Is the existence and functioning of the CCJ at risk?

by J. K. Roberts

The results of the 6 November 2018 referenda in Antigua & Barbuda and in Grenada seem to be bringing to light the status and the resolve of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), as well as the reasons for the desperate priority, rush and urgency which typified the campaign for taking Grenada in a second constitutional referendum on making the CCJ the final court of appeal for civil and criminal matters.

The desperation, but regrettably without any goodwill to the local people for going to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ has also been proven with the evidence of an apparent ‘secret’ arrangement between the governments of Antigua & Barbuda and Grenada to hold the referenda on the same day.

Within days of the referenda, Grenadian constitutional expert, Dr. Francis Alexis, who was apparently the consultant on the referendum for both countries, was led to give indication of such an agreement; view a broadcast panel presentation via https://www.facebook.com/timetofacethefactsshow/videos/308862193041047/.

The details, including on the expediency and relevance and negative repercussions, of the intense collaboration and mutual commitment between the two governments could not be explained, or could not be disclosed.

However, this secrecy and strategy for the referenda took precedence over the regard, ignorance, ill-preparedness and wishes of the Grenadians on this sovereign undertaking, as well as at the expense of Grenada.

Whilst there are tremendous expressions of disappointment from various circles on the failure of the referenda in Antigua & Barbuda and Grenada, the statement by the secretariat of the CCJ, “CCJ Remains Committed To the Region”, has been most disappointing in itself and it brings to mind many of the constructive analyses forwarded about the CCJ.

An excerpt of the press release reads: “The CCJ will still be serving both Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda. The CCJ President (‘Hon. Mr. Justice Adrian Saunders’) emphasised that, “these results will not, of course, deter us from serving with distinction those nations that currently send their final appeals to us. As well, the Court will also continue to process and hear applications from all CARICOM States, and from CARICOM itself, in our Original Jurisdiction, and our justice reform work in the region will also continue”.

What interpretation or judgement, and substance must be made of such statement? Is the statement conveying a reassurance, or a fatigue, or an indictment of the CCJ, and why? Is there really an option or another expectation of the CCJ, other than “serving with distinction”?

Furthermore, considering the facts about the Government of Canada largely funded 1st April 2014 JURIST Project (http://www.juristproject.org/about/history), it appears to be disingenuous in the manner by which Justice Saunders makes reference to the project.

What is the rationale for such questionable remarks from the CCJ’s president? Was there a warning by the CCJ to both Grenada and Antigua & Barbuda in relation to the outcome of the referendum in each of those countries?

Isn’t the CCJ expected to perform within the ambit of its role and commitment as stipulated in the CCJ Agreement? Is the processing and hearing of applications in its original jurisdiction depending on whether or not the contracting party, or the government of the particular CARICOM state, has acceded to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the CCJ; and thus, this explains why Grenada never had a case in the CCJ’s original jurisdiction before 25 September 2018, on the verge of the 6 November 2018 referendum?

Is there now a public declaration of a change of mind, or a suspension, or an amnesty, to the apparent private warning to Grenada on losing some benefit, prestige and privilege of the CCJ?

The commentary “Identity and dignity lost with the CCJ” by Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States of America (USA) and the Organisation of American States (OAS), Sir Ronald Sanders, confirms the gross disrespect shown to the people of the Caribbean, with political rhetoric and intellectual pomposity.

Disappointingly, whilst Sanders gives his account for the failures of the CCJ referenda in terms of fearful, deceitful, misleading and willfully inaccurate arguments by the opponents in Antigua & Barbuda and Grenada, he is apathetic and oblivious to the “irrelevant, extraneous issues and lies” that exists in the Constitution of Grenada (Caribbean Court of Justice) (Renaming the Supreme Court)(Amendment) Bill 2018; https://www.grenadabroadcast.com/wp-content/…/2018/…/CCJ-AMENDMENT-BILL.

It is instructive but with amazement that like some political scientists and other institutional persons, Sanders took liberty by himself on “Judging the Caribbean Court of Justice” as “A Court for the people”, but he disparages the people and their political leadership for exercising their constitutional rights and powers about the CCJ’s court and this should indeed discredit those persons.

Why is it that some of the influential proponents of the CCJ prefer to ignore the wisdom and value of the people, as the people are being cautious and inquiring on far-reaching and historic sovereign issues, especially regarding constitutional justice?

Shouldn’t the people consider and be informed on all related factors on the CCJ, including the signals sent by Barbados former prime minister, Freundel Stuart, in May 2018, that his island would be withdrawn from the CCJ, by him describing some CCJ judges as “politicians wearing robes”, and by the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), Dame Janice Pereria, in September 2016, that “attempts at judicial interference are on the rise”, and alerting that “these attempts emanate from places and persons and by methods which you would least expect”?

Shouldn’t the people judge the perceived vested interest, conflict of interest, and self-serving interest of the CCJ’s officials by their active public participation in the referenda’s vote-yes campaigns?

Indeed, the reactions from the results of the referenda, especially by the officials and proponents of the CCJ, seem to highlight, or seem to expose that the ‘existence and functioning’ of the CCJ is being threatened.

This must not be taken in isolation to the concerns and skepticisms about the effectiveness of CARICOM to the extent of promoting the idea of exiting from this parent body, as exemplified by Jamaica and citing the Report of the Commission to review Jamaica’s relations within CARICOM and CARIFORM Frameworks (https://japarliament.gov.jm/…/reports/…reports/1864-report-of-the-commission-to-revi…).

A success with the referenda would have boosted the representation and reputation of the CCJ and CARICOM; however, the failure of the badly conducted, terribly misjudged and anti-people referenda brought a severe shock and rude-awakening to the CCJ and all its affairs.

Moreover, there seems to be some pertinent issues, troubling problems, and/or some imminent developments, which threatens the mission and ambition of the CCJ and for now, these should be kept from the general public.

For example, is it about denying the people knowledge on the availability of other democratically-accepted universal courts, or on the financial sustainability of the CCJ?

Thus, the main agenda and the manipulative efforts by the CCJ were first to entrap the people within its control, at a point of no return, and then maybe to unleash the reality about the conditions and motives of the CCJ.

It is relevant to consider the intent to have the expenses of the CCJ met by the interest of the one hundred million USA dollars contributed in its Trust Fund since January 2004 to consider that the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, remarked at the launch of the campaign for Grenada’s CCJ referendum in August 2018, that there would be a time to replenish the fund, even if for capital expenses (https://www.facebook.com/sear/to /?q=launch%20of%20ccj%20referendum%20campaign%20by%20barbados%20prime%20minister);  to consider the decline of the fund to eighty-five million dollars during thirteen years (https://antiguanewsroom.com/news/featured/ccj-trust-fund-in-decline-despite-promise-of-lasting-into-perpetuity/); and to consider the impression that there is a great chance for the calling on the heads of governments to refill and to boost the fund’s capacity, but it would be awkward to do so without having more, or all, of the CARICOM countries accept the CCJ in its appellate court.

In fact, Sir Ronald’s commentary also seems to be giving credence to the apprehension on the contemplation for calling on the taxpayers to replenish the Trust Fund, by he stating that Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada would pay only 2.11 percent each in that respect.

Review the previously internet–circulated articles, “Grenada Constitution Reform: The CCJ Convicts Itself” and “Grenada Constitution Reform: The CCJ Issue”, which also makes reference to the position of former CCJ judge Rolston Nelson; Senior CCJ judge calls for more funds for the court – Stabroek News (https://www.stabroeknews.com › Opinion ›Letters to the Editor and CCJ surpasses initial US$100m investment – Trinidad Guardian (www.guardian.co.tt/article-6.2.377575.e9e3578d35).

Moreover, were the possibly successful outcomes of the referenda in Antigua & Barbuda and Grenada required to foster, or to be an incentive, for the revolutionising or evolving of the operations and momentum of the CCJ, by the invoking of amendments and new proposals to the CCJ Agreement?

Particularly; reference may have been also made for consideration and action, to the 2014 professional paper presented on the CCJ: A Critique of the Caribbean Court of Justice – UWI St. Augustine (https://sta.uwi.edu/salises/workshop/papers/vjordan.pdf). In part the paper expresses, “The current structure of the CCJ suggests that the designers lacked the foresight to see that Haiti and Suriname would become full members of CARICOM and also foresee the possibility that in the distant future Venezuela may also become a member of CARICOM.

As these events come to pass, the CCJ as it is currently structured will be shown to be obsolete. As currently structured, the court is designed for a purely Anglophone CARICOM, making provisions for all the peculiarities of the Anglophone region.

Fundamentally, the CCJ is incongruous with the legal systems of Suriname and Haiti” … “There is little doubt that the CCJ as it is requires some amendment if it is to be saved.”

With the failure of the referenda, ‘frankness and integrity’ must now be the mantra and principle of CCJ in meeting the people.

Duped and out-foxed!!!

The old saying, “a hurried bird never builds a good nest” is the best way to describe the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by those representatives of public sector employees and the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government in the dead of the night just before the March 13 general election.

THE NEW TODAY has often questioned the motives of both sides to rush into signing the MOU when all the dots, T’s and I’s were not properly put in place as a full-proof document for the next phase of the discussions to hammer out a final deal on pension and gratuity.

The government is now relying on the fact that the 25% proposal was not in the MOU as its comfort zone in trying to win public sympathy in the current situation following industrial action taken by both the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) and the Public Workers Union (PWU).

The strike action especially by teachers is having an effect on hundreds of working parents who have to make alternative arrangements for their children who are forced to remain home in the current situation.

Government is fully aware that TAWU has not taken any serious action yet in the impasse as this is the union that can bring the country to a virtual standstill by ordering its membership to engage in “Solidarity Strikes” at the airport, seaport and other key areas like electricity and water.

This newspaper holds the view that Prime Minister Mitchell and the likes of Peter David and Chester Humphrey were anxious to see an agreement signed with the unions prior to the elections because the sole objective was to get re-elected into office and to keep the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) under the leadership of Nazim Burke in the political wilderness for another five years.

The government is not foolish but tricky and engaged in tomfoolery as it knew beforehand that a 25% deal on pension is impossible given the Fiscal Responsibility agreement signed on the insistence of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).

It is clear that the 25% that was put before the union in a separate document by head of the Government Negotiating Team (GNT), Cabinet Secretary, Beryl Isaac was a carrot that was only dangled in the faces of those union leaders to get them to sign the MOU as quickly as possible before the March 13 polling day.

It is now emerging that the leadership of the government was assuring the trade union leaders that money was no longer an issue in paying the pension and gratuity as Grenada now had access to plenty money because oil and gas were found by the Russians.

Eight months after the unions were clearly duped and out-foxed by government on the MOU. Where is this money from oil and gas?

It is absurd, immoral and totally wrong for any government to use the national resources of the country especially oil and gas as a bargaining chip with one sector of the country in order to stay in power since Grenada belongs to all of us and not solely NNP which is interested in a one-party state set-up on the island.

The resources of Grenada should not be allowed to be used in such a vulgar manner and selfishly traded by the NNP government of PM Mitchell and Energy Minister Gregory Bowen as some kind of an early Saturday morning sale in a saltfish shop.

Minister Gregory Bowen did not even tell Grenadians about the current status of their oil and gas business but choose the platform of the NNP annual convention to announce that the Russians do not have money and were now going to the Chinese for cash to follow through on the oil and gas exploration.

The union leadership should have been fully aware that they were entering into negotiations with a political directorate that understands power and would resort to any and every means possible to win at the polls.

And the NNP now backed by the “Project Grenada” team of Peter David, Chester Humphrey and the others cannot be taken lightly when it comes to hatching under the table plots and schemes to hoodwink the nation including trade union leaders to achieve their objectives.

The unions should be mindful of the total silence now of the Labour Minister, Peter David in the current impasse. Why?

This 25% pension and gratuity issue should also be seen in the context of the emerging evidence that the state-owned National Insurance Scheme (NIS) is not financially sound these days and is believed to be paying out more in benefits to the Working Class than it is getting in contributions.

The last report from the Actuary on the NIS should be put on the table as part of the discussions on the way forward between government and the unions on the pension and gratuity issue.

The unions would be doing a disservice to their membership if they do not get all the pertinent information on the current standing of NIS and bring it to the attention of the workers since that will have serious implications for retiring workers in the years ahead.

This is all the more important as the same government is trying to get NIS to become part of the National Health Insurance Scheme which could further deplete its financial resources.

This newspaper is convinced that the government leaders out foxed the union leaders on the MOU and were deliberate in duping them just to win the elections.

The NNP regime used a similar ploy that was played out against late Prime Minister Sir Eric Matthew Gairy on the eve of the December 1984 general elections when an airline ticket surfaced showing that Gairy had purchased a ticket to fly out of the country before the election out of fear.

The union leaders should also be cognisant of the role now being played by one of their former colleagues who is working with government to undermine their cause.

THE NEW TODAY has information that cannot be disputed of that individual calling certain persons in the media to try and influence them on what to put out to the public and in what form and manner on the current impasse between government and the unions.

The Chester Humphrey/Peter David alliance with Prime Minister Mitchell gives truth to the saying that in politics there are no permanent friends nor enemies.

Identity and dignity lost with the CCJ

The referenda, held individually in Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada, on replacing the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on November 6, were lost for the same reason that Brexit succeeded in the United Kingdom.

The governing political parties in Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada, like the conservative party of then British Prime Minister David Cameron, took a hands-off approach to the referenda.

In Antigua and Barbuda, apart from the Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, the leadership of the governing party played little or no role in educating its electorate about the issue on which they were required to vote. The result was not only a lack of knowledge, but also a lack of popular interest.

Not surprisingly, therefore, only at the voting centres in Gaston Browne’s constituency, was the count in favour of the CCJ as high as 63%.

This absence of direct involvement by the political leadership of the governing parties created a vacuum readily filled by those who opposed a constitutional change that would make the CCJ the final court of appeal for civil and criminal matters. The opponents played upon the lack of knowledge by creating fears.

As in Britain, where just over 50% of those who opted to leave the European Union voted on irrelevant, extraneous issues and lies, the same occurred in Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada.

The arguments offered were many. They were deceitful in some cases, and misleading and willfully inaccurate in others. The saying comes to mind that “a lie is not another side of the story; it is just a lie”.

The worst of the statements was an attack on the integrity of the Court, for which there is no basis. Others included claims that the politicians appoint the judges (the judges are appointed by an independent Regional Legal Services Commission); the judges are beholden to the politicians who pay them (the cost of the Court is met from the proceeds of a Trust Fund established in 2005 and independently managed); the judges are cronies of the politicians in government (the CCJ decisions have been more against governments than for them); replenishing the Trust Fund after 13 years will cripple government’s finances (Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada would pay only 2.11% each).

The ruling political parties in both Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada appeared to have fallen prey to the notion that the referendum should be a matter of free choice, left to “the individual conscience” of the voter. They seemed to have forgotten that the worst condition for making a choice or a decision is one in which the facts are not well
known and understood.

It was the responsibility of the political leaders of all parties (opposition and government) to educate the electorate of their nations. They didn’t. While the governments didn’t engage in the kind of necessary political campaigning and groundwork, including house-to-house visits offering explanations and answering questions, opposition elements were creating fears and spreading them.

The objective was to give the governing party a bloody nose; a reality about which the hierarchy of the governing parties appeared oblivious.

Little wonder then that the voter turn-out in both countries was shamefully small, and that the larger number of votes cast was by those who had been made to fear the CCJ.

The political leaders seem to have forgotten that the referendum, which was the beginning of all referenda in the Caribbean, failed in 1962 precisely because of the power of fear and lies, and the wrongful belief that campaigning for a cause was not necessary because its rightness was strong enough.

That referendum, of course, was the Jamaica referendum on the West Indian Federation. Alexander Bustamante campaigned vigorously and won on the created fears that Jamaica would be over-run by the “small islanders” (as it turns out, it is the small islands that have witnessed an influx of Jamaicans), and Jamaican taxpayers would have to pay to keep the other islands alive (history has proved differently). Norman Manley did not campaign effectively and lost because of his belief in the rightness of the Federation and saw little need to counter the fears generated by Bustamante.

In each succeeding referendum, wherever held in the Caribbean, the pattern has been the same. Governing parties have neglected the importance of direct political engagement to educate and inform their electorates and to dispel fears manufactured by opposing political parties and other groups with a vested interest.

Just as the 1962 Jamaica referendum determined the Caribbean experience, crumbling the region into small states – each unable to command economic and political attention in a world dominated by the large and powerful – so too have the referenda in Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada injured the region.

What has been injured most is pride and respect for national and Caribbean identity, dignity and self-respect. In Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada, the electorate was misled into believing that by rejecting their own Caribbean court in favour of a court in Britain, they somehow enhanced their own standing.

The worst contributors to this damage to the dignity and identity – the very being of the Caribbean persona – are the political leaders of the opposition parties who either actively told their supporters to vote against the CCJ or pretended to be sitting on the sidelines. They know better. But, for them, the quest for political advantage trumped principle of national honour.

Now it looks like the eight sovereign states of the Caribbean – and their “independent” peoples – will have to wait for the British Privy Council to tell them to go (something that has already been forewarned by Privy Councillors). And what an ignominious way that will be to scurry to the CCJ.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the OAS. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and at Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are his own)

Vincentian suspected of murder nabbed in Grenada

Police in Grenada have handed over to their counterparts in neighbouring St. Vincent & The Grenadines a man who was wanted there for murder.

“Joel Gary Barker, a national of St Vincent and the Grenadines, was captured during an operation conducted by officers attached to the Drug Squad of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) in the Telescope area of St. Andrew.

Vincentian Joel Gary Barker – nabbed in Grenada

Barker was charged by local police with possession of a controlled drug, illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition and illegally entering the state.

However, a police spokesman said that despite the charges, the suspect will be deported “because he is wanted for a very serious crime”.

“We have since learned that he is a wanted man in his homeland and we will be making the necessary arrangements to have him return,” the police reported.

The Drug Squad reportedly seized thousands of pounds of marijuana on the Telescope beach.

On Wednesday, he appeared before a magistrate in Grenada who granted a removal order.

Barker was removed from Grenada to St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday.

Last Wednesday, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ police chief, Colin John told journalists in Kingstown that Barker had been nabbed in Grenada.

John said: “On the weekend, we received information that the suspect was apprehended in Grenada. We are making efforts to get him from Grenada. I spoke to the Commissioner of Police in Grenada, so we are making efforts to get him back to St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.

Vincentian police had issued a wanted bulletin for Barker, who was wanted in connection with the murder of Kareem Bowens, 23.

It’s reported that Barker, also known as “Bodown” and “Platinum”, is wanted in connection with the murder of Bowens, 23, who died at the Union Island Hospital – on Union Island in St Vincent and the Grenadines, on October 3 after receiving a single gunshot wound to his chest.

The incident occurred near a shop on the southern Grenadine island.

Frustration

Mt Craven/Mt Rodney has suffered great losses of beach in the past year. It has been argued that some of this was due to the Breakwater project while others argue that this is just the cycle of what happens on the beaches in Sauteurs.

The facts of the matter are that approximately seventy trees and around 20 ft of beach were lost on Mt Craven beach last year. This was well documented last year November. The trees on both Mt Rodney and Copeland beach are now showing their roots due to beach erosion and yet sand mining abounds here in Sauteurs.

A truck has been seen every morning since Monday 29th October driving away loaded with at least 30 bags of sand. When the team of six people, who were filling the bags were challenged (in relation to sand mining), their response was that they were maintaining the gully, it was not their fault that the beach was being eroded, as it was due to Ice caps melting so blame people overseas.

Further discussion ensued when it was pointed out to the group that we in Grenada have to play our part in mitigating against climate change and its impact, the response from some of the members was they had been living nearby for over 50 years and nothing drastic had happened in that time.

The issue was pursued by a phone call to the Road Office in Sauteurs which responded saying categorically that they do not give anyone permission to take sand from the beaches and that the matter should be reported to the police.

The response from the police when they were subsequently contacted is that they thought that people requested permission from the Road Office which meant that there would not be any point in questioning the sand miners.

In frustration, this person went to speak to the Parliamentary Representative for St Patrick West, the Honourable Mr Boatswain. Once again, reassurance was given that sand mining is not allowed on the beaches in St Patrick and that Gravel and Concrete is the only agency allowed to avail themselves of the commodity as this state body has permission from the Ministry.

Mr Boatswain asked his staff to investigate the matter immediately and advised that the police should be informed if this happened again.

The following morning, a different truck was sighted loading bags full of sand from the gully with different personnel to the other mornings. The police were contacted twice and given a description of the truck, however they were not sighted and the truck left.

There have been reassurances from the police personnel that the truck was met by the police officers.

This sequence of events poses several questions: was the initial group of people, they were there for 7/8 mornings, one of the teams hired recently to be Environmental maintenance teams? If so, is this really what their remit is, SAND MINING?

If we continue to allow the destruction of our beaches how can we, in all honesty, be calling ourselves the champions of climate change mitigation in the Caribbean?

Furthermore, how can we be asking, as the Prime Minister was heard to do this week, for money from the Green Climate Fund, saying that we are committed to protecting our environment. If we are not able to challenge simple environmental issues happening under our very noses, like sand mining, how can we be trusted with the bigger issues such as ensuring that the Coastal Zone Management Plan produced with the assistance of GIZ is adhered to?

Is it that we are only paying lip service to the environment, when in fact at this point in time, it should be a cross cutting issue in relation to all that happens in Grenada?

We seem to continue to pay consultants to produce policies, plans and other various documents year in, year out: Grenada appears extremely forward thinking on paper; sadly we do not seem to be able to convert these tomes into reality.

Close Eye Watcher

CCJ waits while Grenadians wail

By Dr. Francis Alexis

That Grenada at the referendum on 6 Nov 2018 answered negatively the question whether CCJ should be its final appellate court is the responsibility of both the ruling New National Party (NNP) and the opposing National Democratic Congress (NDC). That, too, is in sorry contrast to the profound political will of the Prime Minister, Dr The Rt Hon Keith Mitchell, in popping the question again, following a negative answer in 2016.

To be replayed is that television programme broadcast nationwide on 22 Oct 2018 by Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN), ‘Beyond the Headlines’, hosted by Lew Smith; with three guests. One was Dr Sir Lawrence Joseph; the AG, and as such a Cabinet Member, Chair of the CCJ Advisory Committee; sole negotiator for NNP in talks with NDC for a bi-partisan approach to the referendum (‘the talks’). Another was Claudette Joseph from NDC, a member of the NDC team at the talks. I was the third panellist.

Once the programme got going, NNP and NDC sought to blame the other side for the breakdown of the talks, mainly regarding NDC calls for certain reforms of the election laws.

I as a panellist made it plain that I was not impressed by NNP and NDC blaming one another. I expressly refused to take sides in that unseemly squabble. I urged that there be done whatever was appropriate, within reason, for NNP and NDC to reach an accord to guarantee the country bi-partisanship on the referendum. Otherwise, I warned, voting at the referendum would be along party political lines, jeopardising approval.

But NNP and NDC dug in on their positions, on the programme and across the country, with the vain pride that produces fall.

At the bottom of that valley of divide stood stagnant waters in breeding ground fit for what followed: some Sir Lawrence publicly protested to be ‘blatant lies’. Others bore hallmarks of disinformation, misinformation and negative propaganda.

Even when NNP wins all fifteen seats in Parliament in a general election it never gets sixty per cent of the votes cast. Obviously, then, Grenada would not get sixty-six point seven percent, two-thirds, of the votes validly cast on the referendum needed to approve CCJ when NNP and NDC were throwing grenades at each other.

The imperative necessity for NNP and NDC to reach an accommodation for CCJ was heightened by the unhealthy industrial relations climate deteriorating markedly in the country since doctors and nurses collectively were publicly characterised negatively by the Prime Minister.

On 29 Oct 2018, TUC President Senator Andre Lewis publicly stated that TUC was offering to mediate in brokering a deal between all concerned to give the referendum a chance to succeed. Neither TUC nor anyone else seeing virtue in that TUC offer was afforded a hearing on this.

Next, GUT announced that teachers, protesting whatever, would not be working the day before and the day after the referendum, which indeed happened. The night before the referendum union leaders were on ‘Beyond the Headlines’, spitting fire and brimstone on Government for industrial relation grouses; all of which they blamed on the Government.

In that divisive and poisoned environment, approval at the referendum required either a miracle or supremely genius mobilisation feats by yes-leaders; neither was forthcoming.

Wendy Edmund, who, as a member of the Committee, spoke truth firmly though discreetly, had the consolation of seeing her home parish Carriacou and Petit Martinique weigh in with 897 yes votes against 593 no votes, not two-thirds but not unimpressively. Heroic efforts by others in and around the Committee, chiefly Ruggles Ferguson, but also Robert Branch, Michelle Steele, Lillian Sylvester, Sheldon Scott and Hamlet Mark, valiant as they were, could only be but candles in the wind.

The outcome is not a rejection of CCJ. It is a vote telling leaders they are responsible for what follows when they fail to elevate noble ideals above petty political partisan squabbling. Such failure is more likely when leaders, in the Government and Opposition, do not discern who among their closest advisers are dreaming egotists and who are objective realists.
Now both parties are wailing there are no winners from the referendum. That is so only because both NNP and NDC squandered a unique opportunity to provide Grenada with virtuous nationalistic and patriotic leadership to ensure approval for CCJ. That would have been a glorious legacy for both sides.

Instead, CCJ must wait while, for lack of access to final appellate justice, Grenadians wail.

St. Mark resident on Child Pornography charge

A 26 year old resident of Samaritan, St. Mark is currently before the court after he was charged with Child Pornography in breaching section 12 subsection 2 (3) of the Electronic Crimes Act.

The suspect – Sheldon Alexander, a construction worker by profession, appeared at the Gouyave Magistrate’s Court on Monday before Magistrate Teddy St Louis after he was charged for unlawfully inducing an underage male to an online relationship for a sexual explicit act.

Alexander was placed on $20,000 bail but is currently held on remand at her Majesty’s Prison as no one showed up to sign bail for him.

The Act states that a person shall not knowingly and without lawful justification or excuse cultivate, entice or induce children to an online relationship with another child or an adult for sexually explicit act or in a manner that may offend a reasonable adult on the electronic system.

THE NEW TODAY understands that Alexander is notorious for such behaviour and many complaints were raised after the charge laid against him became public knowledge.

One facebook member wrote: “He kept calling and saying he just wanna talk, all hour. He was also doing that to a few people I know. I had to block him on messenger.”

Another member wrote: “He has been targeting a lot of women, just harassing me every minute, until I blocked him.”

One other person commented: “Served him right, calling my phone all odd hours.”

The controversial agreement between government and public sector unions and organisations:

MEMORANDUM OF
UNDERSTANDING
BETWEEN
THE
GOVERNMENT OF GRENADA
AND
THE GRENADA TECHNICAL AND ALLIED WORKERS’ UNION
GRENADA UNION OF TEACHERS
ROYAL GRENADA POLICE FORCE GAZETTED
OFFICERS’ ASSOCIATION
ROYAL GRENADA POLICE FORCE WELFARE
ASSOCIATION AND
HER MAJESTY’S PRISON
OFFICERS WELFARE
ASSOCIATION
ON THE RESTORATION AND REFORM OF PENSION FOR
PUBLIC OFFICERS OF THE GRENADA PUBLIC SERVICE AND
MEMBERS OF THE DISCIPLINED FORCES OF GRENADA

This Agreement is made this 18th day of February 2018, BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF GRENADA of the one part and THE PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS AND STAFF ASSOCIATIONS ofthe other part (hereinafter referred to as “the Parties”).

This Memorandum of Understanding outlines the guiding principles which shall govern the restoration and reform of Pension to Public Officers of the Grenada Public Service and Members of the Disciplined Forces of Grenada.

THE AGREEMENT
The Parties agree to restoration and a phased approach to reform for qualifying officers/employees. Below details the respective phases and describes the categories of officers/employees to be covered as well as the associated guiding principles for each phase.

PHASE ONE (1)
The category of officers covered under this phase are Public Officers and Members of the Disciplined Forces who have been/are appointed on a definitive basis to Established posts by the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) or the Commissioner of Police from and including April 4, 1983 to December 31, 2018 and who meet the criteria established through this process.

PHASE ONE (1) – PRINCIPLES

The guiding principles for this phase are as follows:

1. Pension shall be afforded to all eligible officers who have been appointed on a definitive basis (Permanent) by the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC) or the Commissioner of Police as the case may be from and including 4th April 83.

2. Pensionable Benefits (Pension and Gratuity) for Public Officers and Members of the Disciplined Forces mentioned above shall comprise both Government of Grenada and National Insurance Scheme Benefits.

3· All years of qualifying service up to the last date of employment shall count towards an officer’s pensionable benefits.

4. The minimum Pension Replacement Rate for eligible Officers including all Members of the Disciplined Forces, after completing 26.666 years of service shall be 70%. For service under 26.666 years, pensionable benefits for eligible officers shall be applied on a prorated basis.

On the determination of the overall cost, the Parties agree to negotiate a payment arrangement for the retroactive amount that is based on affordability. The agreement reached shall be catered for in the annual targeted expenditure and based on cash flow. Where the Government foresees a challenge to meet the annual payment, the Parties will meet during the budget consultative process to revise the targeted amount.

It is further agreed that the Parties will explore varying options to reach a mutual settlement with respect to the retroactive cost.

In addition, given that all years of qualifying service worked with the Government of Grenada shall be counted in the calculation of pension, any rate above the minimum Pension Replacement Rate (70%) shall be subject to Government’s ability to meet this additional expenditure.

5. All Parties agree to negotiate and collaborate for the operationalization of the Pension Scheme to be developed, consulted upon and approved by June 30, 2018.

6. The implementation date of the Pension Scheme shall be subject to discussions with the Unions and Associations.

7. The implementation of Phase One (1) shall not be dependent on the finalization/ settlement of Phase Two (2).

PHASE TWO (2)
This phase covers two categories of Public Officers/employees and Members of the Disciplined Forces as detailed below:

1. Public Officers and Members of the Disciplined Forces who will commence employment with Government with effect from January 1,2019.

2. Employees under the Un- Established category.

PHASE 1WO (2) – PRINCIPLES
1. The Parties commit to the design of a contributory Pension Scheme for qualifying Public Officers and Members of the Disciplined Forces in Established posts who will commence employment from January 1, 2019.

The details of which would have to be developed and mutually agreed upon by both Parties.

2. As it pertains to employees under the Un-Established category, both Parties agree to review the existing regime/s as applicable and to design a scheme that will afford terminal benefits to these officers and employees.

3. The Parties also agree to give focused attention to these categories of officers and employees.

4. The start date of the new Schemes shall be based on the availability of finances to fund the scheme and will be subject to discussions with the Unions and Associations.
AS WITNESS the hands of the Parties hereafter or their duly authorized agents the day and year first written.

AGREED AND SIGNED TO THIS 18th DAY OF FEBRUARY IN THE YEAR TWO THOUSAND AND EIGHTEEN.

SIGNED FORAND ON BEHALF OF THE GOVERNMENT OF GRENADA
BERYL ISAAC
Secretary to the Cabinet/ Chairman
Government Pension Engagement Committee

ANNABRIZAN
Permanent Secretary,
Department of Public Administration/ Member
Government Pension Engagement Committee

SIGNED FOR AND ON BEHALF OF THE PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS
SEN. THE HON. M. ANDRE LEWIS
President General

Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union
LYDON LEWIS
President General
Grenada Union of Teachers

JESSMON PRINCE ACP
Royal Grenada Police Force Gazetted

Officers’ Association
M. SIMON DOUGLAS
INSP. #607
Royal Grenada Police Force Welfare Association

FAITHOUS JAMES
Her Majesty’s Prisons Officers Welfare Association

WITNESSED BY:
CYRUS GRIFFITH LABOUR COMMISSIONER

PM Mitchell planning to cut back on sale of alcohol to teenagers

The government of Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell is planning to cut back on the sale of alcohol to teenagers in Grenada before he leaves political office.

The prime minister wants to ban the sale of alcohol to young people, especially young people of school age.

Dr. Mitchell has said there is an alarming increase in alcohol consumption among the country’s youths, and more has to be done to protect them from a lifetime of addiction and early death.

“The growing recognition that alcohol consumption is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease means that alcohol requires greater attention by the public health community that it is receiving at present. We know that doing nothing doesn’t work,” he said.

The Grenadian leader believes that an appropriate policy response is needed to address the health and social problems associated with use of and dependence on alcohol in Grenada.

“The growing awareness of alcohol consumption is one of the major risk factors to public health; my government would search for policies that will protect and promote our youths health and prevent harm and address the social problems associated with the use of alcohol,” Dr. Mitchell said, noting, “The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are about two billion people worldwide consuming alcoholic beverages and 76.3 million with diagnosed alcoholic use disorders.”

PM Mitchell believes that the increase in alcohol consumption among Grenadian youths has never received any attention from former governments and from the population in general.
“Nothing has been done to address the increasing use of alcohol among our youths, its associated burden and the new challenges that derive from the growing influence of the alcohol industry in Grenada,” he said.

According to the WHO, Grenada tops regional alcohol consumption in the Americas, with an average consumption of 12.5 litres of pure alcohol per person per year.

“We are proposing and enacting new legislation into law to protect our youths. We intend to do something about alcohol negative role in our society once and for all and reduce its harmful use.

“The population has a drinking problem, and there is an expected increase in the number of potential new alcohol consumers, especially young people and women.

“I have a duty to protect the population in general, and women and children in particular from alcohol-related harms. We must address the consequences of excessive alcohol here at home.

Nevertheless, there exists a general perception among some in Grenada that there are more urgent problems that need to be addressed than the use of harmful use of alcohol.
Further, this good intention will require innovative leadership from the Mitchell-led government and from international agencies charged with protecting health, children’s rights and development.

However, without intervention, Grenada is likely to face a future involving an ever-increasing burden of death and disability associated with alcohol use.

NDC “saddened” over referendum results

Interim Political Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Joseph Andall and NDC’s Caretaker for the town of the St. George, Claudette Joseph have both expressed disappointment over the failure of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to get the nod over the British-based Privy Council in last Tuesday’s referendum.

NDC Caretaker for the Town of St. George, Claudette Joseph and Interim Political Leader, Joseph Andall at press conference

The Vote Yes platform that was being promoted by the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell polled 9846 votes as opposed to the “Vote No” campaign, supported by Congress which collected 12, 133 votes.

Speaking to reporters at the party’s new headquarters at Mt Gay, St. George last Thursday, both Andall and Joseph said that theyfelt “saddened” over what Andall described as a “missed opportunity” to have the CCJ become the final appellate court for Grenada.

“The NDC wishes to reiterate that we continue to support the Caribbean Court of Justice both in its original and appellate jurisdictions, however, what transpired on Tuesday…was a very sad chapter in the history of Grenada and in the Caribbean – it was a missed opportunity”, he said.

“We hope that that is not the end for the hope for the CCJ…we hope also that that is not the end of the road for general constitutional reform in our country”, he added.
Attorney-at-law Joseph, who served on the CCJ Advisory Committee for a short period of time, stated that this is not just failure for Grenada but for the rest of the Caribbean.

“It is indeed depressing for all of us that we have not just failed ourselves but we failed the Caribbean because this is the second attempt we made at reforming the constitution which would have brought Grenada to the Caribbean Court of Justice as its final appeal court and it’s the second time that those in charge of the process, went about it the wrong way and very surprisingly doing it the same way they did it as in 2016, obviously, they should have expected the same result…”, she said.

“… We fully support the CCJ and we really want it to be our final court and we’re very saddened and depressed that today it is not our final court but at the same time as responsible citizens we have an obligation to defend our constitution and to ensure that any amendment that makes its way into our constitution meets the highest standard”, she added.

The female NDC executive member went on: Unfortunately, the bill that we (were) asked to vote on did not rise to the level that would have given it constitutional prominence and that is why many of us voted “No” on Tuesday…we have been in constitutional reform since 1985 and it would be sad to drop it now”.

Joseph attributed the failure of the referendum to the political interference that it had throughout the campaigning.

“We see that a golden opportunity was squandered from the outset, given the aggressive partisan tone that was set by the authorities. It was a show, a display of arrogance, of disdain and lack of care for the concerns of the Grenadian people.

“When we the NDC became aware of discrepancies in the bill that (was) designed to take us into the CCJ, we voiced our concerns to all the sectors of society. Notably, the Grenadian Trade Union Council, the Civil Society Organisation expressed concerns over what they consider to be flaws and omissions in the bill.

“…At that stage, we believe that the… government would’ve taken pause, gone back to the drawing board with all stakeholders to try to arrive at a consensus as can be evidence by the numerous public appearances of the number of legal figures.

“There were a lot of disagreement over interpretations on certain sections of the bill, that should have been sufficient to cause the government to go back to the drawing board, correct flaws, deal with the omissions and other inconsistencies within the bill – instead that was superseded by macho political posturing, disregarding the fact that millions of dollars of taxpayers hard earned money has been spent on the exercise and the quest for legacy and in exercising an ego trip, we ended up with the fiasco that we did.

Speculation is rife that current Acting Attorney-General, Dr. Lawrence Joseph was solely responsible for drafting a new CCJ bill for the referendum.

“I would encourage our government and the Ministry of Education to introduce Civics in school, starting from the primary level and make it simple. There are those of us in the Bar Association and Civil Society who will gladly volunteer to go into school and teach civics – on our government structure, our parliamentary structure, our constitution, how laws are made, that kind of thing so that they will become one with and feel a part of”, she said.

“For most people the constitution is an abstract document up there that you don’t feel connected with and at the government level I think we set up a structure, some of permanent Constitution Review Committee that will continue the work so that one day we might arrive at a place where the whole nation can be on the same page in terms of achieving something,” she added.

During an appearance on GBN TV and Radio on Monday morning, CCJ Advisory Committee member, Dr. Francis Alexis laid a lot of the blame for the CCJ failure at the referendum on Dr. Joseph and both the NNP and NDC political parties.

Joseph called for a permanent committee to be set up to look at the whole issue of constitutional reform with a 24 month deadline to help facilitate the CCJ process.

Prime Minister Mitchell has vowed that there will not be another CCJ referendum under his watch as head of the island’s government.

Last Tuesday’s defeat at the polls was the second time within two years that the Grenadian leader suffered a loss in a CCJ referendum.

However, Dr. Mitchell has an impressive record in general elections, with five wins at the polls between 1990 and 2018 to only two losses to Congress.