This is one of two articles submitted for publication by the late Ian Francis shortly before his recent untimely death and which, encouraged by his fellow contributors, we have decided to publish posthumously.
By Ian Francis
Recently, my attention was drawn to an article dated March 27, 2013, which appeared in Caribupdate under the title “An Activist Decision” and later reproduced on the Grenada electronic medium “Talkshop”. As I perused the content of the article, it clearly dealt with the appointment of three National Democratic Congress lame duck senators by Governor General Sir Carlyle Glean. It was quite alarming in the article that Sir Carlyle was described as an activist, which is far from the truth. Sir Carlyle Glean has not done anything revolutionary.
|The late Ian Francis was a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He was a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada.|
I concur with the comments that a new Grenada parliamentary session has once again afforded the opportunity for inclusion and diversity of the many hundreds who crammed themselves into the Grenada Trade Centre. Certainly, two weeks ago, it was a memorable occasion given the fact that the nation’s parliament was prorogued for months to avoid a no confidence vote debate. Thanks, the elections finally came and now that the NNP is in control, Parliament prorogation has taken a backburner and the rescue team is now pursuing the nation’s work in ensuring the existence of an active Parliament amongst other national development initiatives.
Certainly, February 19, 2013, will always be remembered in the electoral history of our nation, having witnessed for the second time since the founding of the New National Party (NNP) under the leadership of Dr Keith Mitchell, the full dismissal of the NDC misfits. Suffice to say that, in 1995 when the NNP won all 15 seats, there was no constitutional crisis and both the lower and upper houses functioned without a problem.
Unfortunately, since the overwhelming victory of the NNP in February, many constitutional experts have emerged and continue to provide many conflicting opinions about constitutional rights and responsibilities that have left Grenadians at home and in the Diaspora very puzzled. As a matter of fact, in reading this editorial, one can easily identify and analyse the existing confusion. Now that Parliament has been resumed and three opposition senators have been given the nod, it is hoped that those who were so concerned about constitutional and parliamentary rights will now turn their attention to collective nation building.
First, let me express my disagreement about the editorial defining Sir Carlyle Glean, Governor General of Grenada, as an activist because three rejected NDC candidates have found themselves in the Upper Chamber through the kind courtesy of the Governor General. During the recent swearing in of the Grenada Cabinet by Prime Minister Mitchell, in his eloquent comments to the large gathering in attendance, the prime minister strongly stated that he would work with the Governor General and other civil society organs to ensure that the upper chamber has representation by the NDC with whom Sir Carlyle has had a long relation.
My concern about the simplicity of this article is that Caribupdate editorial writers are harnessing the thought that the Governor General acted independently. While past and current NDC icons have been well known for public policy disasters, there is no doubt in my mind that our prime minister was accorded the necessary opportunity to have a consultation with the Governor General on his proposed move. Prime Minister Mitchell being cognizant of the promise made about opposition representation in the Upper House would have given Sir Carlyle the green light.
It must be remembered by our constitutional experts and media pundits that there are three NNP backbenchers. Prime Minister Mitchell could have engineered one of his backbenchers to become opposition leader and there would have been a different and dramatic situation in the Upper Chamber.
As Burke, Vincent and Bernadine prepare to take their seats in the Upper Chamber, there is no doubt in the minds of many that they will be seen as lame duck senators. The membership of the Senate calls for 13 members. The government appoints seven members, which they have already done and is considered a majority. Three NDC lame ducks have been appointed, while the other three, representing agriculture, labour and commerce are likely to come on board. Therefore, simple mathematical computation will show that the NNP has a majority in the Upper Chamber and the three lame ducks will never be in a position to stop NNP legislative agenda. The NNP maintains a majority in the Upper House and the three lame duck NDC senators will not be in a position to disturb the passage of government legislation. However, they will portray themselves as Upper House activists, get attention from certain gullible media elements but their barking is not likely to be heard far away.
Finally, I agree that Grenada could do with some constitutional reform and, with a majority in both the Upper and Lower Houses, the NNP should not have a problem achieving the required changes. I do not share the editorial position that deceased Professor McIntosh was Grenada’s solution or saviour for constitutional reform. It is time for Caribupdate and other misguided commentators about the Grenada constitution understand that there are many other Grenadians involved in constitutional initiatives and extremely knowledgeable of the issues.
I have no doubt that the NNP administration will move at the appropriate time and it will surely be in the interest of all Grenadians.
Finally, as Sir Carlyle begins the process of bringing his reign to a climax, history will always be remembered that two NDC elected members ignored the Governor General for two days when they failed to attend a ministerial re-assignment ceremony. This led Prime Minister Thomas and his security detail to camp out as unwanted guests in the Governor General’s residence for two days.
My other memory is Sir Carlyle’s decision to act in complicity with former Prime Minister Thomas to prorogue the nation’s parliament; lay off elected and appointed parliamentarians who continued getting their salaries and allowances and avoided a no-confidence motion that would have brought an end to NDC government.
Therefore, as the situation is carefully examined and understood, the head of state has not scored any political points over Dr Mitchell. It is quite possible that the tenure of Senators Vincent, Burke and Bernadine in the Upper House could be shortlived and the Governor General will not be able to aid in their survival.