By Ian Francis
It is often lamented that the pinnacle and foundation of any progressive or meaningful society must include a firm and uncompromising justice, national security and public administration infrastructure. The system must be functional, relevant and dedicated to the national development thrust of the government and the nation’s population.
To achieve these efficiencies in our society, it is essential to ensure that those charged with ensuring concrete outcomes must strongly adhere and contribute to the change process. The recent structuring of the government of Grenada with Prime Minister Mitchell holding to key portfolios like energy, implementation, public administration, home affairs, national security and information is a very clear indicator and should be extremely challenging to those responsible for canoeing the waters.
With such important tenets for the government, many questions are being asked locally and regionally as to whether the current paddlers can stay on course to navigate the ship in the right direction that is so critical at this time. There is no doubt that Grenada, like many other global communities, is faced with enormous challenges that SR and O regulations long designed by the British to harness their colonial hegemony might not be enough to assist the nation in charting its course.
This is why many Grenadian voters who ascribe to change want to ensure that the paddlers in the prime minister’s office have the competency, commitment and long term vision to steer the phantom.
About one week ago, following a High Court ruling regarding the Oscar Bartholomew matter, there were many ill-conceived and ill-informed views and suggestions regarding action that should be taken in light of the High Court ruling. My immediate reaction to the many calls received was to accept the decision of the High Court. Certainly, I was not prepared to get into speculative gossips about a High Court decision as I strongly felt that the director of public prosecutions is a very competent jurist and will be able to determine credible grounds for an appeal.
In addition to the above, my interest was tweaked a little further regarding the Grenada Judicial and Legal Services Commission. This prompted further questioning about this organization and it was quickly learnt that no such organization exists in Grenada. There is an OECS Judicial Legal Services Commission that is based in Castries, St Lucia. Well, with such astonishing information, I would definitely like to see at the next standing committee of OECS legal ministers that Grenada put forward a motion that calls for the creation of a Grenada Judicial and Legal Services Commission.
In the view of many who are clamouring for institutional change, an effective, well organized and functioning Grenada Judicial and Legal Services Commission will allow for the functional and progressive operations of a Grenada judicial system that can take its place within the broader OECS settings. Our local judiciary system will be more accountable, better monitored and greater results achieved. Currently, there is no accountability in the system, as those based in St Lucia continue to have an unchecked field day.
Like the Public Service Commission of Grenada, transparency should be embedded within the newly created Grenada Judicial and Legal Services Commission. The next required step in the judiciary reform process should be the eviction of the Grenada Bar Association from within the precincts they now occupy for meetings and other special events. Given the large number of questionable legal luminaries in Grenada, the lack of oversight of their professional conduct and the apparent immunity that goes with it, they should be in a position to acquire suitable rental premises that facilitate library and meeting spaces as seen by many bar associations in the Commonwealth.
The despicable conduct of certain lawyers in Grenada leaves much to be desired; their manipulation of the court system in long drawn out court adjournments; client charges and disrespect to clients; shared legal incompetence and plain unethical behaviour mirrored by greed and competition. By being unregulated, clients estimate that the majority of young UWI legal practitioners get away with much. Clients are hurting and it is the state’s responsibility to protect clients and ignore the expected allegations of interference into the justice system.
The Grenada Bar Association is well known for their tactics of intimidation and threats against the NNP administration between 1995-2008. While they never materialized, it is expected that any future and rational move against them will hear the regular braying and grunting.
Given the prime minister’s penchant for public safety, as he ponders institutional change in the nation, he must be reminded that Grenada is urgently in need of a revamped and re-organized National Security and Intelligence Service that must withstand ill conceived comments from former Ambassador Cramer. The need for an effective national security system in Grenada is a necessity and its success and sustainability will be determined by a much needed change in culture and attitude amongst senior police and civil officials. Culture change is also required amongst our elected officials and those responsible for guiding the national security structure.
Grenada is a strategically located nation, with a very good electronic information technology structure and aeronautical routes. It must therefore be understood that Grenada is fertile ground for global terrorist activities that could very well be camouflaged in the deception of diplomatic relations and Middle East aid. We must always be on guard and this is why the new minister responsible for national security will have to clearly tell Bridgetown and Washington that the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) must extend itself beyond the purchase of small patrol boats and drug interdictions.
The recruitment and delegation of the new national security adviser should not only be on the basis of military or police experience. The global changing national security environment require much more and this is why it is being suggested to the administration that a competent and knowledgeable national security adviser must demonstrate good linguistic capacities; writing and analytical skills; clear understanding of geo-political issues; global political movements, their modus operandi and potential threats to Grenada; strategic planning and computer literacy preferably in a Microsoft environment. Excellent collaborative and cooperative planning must exist between the commissioner of police and the national security adviser.
Law enforcement in Grenada requires an urgent tweaking. Indeed, it is always nice to see the traffic branch, SIU, the Drug Squad and Fire Services in action as they continue to protect the citizens of Grenada. However, while protection is important, law enforcement personnel must always be aware that the Grenada Constitution of 1974 is very clear on the rights of the individual.
It is therefore incumbent that law enforcement personnel respect individuals, be non-oppressive and address their tasks in a more humane manner. Being part of the law enforcement community does not give the right to be abusive and brutal. The new incoming administration should not shrug off its responsibilities when legitimate complaints of abuse are made. The commissioner of Police is obligated to investigate and get to the root of the problem.
As the new administration moves to restore hope, confidence, prosperity and sustainability in rejuvenating the lives of Grenadians, it must also recognize that individual liberties cannot be ignored and there must be full recognition across public and private sector institutions in Grenada.
Finally, change and rejuvenation should not be restrictive but geared to impact across board. Addressing many of the issues raised in this article do not require substantial investment of scarce state financial resources. Effective state leadership must be demonstrated and those competent to contribute must be harnessed to participate. It will surely add to the principle of inclusion.
Law enforcement personnel are individuals; they have families, needs and desire to part of the rejuvenation challenge. We need to improve their work tools, provide adequate training, and ensure their habitual environment meets the necessary humane, health and hygienic standards. Law enforcement officials are an integral component of our society and must be accorded the recognition and respect.