars are mostly not properly maintained because of lack of funds; not an indication of increased wealth.

Just about everything falling under ICT is a disappointment and severely restricts economic development. The service level of the ICT providers does not nearly meet the international level. Do not even think of Industry 4.0. While other countries will develop and use it and achieve growth, Grenada does not have the infrastructure for it.

Electricity has become slightly more reliable over the years. Damaged equipment in my house due to voltage peaks is less frequent than before. Grenlec might have done even more, but I do not blame them. The company is bullied by the Government on a fabricated case. Every businessman or entity holds back with investment in such a hostile environment.

Banking services are a fundamental pillar of a well-functioning economy. What I see today is more or less what I have seen 10 years ago. This fact alone is a disaster. The same long lines at the counters. Banks seem to be proud of their basic eBanking solutions. I say, they should be ashamed. The way we do money transfers is decades back in comparison to up-to-date solutions. Local banks are stealing hours of our productive time every month. The government is lazily watching this.

Where local banks stand out, is in bureaucracy. The world’s banks follow FACTA rules, same rules for all countries. The way local banks handle these rules is in a massive exaggeration – again lowering productivity of the economy.

I am very concerned regarding the NIS, National Insurance Scheme. The yearly performance on the fund is average at best. The minimal opening to the international market and e.g. a minor investment in equity are too little too late. There is no Annual Report 2013 (and no Report 2017). A “combined” report 2013 and 2014 confirms indebtness of the Government year end 2015 (!) of XCD 178 mio equal 20% of the fund. What’s wrong with this organisation?

It is outright dangerous to borrow entrusted money, future pension income, to a government with a Standard & Poors Rating SD, selective default with little prospect of recovery. I am shocked that a government has the impertinence to use the pension fund of its people as lender of last resort.

The health sector is in itself reason enough for us to leave the country. We are not the only ones. Many Grenadian Expats do not return after retirement because of this. I do not see improvement in healthcare for reasons, I think, I need not describe. Everybody knows them. It is tragic.

We brought in urgently needed medication at the height of the chikungunya epidemic. The value was around XCD 250, 000. All new material in its original packaging on pallets. When the PS saw a table and chairs in the container she begged to get it for her own use. The Minister did not even give me a phone call to say thanks.

There have been other most unpleasant circumstances which caused us and other people to stop bringing and donating medical supply to the island. A long practice of frequent shipments with hospital equipment and medication came to an end because of the frustration caused by the ministry.

Tourism is a cluster risk. It is pushed far too much in comparison to other industry sectors. The level of hospitality would need significant improvement to match world class standard. Luckily flight times from and to the US are short enough to attract those guests. One tsunami or air plane accident can ruin the sector for years.

The GIDC, a substantial organisation, is here to help potential investors establish business activities in Grenada, but why is it not generating visible results? It is not because of the leadership of the GIDC. The problem is Government Ministries. They are marginalising and neglecting the GIDC. I presented a 40-page business case for a mio 12 USD investment in agriculture to the GIDC. It took them six weeks before the PS finally agreed to a meeting, and they failed to arrange a meeting with the Minister.

In the same timeframe the PM made fun of Grenada’s low rating in the Ease of Doing Business Index in his budget speech. The rating dropped even further the year after.

Unfortunately, the GCIC, Chamber of Industry and Commerce became unimportant over the last few years. What is left, is a relay station which sends out messages to inform of seminars etc. conducted by other people and cricket games.

Those of you who know me well, are aware of many initiatives I took to bring some improvement. Let me mention only some few.

Just about every daily problem was blamed on “bad or a lack of attitude” in 2010/2011. Public and private sector people were of the same opinion, a major change was widely desired. I took the initiative after consulting the then PM and identified the most experienced consulting company for Change Management, BCG, The Boston Consulting Group. Their list of successful worldwide reference projects was impressive.

Thanks to my efforts their Number One, Practices Leader for Change Management came to Grenada to do an in-depth survey over several weeks and submitted a proposal in October 2011. I convinced them to do it free of charge and they also paid for their flight tickets. The then Government did not even seriously look into the proposal.

I am of the firm opinion this neglect was a capital mistake. The underlying problem is still the same today and will be tomorrow.

Several success factors are needed to allow the private sector to flourish and grow.

I mentioned the deficient quality of infrastructure before, a serious obstacle. Another one is the exact business environment, especially to attract new companies. To define specialised economic zones is a worldwide, well established practice for this purpose. I visited as invited guest over 100 companies in Special Economic Zones in various countries. They are tailor made to specific requirements.

In a detailed paper I described how a Special Zone could look like in Grenada. The idea was discussed in several meetings with the PS and staff in the Ministry of Finance. Some month later I have seen the law as approved by the Parliament. The wording could not be more stupid. The people writing the law had no clue of the matter. I was never consulted by them. Needless to say, the Special Zone never came to life.

The biggest failure was my attempt to put abandoned cocoa land into use again. My partner was a highly reputable biologist with an exceptional track record of successful international projects in agriculture. Various meetings with Ministers had all the same nature: They were late, and even though they already had documentation they attended unprepared. They did not display interest, made no clear statements and said good bye with lip service or even less.

After 2 ½ years into our effort the PS proposed a MoU, Memorandum of Understanding, which we signed. Since this day, the PS has not accepted any of my phone calls nor answered any of my emails.

Grenada is the only country in the world with a monopoly situation for the export of cocoa and nutmeg. All other cocoa or nutmeg growing countries have liberalised since long and prospered. The quantity of cocoa here is about 1/5 of what it was (years before Ivan).

The quality is questionable. I took samples given to me by the GCA to chocolate manufacturers for quality analysis. They failed in both cases. In the meantime, prices paid to the farmers have been reduced and witches broom is spreading on the island. Farmers are complaining and missing support. This very association refused to give us a license to let us operate as a company, grow cocoa on abandoned unused land and employ an estimated 300 people in permanent jobs.

The Chairman of the GCA, a pastor, sat with me at a table, looked into my eyes and said: “Peter, by my reputation, you will get the license”. The next thing he did, was to sign a harsh letter stating the Association’s legal position to be the only organisation exporting cocoa. The victims are the farmers and many unemployed people who could have a job and secure income since long. The jobs are now in Guatemala.

Why is nobody upset in this country Grenada?

I am writing this history because it displays good real-life examples of why Grenada is stagnating or even more likely on a downward path. I am aware of published growth figures, those from the government and the lower ones from the IMF. Maybe they are even true. Fact is 90+ % of the people do not benefit. If there is some growth, it is concentrated in the South and for a few privileged people. The economy is significantly below its potential and neither diversified nor robust.

A government with a plan to bring the country forward looks and acts differently.

In summary, I gave up hope for better conditions in Grenada. I have seen progress and positive development only in situations where we supported individuals directly. I am thankful for having met interesting people who became real friends. We had many good discussions while having dinner at our home.

I started to learn golf in Grenada. I played with the same instructor/caddy/partner all the years. Thank you for the company and thanks to the Golf Club.

Every Saturday afternoon brought a highlight: Hashing. Sincere thanks to all of the organisers. They do an amazing job in setting up the trails each and every Saturday. In case I will miss one thing, it will be the hashes.

In leaving I have no bad feelings because of all the disappointments. I wanted a place in warm climate and found it. Would I do it again? The answer is no.

If you, a recipient of this message visit my home country, let me know and we will meet. I will appreciate every email, no reason to loose contact.

I wish all of you all the best, the best possible in this real world.

Peter Gernert

Police Intercept $500,000.00 In Cocaine & Ganja

The Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) has made two major drug interdictions in the past week involving more than half-a-million dollars worth in cocaine and marijuana in two separate operations.

Andrew Roberts – was nabbed by police with $300, 000 worth of cocaine stashed in his vehicle

One of the operations involved 49-year-old bus owner, Andrew Roberts La Mode, St. Patrick who was nabbed by police in the vicinity of H. A. Blaize Street, St. George late last week Friday night.

A police spokesman said that a search of his Lexus-branded van, resulted in the seizure of three kilograms of Cocaine, one (1) Stoeger Cougar, nine 9mm pistol and fifteen rounds of 9mm ammunition.

Roberts was granted bail in the sum of EC$200, 000.00 when he appeared Monday before the St. George’s No. 1 Magistrate Court on three (3)  indictable drug and gun-related charges.

Ronichelle Logie – was taken into custody for ganja

Police sources told THE NEW TODAY that the cocaine has an estimated street value of EC$300, 000.00.

Represented by Attorney-at-Law, Arley Gill, the accused appeared before Chief Magistrate Tamara Gill, charged with possession of illegal firearm & ammunition and trafficking in a controlled drug.

Alica Licorish – another occupant of the house

The Prosecution team, led by Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Godfrey Victor, did not object to bail being granted to Roberts but urged the Chief Magistrate to impose special conditions.

Bail was granted with two (2) sureties and as part of the conditions, the businessman was ordered to surrender all his travel documents, seek permission from the Court to leave the State and report to the Sauteurs Police Station twice weekly, on Mondays and Fridays between 6.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m.

Roberts, who sported a bald head, was neatly clad in a long sleeved red and green striped dress shirt with black jeans, appeared to be calm and well composed during his first court appearance.

He is due to reappear before Magistrate Gill on July 8.

Jerrol Redhead – one of the occupants of the house

Another drug bust by members of the Drug Squad has netted one hundred and fourteen pounds of cannabis and the arrest of three St. David residents – Ronell Redhead, 28 years, Labourer, Alica Licorish, 21 years, Office Administrator and Jerrol Redhead, 21 years, Labourer.

The suspects who are all from Perdmontemps have been jointly charged with trafficking in a controlled drug with a street value of $258 552.00.

A police statement said that the drugs were recovered during the search of a house in which the suspects were the occupants.

The two Redheads and Licorish were granted bail in the sum of $EC50, 000.00 each with two sureties and are due to appear at the St. David Magistrate’s Court at a later date.

Ronell Redhead – was granted bail

Another Perdmontemps, St. David resident, 21-year old unemployed Ronichelle Logie was charged with possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply by the police.

Logie, who was granted bail in the sum of $5000.00 with one surety, will appear at the St. David Magistrate’s Court on April 29.

During another police operation last week Friday, 98 pounds of cannabis were seized in the Grand Mal, St. George area.

A police statement issued after the discovery said that no arrest was made in connection with the discovery of the drugs and that investigations are continuing.

In recent months, the Royal Grenada Police (RGPF) has been successful in the fight against illegal drugs with the arrest of a number of locals and non-nationals especially from neighbouring St. Vincent & The Grenadines in trying to bring drugs into the island.

Grenada is considered as a transshipment point for drugs especially cocaine destined for the more major and lucrative markets in North America and Europe.

National Footballer shouts ‘victimisation’ on foreign soil

A Grenadian National Footballer believes that he was victimised while playing for an international team in Lebanon and has returned home penniless.

Saydrel Lewis – is back on Grenadian soil after a rough time in Lebanon

Twenty-one year old Saydrel Lewis returned to the island last Thursday night after fear for his life and pressure from his former football club Nejmeh SC caused him to sign his termination letter, only one month after he was contracted to play for one year.

Lewis who plays Centre Forward, first started with Paradise Football Team and later went to play for Morvant Caledonia United in the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

It was in the neighbouring island that Lewis was discovered by Nejmeh SC and got the opportunity to represent the club.

What started out as a dream come true for Lewis, quickly turned sour as it was cut short as he only played four games for the team.

Lewis who spoke with a local reporter on Monday about his experience in Lebanon, as the only player from the Caribbean on the team, said he felt marginalised.

“I played four games and it was a one year contract and I scored one goal and I scored three goals in a practice match. I started training with the club, the first four training sessions and the manager sent voice notes to my agent that Saydrel is not good. So my manager told me, if I had a weak heart then I would have given up, but that pushed me. I went to training, prepared, good mentality, drinking water before training, I did so before each game. I prepared myself, I played a game versus SAFA, I didn’t start but I came on and scored the lone goal”, he said.

“…In the training after the SAFA game, I went there, he said he doesn’t want players running to the crowd on their own because I ran to the crowd and I celebrated. So, after that, he said he doesn’t want players running to the crowd on their own. So, I said, okay, this is the coach, I go by what he says”, he added.

After this encounter, Lewis said that he found it difficult to play another game, as the coach always left him out of the competition.

According to the national footballer, his agent, David Nahkid tried to get him back in the game but everything went downhill after this was done.

“They started me in a game; apparently, we had lost the game, one-nil. Everybody started blaming me, they said Lewis was the problem and Lewis was not good and this is where the club President came up and he started saying that he wants to cut Lewis contract. Before that, being in the hotel, the coach will send food for the other player and dear not send for me.

“Things were getting real harsh on me and they started doing things to frustrate me to say that I want to leave, but this couldn’t break me. I go to please myself and I go to play football and stat watching them things as petty little things you know.

In addition, Lewis said a set of threatening messages was showed to him by his manager which came from the President, indicating that he will force the Grenadian to quit the team.

The player was called to a meeting with the President after those messages and according to Lewis, he was forced to sign a termination letter.

“I don’t know if you had been in the situation where you’ve been that scared but me seeing those messages, the manager was there and the President was there, the taxi driver and another guy (were) outside and they speaking Arabic and the President speak English to me only.

“He told me that only in the next two three years, I will be good. I was listening to him and he pushed a paper in front of me and pushed a pen and said you have to sign. I was so scared, I don’t know what these people were thinking, and to be honest I signed.

After signing, Lewis said that a cheque was given to him but was taken away to be signed by someone else and up to this day he has not received a penny from the club.

“Up to now these guys haven’t paid me a cent. They wanted to move me out of Lebanon the next day but God ain’t sleeping. They tried getting a flight, so they were going to move me out without me receiving the cheque. The manager told me, I would change the cheque tomorrow morning before I fly out. I had the phone on speaker recording everything, so I have proof and everything to show that I am not lying,” he remarked.

Lewis said after the encounter at the President’s office, he decided to move in with his agent and later found out that the club wanted to leave him stranded in Lebanon.

He said, “My agent took me and we went up to his house, the President called me and said why will you go around saying that I forced you to sign. I said you did, you and the other guys forced me to sign. I put my phone on speaker and I told my agent start recording. He said I don’t deserve the money. Me being there, they started sending emails telling me, ‘Lewis come back to organise your flight information.’ They didn’t tell me come back to organise my cheque, they didn’t tell me anything like that.

“…The manager sent me some messages. He said on Sunday, you have to leave the hotel. So I replied to him, ‘you haven’t given me my flight itinerary, you haven’t paid me and now you’re telling me to leave the hotel. I asked, ‘to go where?’ He didn’t answer. I could have been on the streets, I could have been dead anywhere. You could have seen that these people didn’t care. He didn’t know that

I was by my agent, he thought I was at the hotel still.”

According to Lewis, the President and others were adamant that he came alone to see them to have his flight details finalised, but because he was unsure of what could happen to him, refused to comply with the request.

“The club started sending emails, saying Lewis can you come back to the hotel to arrange your flight information. I don’t know for what reason they wanted me, but I told my agent no matter what the situation may be, I will never go back to face these people.

“My agent … was contacting them through calls and emails. My agent spoke with them to arrange my flight, my ticket and everything, but they keep saying let me come to the office. They didn’t say let me and my agent, they wanted me to come to the office. They haven’t paid me a cent, they told me to get out of the hotel without arranging my flight information and everything.
Lewis was able to get out of Lebanon with the help of the Grenada Football Association, which handled his travel expenses and assured him that they will assist him in retrieving the money from Nejmeh SC.

“Thanks to the GFA – the GFA organised my ticket and everything. The GFA with my agent, they had agreed to go to FIFA with the proof, the threatening text from the President so I can get my money,” he said.

The local footballer indicated that he will continue to work towards his international football career as Lebanon was just a learning experience for him.

He said: “I will continue my career. I will continue training hard, this was just a learning experience for me. It was my first time out of the Caribbean and I want to say thanks to God for bringing me back here, thanks to the people that contacted me – so many messages, I couldn’t answer all but I really appreciated their messages”.