40 years after Independence

The island is in the midst of activities to mark the 40th anniversary of political independence from Great Britain on February 7, 1974.

It was on this day 40 years ago that our political leaders took charge of every aspect of life on the Tri-island State of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique.

Most of the politicians who were engaged in the struggles leading up to independence have since departed this life such as first Prime Minister, Sir Eric Matthew Gairy, then leader of the Opposition, Herbert Blaize, as well as the likes of Maurice Bishop, Unison Whiteman, Dr. Wellington Friday, Ben Jones, George Hosten and countless others.

Today, the only active politician from the pre-independence era is current Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.

It would be recalled that Dr. Mitchell entered the political arena in the 1972 elections when he contested the St. George North-west Constituency on a ticket of the Grenada National Party (GNP) then headed by Blaize.

As a young Maths teacher at the Presentation Brothers College, Dr. Mitchell contested against the might of late Finance Minister Hosten of the then formidable and powerful Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) of Sir Eric.

The GNP platform then had some “young turks” with most of them going on to play leading political roles in the country in the post-Independence era.

The NEW TODAY refer specifically to late Foreign Affairs Minister Whiteman, and former Mobilisation Minister Selwyn Strachan who were involved in the historic coup’ d’etat, the first armed overthrow of an elected government in the English-speaking Caribbean on March 13, 1979.

Whiteman contested the 1972 elections for the Constituency of St. David’s on the GNP ticket in the 1972 elections and appeared on the same GNP platform with Dr. Mitchell.

Whiteman would then move on to help in the formation of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) with Maurice Bishop and Kendrick Radix after he was soundly beaten at the polls by Cynthia Gairy, the wife of Eric Gairy.

Two years after the 1974 independence, Whiteman stood as a candidate in the 1976 elections as a member of NJM on the “People’s Alliance” platform and was one of the six victorious candidates among the joint opposition forces.

He duly won the St. George North-east seat and entered Parliament for the first time in 1976.

The late Maurice Bishop also entered Parliament for the first time two years after independence when he won the St. George South-east seat for the Alliance by defeating Norman De Souza of GULP.

Another person who helped change the face of the Grenada political landscape after independence was Strachan but unlike Bishop and Whiteman, he was not successful at the polls both in 1972 and 1976.

Strachan was defeated on both occasions by Sir Eric who was regarded as virtually unstoppable in the sugar belt era of the south.

So politics has dominated the landscape in Grenada since independence and in some cases leading to bloodshed.

The change of government by the use of arms in 1979, another use of force to stage a second coup when Bishop was killed on October 19, 1983 and then a U. S-led military intervention to restore democratic rule of law on October 25, 1983.

Despite our political problems over the years, the economic situation has continued to plague Grenada and has always been a nightmare for our leaders.

In the post-independence period of rule by Bishop’s People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), the island was pursuing a socialist-marxist path of development with the State sector playing the leading role in economic activities.

The experiment proved disastrous as the revolutionary leaders were very skillful in hiding the true state of affairs from the people.

When the NJM/PRG experiment collapsed, a plethora of documents surfaced from the Ministry of Finance which showed that the Bishop government with Bernard Coard as Minister of Finance was engaged in advanced talks with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a plan to rescue the Grenadian economy.

The top secret documents outlined an action plan in which hundreds of civil servants were earmarked for retrenchment under the PRG in order to bring expenditure in line with revenue collection.

Massive direct budgetary aid by the U.S government of then President Ronald Reagan saved the day for Grenada.

Forty years after independence, Grenada has still not got its economic policies right and the economy is now in dire straits and badly in need of budgetary support.

The current NNP administration of Prime Minister Mitchell is facing the same problem that confronted the PRG towards the end of 1983, the Congress government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite in the 1990-95 period and Dr. Mitchell himself during his earlier stint between 1995 and 2008 and the last NDC government of Tillman Thomas.

It is clear that the issue now confronting us as a people is that the government is financially “broke” and not having a clear policy on how to deal with a massive EC15 million dollar monthly deficit on the budget.

After 40 years of independence, the problem is compounded by a commitment given by the current rulers to deliver jobs as opposed to the real prospects of having to take serious decisions on issues of wage freeze and possible retrenchment to curtail out of control expenditure.

Ruggles Ferguson: Dame Cecile Is Not Untouchable

Attorney-at-law Ruggles Ferguson is taking the matter to a full compliment of Court of Appeal Justices

Attorney-at-law Ruggles Ferguson is taking the matter to a full compliment of Court of Appeal Justices

Attorney-at-law, Ruggles Ferguson has brushed aside claims being made in some quarters that he has lost the case brought by dismissed Supervisor of Elections, Judy Benoit against Governor-General, Dame Cecile La Grenade following a decision handed down last week by a single judge of the Court Appeal.

Ferguson called a press conference to announce that Benoit intends to use all legal options available to her to have her day in court with Dame Cecile who was appointed to the post following the February 19 victory at the polls of the opposition New National Party (NNP) of Dr. Keith Mitchell.

The island’s female Head of State allegedly removed Benoit following complaints made by former Tourism Minister Glynis Roberts on a matter relating to the conduct of the February 2013 general elections and over her resistance to a directive from government for the Elections Office to be linked to a programme to be run from the Ministerial Complex in the Botanical Gardens.

Benoit is said to have raised concerns that the decision could compromise the independence of the Electoral Office.

A single judge of the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of submissions made by State lawyers that the high court judge who accepted Ferguson’s application for judicial review of the dismissal of Benoit had erred when she purported to give the defense lawyers additional time to file the matter.

According to Ferguson, he has two options still open to him – challenging the ruling of the single judge through a hearing before a complete panel of Court of Appeal Justices or refiling the application seeking leave of the court to get permission to file for a judicial review of the decision of the GG.

He said that Benoit is committed to getting the high court to rule on whether the decision to remove her from the post by Dame Cecile was “unreasonable, irrational and procedural improper and in breach of the principle of natural justice”.

The senior civil servant has complained that the island’s female head of state did not give her an opportunity to respond to allegations made against her and just moved to dismiss her from the post.

Ferguson told reporters that after he accepted the brief from Benoit to represent her interest in court, he had to first seek leave of the court to get the required permission to obtain a hearing of the judicial review proceedings against the decision taken by Dame Cecile.

He spoke of filing legal papers before the court on November 14, 2013 and the judge granted the leave without a hearing.

He said this is not unusual as the court is entitled to do that regardless of the person involved because “the Governor-General is no exception in relations to this”.

“The rules say that once the court is satisfied (with) the documents before it, that a case is made out for judicial review then the judge may grant leave without a hearing.”, he added.

The effect of this, Ferguson said is that the judge is not mandated to hear arguments from either the applicant or defendant on the filing of paper seeking permission to go ahead with a judicial review.

According to Ferguson, the sour point in the issue is that although the judge granted the leave for him to seek judicial review of Dame Cecile’s decision affecting Benoit, that decision of the judge was never “communicated to us who would have made the application”.

He said this “administrative blunder” on the part of the court only surfaced when the two sides appeared before the judge on December 12, 2013 in connection with the Judy Benoit matter.

“So all parties went to the court .. we and the AG’s Chambers on the understanding that we would deal with the leave application”, he said.

Ferguson stated that the judge sent for her notebook and it was only then that she confirmed that she had already granted him on November 14 as attorney for Benoit, the permission he was seeking to apply to the court for judicial review.

“She (the judge) discovered that it (the leave permission) was never communicated to us and therefore the judge duly apologised and the Order was prepared on that day December 12, 2013.

Ferguson spoke of the AG’s Chambers then deciding to ask for leave to appeal the decision of the judge on the grounds that since leave was granted by the judge on November 14 then the applicants had 14 days in which to file their papers before the court with respect to the substantive matters.

Ferguson described this position of the AG’s Chamber as inaccurate since “the order (of the judge) never said that the Order that granted leave must be served on the Attorney-General’s Chambers within 14 days”.

He contended that there was another flaw in the argument in that after having granted leave, the judge did not state that the claimant now had 14 days within which to file their documents with respect to judicial review proceedings.

He went onto say, “If we check the Maths that would mean by November 28 Miss Benoit should have filed her actual judicial review proceedings having now been granted leave and also by that time the AG’s Chambers should have been served. That is not how the law works. If you don’t know leave is granted ….. then time cannot begin to run”.

“What the rules states is that 14 days leave is conditional…. so whether the Order (was) made on November 14, 2013, December 12, 2013 or September 2013, once we don’t receive that order…. Rules 56 (11) of the Civil Procedure Rule (says)…. time only begins to run when you receive the order.

“We receive the order on December 12 when the court realised that it was an administrative blunder (and) sought immediately to finalise and serve the order on us. So that is when time begins to run from December 12th which means that we would have have until 28th December to file judicial review proceedings. We did it on December 16, four days after”.

Ferguson was not in agreement with the ruling of the single Judge of the Court of Appeal that with the time having expired, the female high court judge did not have the jurisdiction or power to extend the time.

He is adamant that this is not what the high court judge did with his application because after she realised that her Order was never served on him, it was clear that time can only start to run when “you are served with the order”.

Ferguson said: “So what we are doing now in response… because that is not the end of the matter. In fact, it is only the beginning of the matter. Miss Benoit intends to take every legal step available to her to ensure that justice be done or that she be heard on this matter”.

According to Ferguson, it is the intention of his client to ensure that the matter brought against Dame Cecile is “decided upon on the substantive issues and the options open to them is either refiling it or appeal the decision of the single Court of Appeal judge before a full Court of Justices of Appeal.

He feared that if this decision of the single Court of Appeal Judge is not set aside by the full panel of Justice of Appeal “it will send a bad signal or dangerous precedent for the future if the rules state clearly … that leave is conditional upon the applicant filing judicial review 14 days after receipt of the order.. not 14 days after the order was made”.

“We are clear on the procedures of this matter. If the full court rules otherwise the matter will be refiled afresh”, he quipped..

Ferguson is adamant that Governor-General Dame Cecile is not untouchable and her decisions can be reviewed by a court of law.

“It is our Constitution that is supreme. Our Constitution lays down certain procedures for doing certain things and if it is not done in accordance with what the Constitution says then that person (Benoit) has a right to seek redress from the court”, he said.

40 Years of Independence with LIME

To commemorate Grenada’s milestone Independence, LIME has launched their “40/40” Independence Promotion.

The promotion was launched on January 15th and entails a number of deals on all LIME services. These specials include: 40% off the first month rental of World Pak, $40 installation on Fixed Lines, 40% off LIME debt, 40 megabytes of data on One Day Passes, double bubble on all online top-ups over $40 and $40 back when customers sign up for a post-paid plan.

LIME’s Marketing Manager, Rawlston Mitchell said the promotion ensures the best offers to LIME customers for the Independence.

“As we say Happy 40th Anniversary to Grenada, we look forward to serving our customers for 40 more years. Launching our lowest rate of 40 cents in 2013 was no mistake and this, as well as our other offers, mesh well with our 40 years as an independent nation. As a good corporate citizen, we will ensure that our people are connected with the best technologies”, he remarked.

LIME’s 40/40 promotion runs until February 7th.

Proving the company’s diversity, LIME is also providing sponsorship to a number of Independence events in the diaspora.

The company is proudly sponsoring events hosted by the Grenada Independence Planning Committee in Toronto and GRENCHAP United in New York.

GRENCAP United hosted an Independence Calypso Monarch on Sunday, January 26th in New York.

The Grenada Independence Planning Committee in partnership with the Consulate General of Grenada will host five events over the span of 4 weeks. These events include a flag raising ceremony on the February 6th, Independence gala on February 16th, and an exhibition and literary night on February 23rd.

LIME’s General Manager, Angus Steele pointed out that the company is always willing to support activities in the diaspora.

“We don’t limit ourselves to only local activities. In the past, we’ve facilitated artiste exposure at events abroad which we believe is crucial in expanding their audience. We’ve also assisted education institutions with their activities in the diaspora including the Grenada Boys Secondary School”, he said

“Additionally, we’ve participated in activities held by the Carriacou and Petite Martinique Action Committee, Total Caribbean Network and as well as Grenada Day Activities in Toronto and New York”, he added.

Prime Minister Mitchell calls Cuba summit ‘historic’

PM Mitchell speaks at airport

PM Mitchell speaks at airport

HAVANA, CUBA – Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell joined leaders from across the Caribbean and the rest of Latin America for a two day summit that ended this week in Havana, Cuba.

It was Prime Minister Mitchell’s first meeting of the Community of Caribbean and Latin American States (CELAC).

The Grenadian leader arrived late Monday in Havana, greeted by Cuban foreign affairs officials and a military fanfare.

In brief remarks at the Jose Marti International Airport, Prime Minister Mitchell praised his Cuban hosts for the continued strong ties between Havana and St George’s.

“The Cuban government and people and its leadership have continually demonstrated its support in many ways to the government and people of Grenada. We have received serious benefits in the areas of education, healthcare, agriculture and other major services,” Prime Minister Mitchell said.

“Cuba has been a genuine friend to Grenada,” he declared.

During the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution, the then ruling People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of late marxist leader, Maurice Bishop was considered as Cuba’s closest ally in the English-speaking Caribbean.

The death of Bishop on October 19, 1983 in a palace coup staged by opponents within his then ruling New Jewel Movement (NJM) paved the way for U.S and Caribbean troops to storm the island on October 25, 1983 and put down the coup leaders such as General Hudson Austin and ex-deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard.

An interim government was set up by late Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon who also expelled all diplomats from Cuba and communist bloc nations.

Relations between St. George’s and Havana were only restored during the 1990-95 rule of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite when Cuba agreed to recognise the government in St. George’s as part of a brokered deal for the communist island to gain entry into the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).

According to a GIS release, Prime Minister Mitchell was quoted as saying in Havana that the CELAC meeting was being held “at a very special time in the history of the world community.”

He described the meeting as an opportunity to address the challenges facing small states in particular.

 

“This meeting at this time bringing together all the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean must be seen as a historic one. We believe therefore the more we pull our resources together and unite our forces together, using the available tools that are there before us, we will be able to meet those challenges successfully and satisfy the wishes of our people,” he said.

 

The summit – which excludes leaders from the US, Canada, and overseas European territories – is the first since the death of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who led efforts to organise an alternative to the Organisation of American States (OAS) regional bloc, long seen by leaders in the hemisphere as being disproportionately responsive to US interests.

At the top of the agenda at the Havana meeting was poverty, inequality, trade and migration.

Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Oliver Joseph also accompanied the Prime Minister at the summit.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister in the Congress government of 2008-2013, Peter David was also part of the delegation, serving as an adviser on the issue of Latin American affairs.

Grenada’s Ambassador in Cuba, Claris Charles also played a key role by attending the lead-up meetings to the summit in the days leading up to the summit.

No marijuana decriminalisation in Grenada

The government of Grenada has reaffirmed its position on the decriminalisation of marijuana.

According to minister for education and human resource development, Anthony Boatswain, “Government’s position on this issue is very clear. The cultivation and use of marijuana in Grenada is illegal, and therefore, we will abide by the laws of our land.”

At the tenth annual meeting of the Grenada Drug Epidemiology Network and National Observatory on Drugs (GRENDEN-NOD) on Thursday, Boatswain, commended GRENDEN on their exemplary work and expressed the views of the organization on the increasingly popular discourse to decriminalize marijuana.

The theme for this year’s meeting, “An Analysis of the Nature and Extent of the Drug Situation In Grenada: January 1 to June 30, 2012 and January 1 to June 30, 2013”, demonstrates that Grenada has successfully developed a framework for drug-related data collection and analysis, which has facilitated the development of technically sound and appropriate policies and programs.

“One of the key issues which GRENDEN would pay microscopic attention to, and respond accordingly, with evidence-based data in the New Year, is the call for the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana, by certain interest groups in our society,” Boatswain said.

The education minister reflected on some of the serious consequences of drug use that are detrimental to the user, and the state. He backed up these reflections with some of GRENDEN’s statistics, on drug-related admissions to the Mt Gay Psychiatric Hospital, for the period, January 1 to June 30, 2013.

“One hundred and twenty-three patients, consisting of 118 males and 5 females, were admitted for problems derived from the consumption of drugs. Sixty-eight of these patients encountered psychiatric and behavioral disorders, due to the use of cannabinoids. This number comprised 61 males and 4 females, between ages 20 to 70 years,” Boatswain said.

“The government of Grenada and the families of these patients are saddled with the financial, medical and social responsibilities, to care for these persons,” he continued

Statistics on the mortality rates of drug-related abuse are not so easy to acquire, however. Drug control officer with the Drug Control Secretariat, Dave Alexander, explained the implications of data collection under these circumstances.

“We have spoken with the RGPF on a number of occasions with regards to the issue of vehicular accidents with relation to the use of drugs and alcohol,” Alexander said.

“We are still unable to collect data as it relates to drug related mortality, and this is not just in Grenada. I think there is only one Caribbean country that provides data on drug-related mortality and this is because it is a big issue. It has a lot of legal implications with the insurance industry, training of staff, etc,” he said.

Grenada, having acceded to conventions such as The United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs; The United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances; and The United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, is committed to the international efforts to control marijuana and other drugs.

Grenada is also a party to several other regional and international treaties, in the area of drug control and firearms, which seek to control drug trafficking, proliferation of firearms, and related crimes.

Republic Bank at work

Work on the Mechanical Engineering Technology Building of the T.A. Marryshow Community College was given an added boost when Staff of Republic Bank lent assistance to the College’s cleanup efforts, on Saturday, January 11, 2014.

Several of the Bank’s staff volunteered their time to join the students and faculty staff to clean the Mechanical Engineering Building, which is being repaired under the Bank’s Power to Make a Difference Programme.

Republic Bank has committed almost $100,000 to repair the building which was ravaged since the passage of Hurricane Ivan, rendering the building unfit for learning.

To date, the roof has been recovered while other repairs are ongoing. Much of the labour is being contributed by the Faculty students, while receiving “hands on” training, as part of their learning experience.

Both the Students and Staff of Republic Bank were enthusiastic about the work and embraced the opportunity to volunteer in this worthwhile activity. The repairs are expected to be completed early February, 2014.

The College’s principal, Dr. Jeffrey Britton, praised the Staff of the Bank for their selfless assistance and expressed his gratitude for the interest shown in the development of the College.

Independence Calypso Competition

A National Independence Calypso Competition at the Sauteurs bus terminal tomorrow (Saturday February 1) will kick off a week of activities marking Grenada 40th Anniversary of Independence on February 7th.

Reigning national calypso monarch Keturah George is among eleven calypsonians vying for the independence monarch title.

The competition which last took place in 2012 was jointly won by Pamela Courtney and Croquetta.

Apart from Keturah who is looking to dethrone the 2012 joint winners, the rest of the field is comprised of a mixture of seasoned calypsonians such as Teacher Eddie, Smallies and Sour Serpent.

Lady Fearless is one of the three female artistes in the competition that is scheduled to start at 8.00 p.m.

The other contestants are Lay Lay Lay, Sargent Folks, Super Star, and Roots Man Kelly.

The selection of the nine calypsonians came from a field of 21 that was judged through CDs that were presented to the Ministry of Culture by the participating calypsonians.

Following the Independence Calypso Monarch Competition, the Nation will give thanks to God on Sunday during an Ecumenical Service at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in St David’s from 3.00 p.m. Under the auspices of the Conference of Churches of Grenada (CCG).

Also on that day, the National Celebrations Committee which has been collaborating with the Ministry Of Health will bring an end to a two-day national clean up exercise.

On Tuesday, February 4th, Grenadians will be treated to a display by a visiting Chinese acrobatic team at the Grenada Trade Center.

The activities roll over to Wednesday February 5th with a cultural extravaganza at Grenville, St. Andrew’s which will end with fireworks.

National colors day will be on Thursday, February 6th. Everyone is invited to dress in their national colors as they display their patriotism for the country. During the day there will be an arts exhibition at the Grenada National Museum portraying young Grenadian artists.

Later that evening at the Caranage, St. George’s, there will be a cultural activity which moves on to Fort George where there will be the re-enactment of what took place on the night of February 6th 1974, leading up to independence itself when Grenada severed ties with Great Britain under the labour party government of late Prime Minister, Sir Eric Gairy.

The main Independence Day celebration will take place in the form of a military parade at the Grenada National Stadium from 9.00 a.m and will also feature an address to the nation by Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.

Later that evening there will be an independence dinner and award ceremony at the Grenada Trade Center.