Early date given for launch of 2015 Spicemas

Spicemas 2015 will be launched in Grenada in December, according to Culture Minister, Senator Brenda Hood.

She made the disclosure at a post-Cabinet Press Briefing following the conclusion of a retreat by the Spicemas Corporation to look at the running of the just-ended 2014 carnival season.

Although many pundits blasted the state-appointed body for a shabby carnival season, Sen. Hood described the event as a success.

The Female government minister produced figures pertaining to the financial intake of the major shows held during the carnival season.

She said that six hundred and one thousand, one hundred and thirty nine dollars was the unofficial revenue that was generated in Spicemas 2014.

According to Minister Hood, the Soca/Groovy Monarch Finals generated most of the funds – $366,373, the Children Carnival Frolic netted $32,000, the Calypso Monarch Finals, $37,783, Panorama, $17,439, Calypso semi-final in Grenville, $33,601 and the Queen show $39,644.

She said the Ministry of Finance was asked to give an official figure as regards the total revenue generated for the island as a result of Spicemas.

“I know last year we said $25-29 million – this information came from the (Grenada) Tourism Authority but we feel that perhaps we need to do it again this year and we have asked them because they have the stats people there who can assist us”, she said.

“…I spoke with the PS in Finance (Timothy Antoine) who has agreed that we need to do this and hopefully when that is done and when the information is available at least we’ll have a true picture of the economic value of Spicemas to the whole economy because we believe that it does generate a lot of revenue into the country,” she added.

Sen. Hood stated that despite the “success” of Spicemas in 2004, the retreat agreed that there is still major work to be done in relation to the rolling out of the annual festival.

She made specific mention about the Children’s Carnival Frolic (CCF) as she reflected on the number of challenges that were faced in hosting the event at the Tanteen Netball Complex.

“…From all indications it (CCF) went well, however we were disappointed because the venue was not what we expected it to be. The number of persons that attended, some of them had to go back home because there wasn’t enough space for them to come into the venue”, she said.

“It started extremely late and I’m not making any excuse for anyone, even if the weather was bad there were other issues,” she added.

A spokesman for the Grenada Steelbands Association had blasted the organisers of CCF and pointed to the lack of proper accommodation for the children including the absence of a stage for them to showcase their mas.

He also criticised the organisers for allowing the young masqueraders to make their appearances before the judges on the hot concrete surface at the complex.

According to Sen. Hood, the retreat concluded that early planning should be done to host the CCF and to prevent the reoccurrence of the same problems.

“What we have agreed as it relates to the Children’s Carnival Frolic is that starting now, the committee will commence meetings to put the structures in place to make sure that we do what is necessary, that we have a carnival, a Spicemas better than this year”, she told reporters.

“…We have also said that over the years, the CCF usually brings in lots of revenue, it’s one of the larger events in terms of numbers and in terms of revenue, (but) because of the location (in 2014) again, we were not able to get to that (financial success) ” she said.

Minister Hood spoke of plans for the Spicemas Corporation to engage the schools to get more students to participate in CCF.

“…We are encouraging them to participate in the Spicemas as it relates to the CCF but we would also like them to take part in the parade of the bands and the pageants that we have because we feel that we must engage our young people because they are the ones to carry the art form forward,” she said.

Another problem, which was addressed by the Culture Minister, was the late start of Spicemas events.

She said: “It is not proper to start an event three and four hours (late) and you have people waiting. I was very frustrated as Minister when I noticed how long it was taking to start every event and there is no excuse….”.

The female government minister pointed out that structures would be put in place for every aspect of carnival including the mas bands and calypsonians.

“If you (the artistes) are not there on time then you are not judged because we cannot say, well we are waiting for the mas band to come and we are having thousands of people waiting on the streets, we cannot continue like that,” she said.

Sen. Hood announced that the Spicemas Corporation will be continuing with Carnival City that was held on the grounds of the Public Workers Union (PWU) building on the Port Highway in Tanteen as it turned out to be one of the most successful events for the 2014 Spicemas.

“As you know we launched Carnival in May of this year and starting in June every week for 8 weeks there were events at Carnival City. We must congratulate Waggy-T (Wayne Redhead) for spearheading that efforts”, she said.

She added that both the Carnival Committee and SMC will be engaging Waggy-T again.

“…I always say when something is going well why change it. So we will be working with him again and he also wants to continue with it”, she remarked.

The Minister also indicated that since SMC is mandated to operate year round, it will have to come up with ways to generate revenue to help run Spicemas 2015.

“One of the things that we will be doing is try to partner with promoters because you know there are promoters here that have national events so they are going to be engaging them, they have started the discussions so that they can partner with them”, she said.

“…They are also going to be doing some fund raising on their own to raise revenue so that at the beginning of the (carnival season) next year at least they will have some cash in hand,” she added.

Over the years, the Spicemas Corporation has depended heavily on the annual subvention provided by government and donations from some corporate sponsors like Lime and Digicel to host the annual carnival celebrations.

Committee formed for Heritage Month

Former Chairperson of the defunct Grenada Board of Tourism, Jocelyn Sylvester-Gairy has been named to head a 12-member team dubbed the National Heritage Committee that has been set up by Cabinet to help raise revenue and create jobs on the island.

Speaking at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Ministerial Complex, Minister for Culture, Senator Brenda Hood told reporters that the committee would spearhead all activities in the country that deals with the national heritage.

“As you know we have tangible heritage, we have intangible heritage, we have natural heritage and this committee is given the mandate to oversee the planning and implementation of activities for Heritage Month which will start next year 2015,” she said.

According to Sen. Hood, it will be the aim of the committee to have Heritage Month as a national activity and not hold it in only one area of the country.

The committee will also be comprised of a representative from Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GCIC), UNESCO, National Trust, Grenada Tourism Authority, Conference of Churches of Grenada (CCG), St Andrew Development Organisation (SADO), St Mark Development Organisation, St. Patrick Organisation for Development (SPOD), St David’s Organisation, St David’s Day Organisation Committee, as well as the Ministry of Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs.

Sen. Hood said that the committee will also undertake activities to showcase the widest cross section possible of the country’s national heritage during the celebration of Heritage Month.

“We have had a rich heritage over the years, and many of these heritages are perhaps not even recognised or known by people. This committee will make sure that throughout the length and breath of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, the public are aware of our heritage, the public has a better understanding as to what is needed to preserve our heritage and every year during the month of April you have a month of activities to really showcase our heritage,” she added.

The senior government minister pointed out that Grenada has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Columbia to develop St George and turn it into one of the country’s heritage sites.

“We started this many years ago and I think that the time has come now whereby we need to continue to do what is necessary – it (St. George’s) is so beautiful they said that we have so much to offer here in Grenada”, she told the press conference.

“…Sometimes we sit back and we complain and we say oh, we don’t have a lot but we have a lot to offer, I think what we have to do is appreciate what we have. What we have to do is to put the structures in place so that we can preserve it and to make sure that every Grenadian buy into it,” she said.

The female minister called for all nationals including the schools and various communities to get involved in the process.

The Willie Redhead Foundation at a recent meeting with Minister Hood suggested that government take a look at the remains of Parliament Building at York House and turn it into one of the heritage sites in the country.

Making Caribbean tourism ‘Chinese-ready’

SAUNDERSIn recent years Chinese tourists have been touted as the new opportunity for growth of the industry in the Caribbean.  But how realistic is this prospect for countries in the Caribbean, many of which are now reliant on tourism for employment and foreign exchange income?

Until there is huge investment in marketing, airlift, tourism plant, and language training, the prospect of an appreciable and steady flow of Chinese tourists will remain remote.  If Caribbean countries genuinely want a share of Chinese tourism, rigorous work has to be undertaken now to make fundamental preparations for what is a long-term project.

The more that countries delay in making such preparations, the more distant will be the likelihood of attracting Chinese tourists.

The urgency of investing money in organising for a future Chinese tourist market coincides with a bad time for Caribbean countries, many of which are experiencing economic difficulties.  Several governments are simultaneously facing declining revenues and increasing costs to deliver goods and services to their populations.

The amount of money that is needed to invest in a future Chinese tourism market is simply not available to any individual government.  Nonetheless, it would be imprudent of Caribbean governments not to act together to start developing the Chinese market.

In this context, Caribbean governments should consider mandating a regional organisation such as the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) to undertake the preparatory work now on their collective behalf.  It might require the establishment of a special unit within CTO devoted to this work which would be considerable.

The work would include a comprehensive study of what Chinese tourists would want from tours to Caribbean countries; the capacity of airports, including immigration and customs for dealing with Chinese visitors; facilities for moving large numbers of people on land tours; the ability of hotels to cater in the Chinese language for guests; signage in Chinese; the capability of police forces to protect Chinese tourists who tend to travel with cash and an array of electronic devices; the provision of Chinese cuisine; the elimination of visa entry requirements for Chinese tourists; and very importantly affordable air lift from Chinese cities to Caribbean countries.

The latter point concerning air lift is crucial.  The journey between China and the Caribbean is long and there are no direct airline services.  The need to break the journey either in North America or Europe increases the length of the journey and its cost, putting it out of the reach of the majority of Chinese tourists.

A recent report by the World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) provides instructive information on Chinese tourists.

The most significant statistic – and the one that causes such allure for Chinese tourism – is the amount of money spent by Chinese tourists.  In 2013, 98.19 million Chinese travelled abroad, spending US$128.7 billion – an increase of 26.8% from 2012.

Of that huge sum of money, 57.6% was spent on shopping; 17.82% on accommodation; 10.88% on transport; 5.84% on food; and 7.4% on entertainment.  The number of Chinese touring abroad also increased by 18% in 2013 over the previous year.

However, there are many challenges to the task of pursuing a share of the large Chinese tourist spend.  For example, the majority of Chinese tourists – 56.21% of them – earn about US$1,600 per month and 22.26% earn US$2,400 or more.

These figures suggest that given only the cost of travel, Chinese tourism to the Caribbean will be limited to a smaller, high-end market.  This conclusion is re-enforced by figures which show that the four most popular destinations for Chinese tourists are cities in nearby South Korea and Japan to which the cost of travel is considerably less than long-haul flights.

Of course, smaller numbers of Chinese are also travelling to Europe and North America, but surveys indicate that they want – and expect – better services, including persons proficient in the Chinese language at hotels, shopping centres and tourist sites; security from crime; and sensitivity to their cultural differences.
To attract a portion of the Chinese tourists who can afford to travel beyond their neighbouring countries, the Caribbean will have to learn from the experience of European and North American countries in catering for them, including showing them respect.

Additionally, the Caribbean will have to compete against other destinations that are closer to China, such as Indonesia, Maldives, Thailand and the Philippines that, like the Caribbean, offer sun, sea and sand, and many more historic heritage sites.  These destinations already have a jump on the Caribbean through programmes designed especially for Chinese visitors.

The US and Canada are also competitors – although there is potential for complementarity between Caribbean countries and some North American regions – for double-destination tourism.  This possibility has many challenges but it could be pursued for the benefit of countries that take advantage of it.  Links between airlines serving China and the Caribbean from North America would be especially important.

US airlines and US Airports are working hard to gain more Chinese business.  For instance, American Airlines launched new routes in to Shanghai and Hong Kong from its hub at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in June.  Not to be outdone, Delta Air Lines launched a non-stop flight between Hong Kong and Seattle in the same month, and United Continental Holdings added a route from San Francisco to the central Chinese city of Chengdu.

All the airlines cited “the consistent growth in the number of Chinese leisure travellers venturing abroad” as the basis for their investment.

Interestingly for the Caribbean countries that enjoy ‘designated’ tourism status by the Chinese government, this year, Air China also launched non-stop flights between Beijing and Washington, D.C, while the smaller Hainan Airlines, which had already been flying routes to Seattle, Chicago and Toronto, launched a service between Beijing and Boston.

It is with these airlines that Caribbean Tourism agencies and airlines could usefully engage.

There is certainly a higher end Chinese tourism market that Caribbean countries can pursue, but there is much work to be done at a regional level to identify the challenges and opportunities, and at the national level to make themselves ‘Chinese-ready’.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant, Senior Fellow at London University and former Caribbean diplomat)

Increasing The Value Added to Nutmeg in Grenada

The Grenada Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) on August 27 hosted the first in a two-part, one day workshop on capacity building for business service organisations.

The workshop is part of a major nutmeg value added project (Increasing the Value Added in Nutmeg in Grenada) that has been implemented by the GIDC, with the support of the Department for Foreign & International Development of the British Government and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

The workshop titled, “Building the Capacity of Business Service Organisations to Manage Clusters” was attended by ten (10) organisations representing the public, private and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Sectors.

The topics covered included, what is a cluster, management of clusters, how to identify sectors for clustering, benefits of clustering, steps in developing clusters.

Participants at the workshop were also briefed on the status of the ongoing cluster project, “Increasing the Value Added to Nutmeg in Grenada”.

A Video on successful United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) projects on clustering, in India was also shown.

The participants expressed satisfaction with the workshop and indicated various ways by which their organisations could participate such as promoting the clustering concept as an alternative economic development tool, provision of SME Tool kit, promotions of agriculture as a viable economic sector, financing and marketing support.

In addition to nutmeg other agricultural products were also identified for clustering.

According to Consultant/Project Coordinator and Facilitator of the workshop, Stephen Fletcher, the project is on track to change the fundamental structure of the food agro-processing sector in Grenada, by providing an innovative organisational framework, called clustering, whereby micro and small agro processors and other related businesses could work together to produce and export world class agro-foods products from Grenada.

The next workshop is schedule for the latter part of 2014.

THE WAITING GAME IS ONGOING

Lloyd NoelThe Controllers have now completed Eighteen months, in the driving seats of their five years total control of the reins of power in the Tri-Island state.

And after all the grand promises of major Investments and jobs provision for the thousands of unemployed young and elder folks who voted them into office the waiting game is continuing.

I saw a report on Caribbean News Now, which gave some details about a statement made by the Prime Minister at a conference in Samoa in the Pacific about an MOU signed by Grenada and the USA, for the support of the USA in the transformation of the Energy Sector in Grenada.

The report stated that the US will focus on improving the energy enabling environment, and assisting with bringing additional partners and scaled-up investments to Grenada.

The statement looked very encouraging and positive, so we can only hope that the promises will be fulfilled in the not too distant future.

We now have the Casino and Gambling Bill passed through Parliament, to provide Licenses for Hotels with three hundred rooms and over to come and do business in the state and provide Casino gambling.

We can only wait to see, how that form of tourist attraction will enhance our Tourism product in the years ahead. Because as the situation stand for some time now, the Tourists who mostly come to our shores are those on the Tourist ships which visit on a daily basis.

So that to attract an Investor to come and build a Three Hundred Rooms Hotel to be able to provide Casino Gambling for Visitors that possibility looks like there is much more in the whole scheme.

The Constitution Reformation planned for March next year, includes our Tri-Island state becoming a Republic and breaking our Privy Council ties with England.

If the two-thirds Majority votes are obtained to bring about the proposed changes that we have heard of so far, it would also put the Government in the position where the sky is the limit, when it comes down to what those in control plan to do thereafter.

And that is most definitely why our people have to be thinking very deeply, about the planned changes to our Independence Constitution.

The twelve or so proposals put forward by the Government-appointed Committee – except for two or three of them – the others are merely scratching the surface.

And that is why it is so difficult to understand the silence from the Political Parties in our midst.

Except for Senator Nazim Burke of the NDC, all the others are very quiet – does that mean they agree or see nothing wrong with the happenings, so they are prepared to let things take their course come what may next March?

That kind of behaviour is just not good enough and those in leadership positions clearly have a duty and serious responsibility to let their voices be heard, or else their silence will be interpreted as in agreement.

There is no denying the case, that a whole lot of people are in need of some form of employment, to take care of themselves and their families.

And it is from that standpoint that the Controllers would feel justified in getting into any kind of business operations by Investors that will provide employment.

But those in control have the responsibility and a solemn duty to ensure that the standards and characteristics and well-being of the people are maintained at all times.

And to do this they must also be very careful in choosing Investors and the types of business operations agreed upon with those chosen.

1.    We already have Casino Gambling on Statute lists, and the bar on our nationals entering those places is not the answer – it is what the Visitors will get involved in outside the Hotel that will be the problem.

So while we waiting to see where we going and how soon the situation island-wide is not improving and a whole lot of our people are in great need and becoming impatient.

Rullow calls for “a no-vote” in referendum

One of the island’s best known and most outspoken person living with a disability, John Rullow is calling on Grenadians to boycott next year’s planned referendum aimed at effecting some changes to the Grenada Constitution.

In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper, Rullow said that what Grenada needs is a brand new constitution to replace the one that the island inherited in 1974 when it attained its independence from Great Britain.

A frequent caller to local radio stations, Rullow spoke of being concerned with the type of consultations on Constitutional Reform that was undertaken by the government-appointed committee headed by leading local lawyer, Dr. Francis Alexis.

He favours “a holistic approach” to addressing the Grenada Constitution and one that involves the setting up of a National Constituent Assembly to get the views of all Grenadians.

According to Rullow, he has formed the impression that what the Keith Mitchell-led government is attempting to do is to engage more or less in constitutional amendment and not reform.

“Who are they consulting? Who is consulting whom? This is the question (to be asked) because they claim to have consulted with the people, yet the people have made 25 proposals, they have thrown away thirteen and they are only putting twelve – what they feel,” he said.

Rullow expressed fears that the advice and information given by the people at this point in time is not seriously being taken into consideration and that this amounted to disrespect for the people.

“…The people collectively own the Constitution and sovereign power and therefore if you want to do anything with the framework foundational law of the nation to run this country for another four or five decades then the people have to be involved”, he said.

The visible impaired national noted that the constitution must be made brand new, since it is public knowledge that the document was prepared by outsiders and handed down on Grenadians as part of the granting of independence.

Rullow criticised the present constitution as one that gave too many powers to the political directorate.

“We saw what this constitution permitted all through the years, the abuses of these politicians; they have ripped off the nation. We have seen public servants who are the people who signed government cheques get rich in less than no time.

“…We would have heard of the mischief made by senior politicians including the leaders of this country and the secrecy they run this country with. We’re seeing laws modified in this country to facilitate 30 million dollars taken out of the coffers of the Consolidated Fund to run a private business, which busted and not a cent paid back to the state.

“…They (political leaders) running this country as their private tuck shop and that (shouldn’t) happen but the existing constitutional construct permits it so none of them can’t be taken to task, what they get is a slap on the wrist and they go on.

His reference to the millions taken out of the Consolidated Fund is apparently related to the Call Centre venture involving close family members of current Prime Minister Mitchell.

When the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Tillman Thomas won the 2008 general elections, it did not pursue the commitment given by Dr. Mitchell to Parliament that his family members will repay their share of monies owed to the Treasury in the Call Centre deal.

Rullow wants to see a brand new constitution for Grenada that would create better checks and balances “so that the people of the nation can have justice and equality and those who break the law and abuse their powers, shall be taken to task.”

“I am proposing a Constituent Assembly, it shall be an elected one, not selected, it shall work where you take the old constitution and all the suggestions from the people for what they want, you take it to them under the mango trees, rum shop, crossroad, the same as you do when you go for election and hear from them, have them involved, make a bond between them and their constitution and then these people will vote for the Constituent Assembly, the people who they choose to represent them and what they feel that they want in this assembly.

“We will be eliminating that of privileges where one group of people hand picking. I am saying it’s anti-democratic, the process that they are doing here (the Alexis Committee) and it should be rejected.

“…The people should prepare themselves to (give) a no vote or if possible as soon as possible to cancel this process and furthermore to bring these people to task for treason, for using authority that they don’t have.

As a person with disability, Rullow said he cannot transfer his powers to the Constitutional Reform Committee just like that and that they must first convince him that they would do something for him.

Mark Isaac gives full support for Casino

Mark IsaacA former Foreign Affairs Minister with the New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell has lauded the decision of the Grenadian leader to introduce Casino gambling into the island.

In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY Newspaper, Mark Isaac, who won the South St. George seat in the 1995 and 1999 general elections said that the move is long overdue.

According to Isaac who is no longer engaged in frontline politics, he personally wanted to see this form of gambling becoming legal in the country a very long time now.

“As they say it’s better late than never and Dr. Keith Mitchell has finally entered the dragon and now Casino gambling is legal in Grenada,” he said.

“If we had Casino gambling years ago, I believe our tourism sector would have been better. We cannot talk about tourism right now in the present world without Casino,” he added.

Former Agriculture Minister, Michael Baptiste had indicated that the 1995-99 NNP-led government of Dr. Mitchell had sought to push for Casino Gambling but was fearful of the reaction of the island’s church leaders.

Baptiste said that Dr. Mitchell had spoken to both he and late Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Raphael Fletcher about a plan that he had to influence the country into going the way of casino gambling.

He spoke of PM Mitchell assigning him the task of selling the idea on the ground and for Dr. Fletcher whose family had close ties with the Roman Catholic Church to try and influence the church leaders on the introduction of casino gambling.

According to Isaac, the other islands that are competing with Grenada for the tourist dollar such as St. Lucia, Antigua and St. Kitts have casino gambling as a major attraction.

“If you want to compete with that arena we too must have it”, he quipped.

Isaac was quick to add that the modern tourist doesn’t just want sun, sand and sea any more.

“The modern tourists is younger than tourists fifty years ago and therefore we must cater for the (modern) tourists, give the tourists what they want”, he said.

“Grenada is a long way from North America and Europe, no one comes down here just for the sun and therefore a casino would increase our night life, help even our singers and so on and people in culture will have a better chance with a casino…”, he added.

Isaac stressed that he has no problems wit the stipulation in the Casino law that prevents Grenadians from going into the casino and engage in gambling.

He also sought to brush aside fears being expressed in some quarters that casinos bring with them issues like prostitution.

“I’m not afraid of things like prostitution, I’m not worried about that or whatever else you may have. If women are working, less chance of (them) being prostitutes, so I’m not worried about that”, he said.

“What I’m worried about is all these young women and young men walking the streets looking for jobs and can’t find any jobs, that’s my number one worry … so I believe the Casino will help in unemployment,” he added.

The former government minister also commented on the move being made by the Mitchell government to make certain amendments to the Grenada Constitution.

He made a plea for the Constitution to always make provisions for a Leader of the Opposition and for all elected Members of Parliament to be paid a full minister’s salary.

“In my opinion for the future, there shall be a Leader of the Opposition, whether in the Lower House or in the Senate. No matter what happens (in an election) somebody must be Leader of the Opposition officially.

“As a matter of fact, Nazim Burke (Political Leader of congress) should be Leader of the Opposition right now officially and I regret that he does not have an office as Leader of the Opposition because to everybody he is the Leader of the Opposition.

Isaac is suggesting that a change should be made to the Constitution that there should always be a Leader of the Opposition.

He also praised Prime Minister Mitchell for taking the bold step to pay a salary to all elected Members of Parliament even those who were not allocated any official government assignment and remain as backbenchers.

This, he said was something that did not happen when he was in politics and was very much regretted.

“I would like to say that every elected member of the house shall be paid a monthly salary of not less than a Permanent Secretary, providing that the member is not a Cabinet Minister.

“…When NNP won all 15 seats in 1999, Dr Keith Mitchell left me out of his Cabinet and the reason I cared about being left out of the Cabinet is because I wasn’t going to get any pay.

“I had just won election to represent people and there was no official way for me to get pay. I don’t want that to happen to anybody in the future anymore.

“Anytime you win a seat, you “gotta” get pay, you “gotta” represent people, regardless of you being a Minister or not … bring the money,

“…I want that to be in the Constitution, I don’t want to take the chance to (get) pay one time and not pay the other time. Pay everybody who win. If a Senator becomes a Minister fine, if he is not a Minister, nobody voted for he or she but all elected members must be paid.

Dr. Curtis Jacobs vs Dame Cecile De La Grenade

The NEW TODAY as a matter of public interest has decided to reproduce the letters that forced the hands of former Resident Tutor of the School of Continuing Studies of the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Grenada, Dr. Curtis Jacobs to take legal action against Governor-General, Dame Cecile De La Grenade.

The lawsuit was filed by attorney-at-law, Ruggles Ferguson who is the leading barrister at Ciboney Chambers.

It was the second time within a year that Ferguson has been retained by a disgruntled Grenadian to challenge in court the decisions of the island’s first female Head of State.

Dr. Jacobs became incensed with the failure of Dame Cecile to pass onto the Queen in England his application for her to determine an ongoing dispute he had with his UWI bosses.

The educator was victorious in the end as the court ordered the Governor-General to pay legal costs of $750.00 to Dr. Jacobs.

The Private Secretary
Her Majesty The Queen
Buckingham Palace
St. James’s Park
London,
Great Britain
United Kingdom.

2014 February 17

Dear Sir,

First, please accept my apology for this breach of protocol by writing directly to you, but, in my opinion, the circumstances have made it necessary.

I am an officer of The University of the West Indies, of which Her Majesty The Queen has held the position of The Visitor since the grant of the Royal Charter in 1962. Last January, I submitted an application to The Visitor to Her Excellency the Governor-General of Grenada for the laying of this application before Her Majesty The Queen in her capacity as Visitor.

After some time, I enquired as to the status of the application, both verbally and in writing. I was then advised that Her Excellency had passed the application to the Ministry of Legal Affairs, that is to say, Her Majesty’s Government of Grenada, “for advice.”

At that time, I had appeared at the Office of the Governor-General to submit a second application to be laid before Her Majesty The Queen as Visitor. I did so. It was only after the submission of the second application that I retrieved the letter dated February 5, 2014, which occasioned my reply of February 14, 2014.

Please find enclosed one copy each of the two applications submitted to Her Excellency the Governor-General of Grenada and copies of the exchange of correspondence between the Office of the Governor-General and yours truly since January 21, 2014.

Separate and apart from the matters raised in my letter of February 14, 2014, there is the overarching issue of the delay of justice that has been occasioned by the passing of the Application of January 21, 2014, to the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

Of course, I need hardly mention that the interference in the internal affairs of The University of the West Indies by Her Excellency the Governor-General is another matter of which Her Majesty the Queen as Visitor is likely to be concerned.

It was after careful consideration of the circumstances outlined above that I concluded that it was necessary to approach the Office of the Private Secretary to Her Majesty The Queen as Visitor, The University of the West Indies.

It is my hope that this breach of protocol is without prejudice to my applications to be laid before Her Majesty The Queen as Visitor.

I trust that my explanation for this breach of protocol is found to be clear, plausible and in order, even as I look forward to the consideration of my applications by The Visitor.

Yours sincerely,

Curtis Jacobs.

Mrs. Margaret Jawahir,
Personal Assistant to The Governor-General
Office of the Governor-General
Building No.5
Financial Complex
The Carenage
St. George’s
Grenada

2014 February 14

Dear Mrs. Jawahir,

Re: Application to Her Majesty The Queen, Visitor The University of the ‘West Indies

Thank: you very much for your letter dated 5th February 2014, Ref. GH, with respect to the Application to Her Majesty The Queen in her capacity as The Visitor, The University of the West Indies, which I received yesterday, February 13,2014.

In the first instance, I was somewhat surprised at being advised that the Application that I first submitted to the Office of the Governor-General on January 21, 2014, has not yet been forwarded to The Visitor; in the second, to be further advised that the matter has been passed to the Ministry of Legal Affairs for advice, has left me, to put it mildly, rather aghast.

I feel that I have to request that you advise Her Excellency that the first Application of January 21,2014, and indeed, the second Application of February 11,2014, are with respect to matters internal to The University of the West Indies.

Clause 6 of The Royal Charter places The Visitor as the highest judicial authority in The University of the West Indies, which, in practice, makes The Visitor arbiter of all internal disputes within The University of the West Indies itself.

Clause 6 of The Royal Charter clearly states that:

“We, our Heirs and Successors, shall be and remain the Visitor and Visitors of the University and in the exercise of the Visitorial Authority from time to time in such manner as we or they think fit may inspect the University, its buildings, laboratories and general work, equipment and also the examination, teaching and other activities of the University by such person or persons as may be appointed in that behalf.”

I also request that you further advise Her Excellency that no court in the Commonwealth Caribbean has the authority to adjudicate on internal disputes of The University of the West Indies in the first instance. This has been established in the history of the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth Caribbean more than two decades ago.

Two relatively recent judgments of the Supreme Court of Judicature in Jamaica would suffice. These are:

*Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica, Civil Division, Claim No. 2007 HCV 04736 between Dr. Matt Myrie and The University of the West Indies; and,

*Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica, Claim No. 2008 HCV 05999 between Vanessa Mason v The University of the West Indies, 2009.

In the records of the Appeal Court of Trinidad and Tobago, one I11flY refer to an earlier matter:

*Wadinambiaratchi v Hakeem Ahmad, Court of Appeal, 1985.

I respectfully request that you advise Her Excellency that her decision to refer the matter to The Ministry of Legal Affairs for advice is, to put it mildly, extraordinary and unprecedented.

The only reason why I decided to submit my two Applications to The Visitor via her official representative, The Governor-General of Grenada, is a matter of protocol.

As an official of The University of the West Indies, it is my right to appeal to The Visitor if I am of the opinion that my rights as an official of the University have been or are being infringed.

Since The Visitor of The University of the West Indies is also the Head of State of Grenada, that is, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Second, and as a Commonwealth citizen, I have resided in a Sovereign Realm of Great Britain since 2005, and, having availed myself of the protection of Her Majesty’s Government for nearly a decade, it was thought fitting and proper to forward the Applications to Her Majesty as the Visitor via her appointed represen1tative, The Governor-General.

This is a procedure that has been honoured by time and practice. In the case of Grenada, it may interest Her Excellency to know that this practice has existed since 1763, and, except for the period 1779-1783, when Grenada was ruled by France and the 1763 Constitution was suspended, this has been the practice.

On a few occasions this protocol was not observed, of which two most readily come to mind: in 1771 and 1775. On the latter occasion, the issues were regarded as so serious that The Governor summarily dissolved the elected Assembly when it refused to rescind an address to The King that was not directly forwarded through the Office of the Governor.

Surely, Her Excellency must be aware of all of this. While one cannot question the right of Her Excellency to peruse the contents of the Application, or Applications, even to the point of briefing The Visitor with respect to its contents, the decision to refer the matter to the Ministry of Legal Affairs, I respectfully submit, seems to be ultra vires.

In the light of the foregoing, I respectfully submit that the Ministry of Legal Affairs has no locus standi with respect to this matter, and further respectfully request that Her Excellency forward the Application dated January 21, 2014, and the Application dated February 11,2014, to The Visitor without further undue delay.

Yours sincerely,

Curtis Jacobs

c.c. The Private Secretary
Her Majesty The Queen.

Workers placed on alert

The command has been given to the workers of the nation to prepare themselves to take to the streets should the state-controlled National Insurance Scheme (NIS) proceed to give government a haircut on millions owed to the financial institution.

The 18-month old Keith Mitchell-led government has approached the NIS along with other creditors for a haircut as part of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to deal with a high debt stock.

Since coming into office in February 2013, the Mitchell government has defaulted on debt payments to the island’s major creditors.

Addressing a recent meeting of the Upper House, Labour Representative in the Senate, Raymond Roberts told the Parliamentary session that the labour movement is totally against any haircut for government by NIS.

“We want to call on workers to arm themselves to take to the street in large numbers if the Directors of NIS ever give a haircut. This money is for pensioners, people who have retired and people who are old aged. You cannot take that money for haircut – forget about it,” he said.

According to Sen. Roberts, the anti-haircut block is unanimous among all of the seven affiliates of the Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC).

The trade unions have sought the support of the Grenada Employers Federation (GEF) to get its two members on the NIS governing board to support the two others representing the TUC to vote against any such proposal that comes up for discussion.

The TUC is confident that if the Employers give support the motion for a hair cut from NIS could be defeated 4-3 on the vote.

Sen. Roberts described the Mitchell administration as one of taxes.

He pointed out that in every meeting of the Senate there is always a new tax measure on the order paper.

The regime has been forced to implement a series of austerity measures in order to get the support of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank for its Structural Adjustment Programme.

Sen. Roberts told the Upper House that in1995, Dr. Mitchell and his New National Party (NNP) were voted into office by the electorate on a culture that it can run the country successfully without collecting Personal Income Tax from workers earning less than $60,000 per year.

He noted that less than one year after returning to office in February 2013, the NNP regime was forced to institute a Structural Adjustment Program which now calls on workers who earn$3000 and above per month to pay income tax. Sen. Roberts blamed Prime Minister Mitchell for the financial debacle in which the country has now found itself.

He charged that between 1995 and 2008 the Mitchell governments embarked upon a spending spree.

In addition, he said that Grenada’s current leadership is void of wisdom and leadership that was synonymous with former Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy who took the island to independence from Great Britain in 1974.

“I pray that the current leadership will be bless with as much as 10% of Sir. Eric’s wisdom. If that is forthcoming better days may be ahead,” he told the Senate.

Meanwhile, two independent Senators Raymond Roberts and Keith Clouden are finding it difficult to receive answers to questions that are asked of government Senators in the upper house of Parliament.

During the last seating of the Senate, Sen. Roberts along with Sen. Clouden who is the Farmers representative voiced their frustration over the failure of their opposing peers in the Senate to provide them with answers on a timely basis.

Leader of government business in the Senate, Minister of State for Implementation, Sen. Kenny Lalsingh who was asked a number of questions by Sen. Roberts said once again that,  “The answers are not available right now.”

Similarly questions asked of the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Sen. Winston Garraway by Sen. Roberts also went unanswered.

No answers to questions also came from the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Sen. Simon Stiell.

In his reply to questions directed at him,  Sen. Stiell once again told the Senate that he is still working on the answers and should be in a position to submit them at the next seating.

According to Sen. Clouden this was the same answer given by Sen. Stiell at the last sitting of the Senate.

Sen. Roberts pointed out to President of the Senate, Lawrence Joseph that the questions were filed over two months now and that in a democracy it is expected that Senators should be more efficient.

“This is almost three months and these questions are still unanswered. This is obviously not fair to Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique,” Senator Roberts told the Senate meeting.

No one party state, no joint leadership, no referendum

For 13 consecutive years Keith Mitchell and the NNP ruled Grenada and kept the issue of constitutional reform on the backburner.

The social, political and economic situation in the early part of his rule from 1995 to 2003 was ideal for promoting constitutional reforms. Grenada’s unemployment rate was under 20%, the economy was growing at an average rate of 4% per year, government borrowed and spent like crazy. There was no structural adjustment or the IMF and the people were not burden by taxation.

Today, with the country struggling under a structural adjustment program supervised by the IMF, a national debt of $2.5 billion, chronic unemployment, youth unemployment at 60%, increased taxation, high energy cost, high cost of living, the country in economic crisis, Keith Mitchell and the NNP want to push constitutional reform down the people’s throat.

The process is designed to give more power to some selected individuals, with the major items being pushed by the NNP being Grenada becoming a member of the CCJ and a republic with an Executive President and Prime Minister.

President of the Senate, Hon Lawrence Joseph allegedly made this abundantly clear at the various consultations. The plan has been well thought out, only to be executed.

Following the passage of hurricane Ivan the NDC proposed a government of national unity to facilitate a speedy recovery. PM Mitchell scoffed at the idea saying, “Two male rats can’t live in the same hole.”

Allegations of a coup surfaced, with the Prime Minister allegedly seeking military assistance from Trinidad and Tobago.

The favourite quote “two boar rats can’t live in the same hole” is more relevant in the current political dispensation. The major difference is that the two boar rats, Keith Mitchell and Peter David, are in the same hole.

With the two boar rats in the same hole the rush to constitutional reform and in particular to declare Grenada a republic is to ensure that there is “joint leadership” as a consequence of the power sharing arrangement they made prior to the February 19 general elections.

The issue of “joint leadership” destroyed the popular people’s revolution after the assassination of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. Such a crazy idea in a small country is political madness.

Bernard Coard, allegedly in his quest for political power, decided to change the rules of the Central Committee. The end result was the death of Bishop and some cabinet colleagues, an invasion by US marines and the incarceration of Coard/RMC.

This new conspiracy, taking the form of constitutional reform, has allegedly as one of its hidden agendas the issue of joint leadership. The proposed republic in the constitutional review process will have an Executive President and a Prime Minister. Both positions with their distinct roles and responsibilities.

Former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has declared that he won’t be seeking elected office. PM Mitchell has been flip-flopping and dangling on his own political future plans. This is an indication that he still has ambitions to lead in some capacity, which may be President-for-life in the new republic.

While Keith contemplates sitting on a throne for life, Peter David is fantasizing and salivating about his many foreign trips as Prime Minister if the joint leadership plans materialises.

The philosophical and personality differences that existed between Bishop and Coard ensured that the joint leadership experiment failed. Time will tell what the outcome will be if this latest attempt at joint leadership succeeds.

Peter David is a radical socialist, Keith is rightist/leftist/socialist/capitalist/ liberal/conservative, depending on which side of the political spectrum you are looking at.

What is certain is that Peter David isn’t a Grace Duncan, Raphael Fletcher, Michael Baptiste or Yolande Horsford. He allegedly entered into the hole with his five-star general Chester Humphrey and scores of lieutenants.

Keith Mitchell has his work cut out. The only way out of this mangled hole is through constitutional reform and the birth of the Republic of  Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique with “joint leadership”. This arrangement is a win-win for himself and Peter David.

Maintaining the current Westminster parliamentary democracy with only a Prime Minister as the leader of government may create a fatal political situation among the “boar rats”. Two boar rats just can’t live in the same hole even when they sign a truce and a marriage certificate of political convenience.

Nazim Burke and the NDC are absolutely right not to support the proposed constitutional reform in the present form. Doing so would amount to political suicide. The six additional items proposed, if not taken into serious consideration, will result in a vigorous NO campaign against any constitutional reform.

Constitutional reforms promote and enhance the nation’s democracy, not create the conditions for dictatorship and the abuse of power. Constitutional reform is necessary. The issue is how as a country we accomplish this very serious task that will serve the long-term interest of all stakeholders in an equitable manner.

The approach of the NNP administration doesn’t take the interest of the country/people at heart, but instead the political interest of the party and its cronies.

The governance agenda of the NNP for the past 18 months has been one of constitutional violations over and over. The electronics crimes bill, the itizen by investment bill and a host of other bills rushed through the rubber stamp parliament are all aimed at stifling democracy.

The modus operandi of Keith Mitchell and the NNP isn’t conducive for constitutional reform.

The manner in which the casino gambling bill was rushed through the lower house through all its stages is a manifestation that dictatorship is alive and well in Grenada.

It is one thing to want constitutional reform, but another when a dictatorial leader is manipulating the process. Grenada needs leaders with a fresh attitude towards the governance of the country. Leaders that are creative and would work to promote unity and genuine democracy.

Politics isn’t for the faint hearted or cowards. The NDC should concentrate on its rebuilding process to ensure the sustainability and viability of the organisation and at the same time take the battle to the NNP.

Thousands of Grenadians are looking for some more political aggression from Nazim Burke and the NDC.

Grenada’s democracy can only be strengthened when there are two or more strong political organisations from which the electorate can chose.

The best option for the country and its people would be to hold the referendum for constitutional reform and the national elections simultaneously.

All stakeholders, including the political parties, would have had the opportunity to consult with their constituents, from which a list that represents the interest of everyone can be generated.

In conclusion, any constitutional reform should have the interest of the country and its people as its main focus. It should take the country and its people to a new level. One whereby the fundamental rights and freedoms of every citizen are respected. A complete paradigm shift.

There should be a complete change of the status quo. Anything short of that would be an exercise in futility and runs the risk of spitting the country even further as evident in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

I am certain that is not the legacy Prime Minister Mitchell wants to be associated with.

No to joint leadership! No to a one party state! No to the referendum. Forward ever! Backward never!

Grenadian Class