In May 2013, Grenada will once again make political history when the island will get its first female governor general in the person of Mrs Cecile De La Grenade. Mrs La Grenade will take over the governorship from Sir Carlyle Glean who served under the NDC administration of Hon Tillman Thomas for four and a half years. As with every election cycle in Grenada, when one political party takes the reins of power there is always the changing of the guard and the governor general, despite having a primarily ceremonial role, often times is one of the individuals that are replaced.
Grenada is a highly politically charged country and it has become the norm and expectation that, whenever one party replaces the other, there will be a new governor general. So when the Commissioner of Police Willian Thompson and the Director of the FIU Senneth Joseph were replaced and the many other changes made, including the shuffling of permanent secretaries, the people knew that it was a matter of time before there will be a new governor general.
In June of 2013, Grenada may have three living former governors general in the person of Sir Paul Scoon, Sir Daniel Williams and Sir Carlyle Glean. My understanding is that the country’s taxpayers will have to pay the salaries of these goodly gentlemen for the remainder of their lives. So at a time of chronic economic challenges, the country will have to pay the salaries of four individuals in their capacity as governor general and at the same time also pay the salary of the new governor general.
Sir Carlyle Glean in my view performed well as governor general. I have had the opportunity to meet Sir Carlyle and my first impression of him is that he is a true Grenadian patriot and servant. He is a man of strong moral and ethical values and extremely versed in the English language. As governor general he gave sound advice to our young people. Sir Carlyle will leave behind a very good legacy. He is a very strong believer in accountability, transparency and good governance.
As Sir Carlyle prepares to take his exit from the governor general’s residence, businesswoman Cecile De La Grenade, manager of the De La Grenade Industries, will make history by officially becoming the first female GG of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Being a very successful businesswoman, I have absolutely no doubt that Mrs De La Grenade will make our country proud and be an inspiration not only to the young women but also the young men.
Like all previous appointments to the position of governor general, there are always some political considerations. The governor general of the day is normally seen to be sympathetic to the party in power.
The appointment of the first female governor general may have profound political implications for the people of Grenada. Her appointment may be a precursor to the election of the island’s first female prime minister sometime in the future. Will Grenada get its first female prime minister by 2018? Only time will tell.
The elections of 2018 could very well see a straight three-way fight for the position of prime minister between three female politicians: the Hon Franca Alexis Bernadine, Glynis Roberts and Hon Emmalin Pierre. If this scenario plays itself out, then by 2018 Grenada will have its first female prime minister joining Dominica, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago as the other Caribbean countries to elect a female prime minister.
If Dr Mitchell sticks to his word, he will not be running in the elections of 2018; however, he will definitely want to preserve his legacy and so he may very well throw his weight behind the current Minister of Youth and Sport Emmalin Pierre, one of his more reliable confidantes.
Hon Elvin Nimrod and Gregory Bowen, the other two senior leaders, will be out of contention for the leadership of the party by virtue of their age. Both men, like Dr Mitchell, will be in their seventies in 2018. That may be a consideration, although in Caribbean politics one just don’t know when a politician will gracefully bow out of politics since it’s normal for them to be willing to die in office, or be disgracefully booted out of office by the people. John Compton of St Lucia and Owen Arthur of Barbados returned to front line politics after resigning from their parties, while on the African continent Robert Mugabe is president of Zimbabwe at age 89 years and is preparing to run for another six year term. So come 2018, the leadership of the NNP may be up for grabs if the Doc bows out in glory. He would attempt to preserve his legacy and so the front runner will inevitable be the candidate that Dr Mitchell endorses.
Bur even before a front runner emerges, the budget allocations may give an indication of Dr Mitchell’s thinking and inclinations as to who he will support as political leader of the NNP. The political culture within most political parties in the Caribbean is one of selection. Whenever a leader decides to leave, he seems to be the one to select the new leader. There isn’t a real democratic primary run-off among potential candidates. The problem with that is in most cases the new leader doesn’t always have the support of the rank and file members of the party.
Dr Mitchell is a master politician to his soul and so whatever action he takes as prime minister and minister of finance will have some political connotations. The budget allocations for the ministry of youth and sports were increased by 70% while that for the ministry of foreign affairs were decreased by 28%. The argument put forward is that of the need to cut cost. However, if there are many investors lined up to do business with Grenada as claimed by the minister of finance, then the ministry of foreign affairs should have been strengthened to ensure that the investors are will served.
At a time when foreign direct investment (FDI) is so badly needed in the country to provide sustainable jobs for the people, the budget allocations for that ministry have been cut. They have also been cut even after the prime minister indicated in his victory speech that his government will have a very robust foreign policy.
My analysis of these budget allocations is that the prime minister is attempting to boost the prestige of the Minister of Youth Emmalin Pierre in preparation for her to take over the leadership of the party and at the same time keep the Minister of Finance Hon Nicholas Steele in check. Hon Pierre is one of Dr Mitchell’s most trustworthy colleagues other than Hon Gregory Bowen and Hon Elvin Nimrod. The cut in the budget allocation for his ministry came after he visited the United Nations and met with the UN Russian ambassador in a bid for the Russians to invest in Grenada.
Dr Mitchell is aware of the power and influence wielded by the former minister of foreign affairs Peter David in the previous NDC administration and the fallout from that power and influence and so he will quickly neutralise any real or perceived threat to his leadership of the NNP. Apart from that in light of the fact that the previous NDC ministers didn’t land a ministerial position in the new government, the only major opening for them would be an ambassadorial posting. In cutting the foreign ministry budget the minister of finance ensured that these postings are limited.
Secondly, by increasing the budgetary allocations for the Ministry of Sports, Dr Mitchell has ensured that there will be an increase in the stipend paid to the youths in the Imani program. Dr Mitchell is therefore using a small ‘carrot’ to entice the young people, knowing full well their lust for money and materialism, with the objective of getting their political support for 2018. The young people make up over 60% of the population and in 2018 more and more of them will be able to vote. The young people were instrumental in the NNP victory on February 19.
With mission accomplished for the 2013 general elections, the Hon Prime Minister is already looking towards 2018. He is therefore consolidating power within his party, confidantes and the media. The media in Grenada is very easily swayed by politicians and the fourth estate lacks independence to the detriment of the country. The Grenadian media fraternity is potentially weak and inexperienced and that may be because there are not many veteran media personalities. The majority of media personalities are young and financially weak and therefore are more than willing to toe the party line for a few bucks. Hamlet Mark, the media practitioner who ran the NDC public relations for the 2008 general elections, is now the senior communications advisor to the prime minister. Politics of the ever swinging pendulum all in the name of the almighty dollar.
Will 2018 therefore be a battle of the females, Franca versus Emmalin versus Glynis, or will it be the start of a very long battle between Nazim Burke and Peter David? These two politicians and lawyers have been friends since 1979. They have been in the trenches together for many years. Their names were once synonymous. Some years ago you wouldn’t hear the name Peter David without hearing that of Nazim Burke. Like Barack Obama and Joseph Biden they complemented each other politically and otherwise. These two men had the opportunity to be a team of very powerful and progressive young leaders in Grenada, inspiring the many young people who looked up to them for guidance. Unfortunately, they have allowed themselves to be separated and today they are seen as bitter political enemies. These two gifted men may finally have the opportunity to face each other in 2018 depending on how the political landscape unfolds.
Despite what happens, the period leading up to the elections of 2018 will be very interesting. The political campaign has already begun, with the presentation of what is referred to as growth and holding budget. With the country poised to make history this month with the appointment of its first female governor general, 2018 may see the country having its first female prime minister. Many factors will determine what happens in 2018, providing the prime minister doesn’t call snap elections to extend his political tenure and consolidate power. Politics is about timing and making the right moves after reading the mood of the people. Dr Mitchell is extremely good at that.
The calling of snap elections is a high possibility, especially with the ongoing voter registration process and the pending referendum within the next two years on constitutional reform and the CCJ. All aspiring politicians and political parties must ensure that they are prepared by oiling their respective political machinery. This will include encouraging their supporters to register to vote, building the party structures, especially the constituency branches, and fundraising activities.
Politics in Grenada is very unpredictable and, given our political history, one can expect anything at anytime, so all stakeholders should prepare for what seems to be interesting times going forward.
Many of our politicians seem not to have the patience to ensure that political stability takes root in the country. Since independence in 1974, we have had eight male prime ministers. Barbados on the other hand has had seven since 1966, three of whom died while still in office.
Is it time for Grenada to have its first female prime minister? Will the United States and Grenada make history before 2020 with election of Hillary Clinton, wife of President Bill Clinton, as the first female president of America in 2016 and the remote possibility that one of three females in the persons of Hon Franca Bernadine, Hon Emmalin Pierre and Glynis Roberts may become Grenada’s first female prime minister in 2018 .Only time will tell.
While I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton would make a great president because of her experience in government and her outstanding performance as secretary of state, in Grenada politics is a different kettle of fish. Any female prime minister of Grenada would need a very strong support system to survive among the many male predators that would be looking to assert themselves on the national stage. Grenada is well known for political battles among the male population and, while there was a female governor in the late Dame Hilda Bynoe, men have dominated politics since independence.
So come 2018 or before, will we see a battle of the women or will it be the start of a long war of attrition between the duo of Hon Nazim Burke and Peter David? Never a dull moment in Grenada, the island with the most exciting politics in the Caribbean.