“The senate is basically a rubber stamp for decisions made in the Cabinet and then endorsed by the Parliamentarians and in this case where you have all the Parliamentarians on one side of the isle; so all you basically have is Cabinet decides on something, the same people in the Cabinet endorse it in the Parliament and they send it over to people they have appointed in the Senate to just rubber stamp it.”
Those words were uttered by Social Activist, Jude Bernard, as he sought to explain his reasons why the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) should not take up Senatorial positions offered by Governor General, Dame Cecile La Grenade.
Congress failed in the March 13, 2018 general election for the second consecutive time to win any of the 15 seats in the national poll.
Speaking to THE NEW TODAY newspaper in an interview on Wednesday, Bernard said that if Congress decides to accept joining the Senate, the party will be putting itself up to be ridiculed and belittled by government appointed Senator in a repeat of what happened in the last five years when its leader, Nazim Burke, Franka Bernardine and George Vincent served in the Upper House.
“To me it is used as a chance to target losing candidates, to humiliate them and to remind them of how they have lost and how badly they have performed and things of that sort and to me the level of discussion is usually very, very childish and it is disgusting. Because of the construct of the Senate where the ruling party has an automatic majority, the level of discussion is very low and very childish and nobody expect anything to come out of there.
“I’ve never heard of anything that was discussed there in the Senate resulting in an amendment of something that came from the Cabinet or Parliament. It’s always whatever came from the Cabinet and Parliament goes through the Senate. So, to me it’s a total waste of time unless we have a construct in the Senate where you have the government needs to get support from another interest group.”
“Even if the government had six and the other interest group had seven, and government needed at least one more vote to pass a bill or something, then it makes sense but where the government already has an automatic majority, the people in the Senate, the people who are given a job by the Prime Minister, will they ever oppose anything, will they dear amend or try to amend something sent down from the Cabinet and the Parliament? No.” Bernard said.
“In addition to the fact that the government has an automatic majority to pass whatever is passed up from the Cabinet and the House of Representatives, questions raised by non-government Senators are generally never answered by the government side or, at best, answered only partially months later, when they are no longer relevant,” he added.
Burke came in for the most hammering from Minister of State, Sen. Winston Garraway who demanded him to “shut up and sit down” during an exchange in the Senate.
According to Bernard, the electorate in the country did not vote conscience but voted for party.
“I don’t see any value (for) the NDC at this time going there and just ending up in this what I call with respect – a dog show – that’s what it is basically, nothing good comes out of it”, he said.
Bernard stated that his advice to NDC would be to use the time in opposition to work on strengthening the party in order to have a better chance of winning the next General Election.
He went on: “So, I do not see how a party that has so much to do to regain the support of the population would find it worthwhile to find time in that total dog show – that’s what I call it – with respect” “….I think that the NDC, if I would give them some advice, should spend their time rebuilding the party and seeing how they can prepare to get elected so then they can have a voice in how things are done in Grenada. But with the current construct, I see it as a waste of time, and to me regardless of what people may think about the election, I believe that things could have been done to make the playing field a bit more even during the election campaign.”
Bernard suggested that in order for the population to have proper representation in the Senate, there needs to be a way in which the system can be made fairer and more democratic which was something that was not seen in the March13 poll.
“If everything is done to stop the other side from really getting a voice and then they come back afterwards and then say we want to hear your voice, to me it’s just like a businessman doing everything to throw a competitor out of business and make sure he fails and after at Christmas time, you dress in a Santa Clause Suit and he comes to the door of that business man and say I have a toy for your son; when it actual fact he wanted you to be able to give him a fair chance to compete and buy your own toy for your son. You don’t want this person coming back in a Santa Clause Suit afterwards and saying I know things are hard and I think your son could do with a toy”, he remarked.
Bernard said if the NDC wants to remain in the know, he would recommend that the party hires someone to listen to what goes on in the Senate so that they can have information for when the need arises, but they should not offer their services in the Upper House.