By Ian Francis
During the Super Bowl last weekend, I was politely reminded by a very well known and competent legal luminary that the nation of Grenada is encumbered by two very significant events that are scheduled for February 2013. After discussing the two significant events with learned counsel, I quickly concurred that Grenada will be celebrating 39 years of being an independent nation and our general elections are scheduled for February 19, 2013.
Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at email@example.com
Certainly, I was fair and open by telling my informant that I have more interest and focus on the general elections. As I conferred and exchanged various bits and pieces of information with learned counsel, I was grilled and cross-examined about my interest and rationale for paying greater attention to the Grenada elections.
Based on our friendly exchange, I concluded the discussion by frankly expressing two deep and concerned thoughts on the issue of independence and the expected results of the Grenada elections. On the issue of Independence, I reiterated my admiration for Eric Matthew Gairy, who led the Grenada anti-colonial struggle from 1951-1979. Although independence was gained in 1974, the sad spectre of neo-colonialism was enforced and is still evident in many of our institutions and practiced by certain individuals charged with various administrative responsibilities. Therefore, a nation gaining independence does not necessarily mean that the shackles of colonialism have disappeared or been eliminated.
As a Grenadian living in the Canadian Diaspora, it is always difficult for me to resist discussions, conversations or commentaries on the topic of Grenada elections and the future of our nation after February 19, 2013. As polling analyses clearly indicate, there is clear projected evidence that that Grenada's New National Party (NNP) under the dynamic leadership of Washington-trained mathematician, Dr Keith Claudius Mitchell, is heading for a decisive and landslide victory.
Based on my ongoing conversations with diverse Grenadian nationals, I would not attempt to dispel or challenge the political analysis and predictions. The evidence is very clear, Mitchell's NNP is riding a wave of popularity and, if elected, expectations will be high and the NNP has to deliver. This begs me to address the policy and process of governing the nation.
A New National Party (NNP) administration must accept the reality and understand that Grenadians at home and in the Diaspora expect a new governing style that is forward looking and not stuck in the past. Grenadian voters expect real change, greater participation in the process of governing, improving their quality of life and ensuring a strong law and order agenda.
Given the expectations above and the knowledge by many that changes have to be made, it is my preference to see that the laws of Grenada are respected and those responsible have clean hands and do not deviate from the legislation. Therefore, as the Mitchell administration settles, it is obligated to address operational and corrupt activities in the Customs and Excise Branch as well as the Port Authority. The Royal Grenada Police Force and its Immigration Branch should not be ignored. Those stationed in this precinct must be afforded the opportunity to acquire good linguistic, international relations, global affairs and other skills that contribute to nation's security and understanding.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs that has traditionally colluded with Tourism will have to sit down and concoct a new marketing strategy. As previously alluded, we need to move from the promotion of long, white sandy beaches. We also need to recognize that the tourism stakeholders in Grenada are not all white skinned, located in St Georges and drive nice SUVs. They are stretched across the nation and we are obligated to assist them. The artisans, painters, sculptors are all tourist stakeholders and they must be accorded a position around the table.
There are many other significant and urgent tasks that the NNP government must address. The complete restructuring of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure proper functioning of Grenada's diplomatic and consular missions; housecleaning at the Grenada Consulate in New York and the Embassy of Grenada in Washington.
In addition to these suggested tasks, Grenada must be encouraged to redefine its bilateral relations with Canada by ensuring the immediate appointment of a competent and knowledgeable non-resident High Commissioner. The incoming administration must recognize that it is responsible for managing and directing its own foreign policy and should not surrender such responsibilities to Georgetown or Castries.
The recent joint constituency debate between St Patrick West and East focussed a great deal on local development and participation of constituency residents in the process of such development. This perspective was quite enlightening and must be seen as another important call for the need of establishing a local government structure. Such initiative will ease the burden of responsibility on the local elected representative and enhance the NNP's thrust of inclusion and participation.
It might be very appropriate to review the government of Canada and Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) economic development project in the Caribbean and ensure that Grenada's component is relevant to the needs of developing a sustainable local government infrastructure.
If current indicators remain up to February 19, 2013, Grenadians will be voting for change and they expect the new incoming government to govern differently and to bring about the necessary institutional change and restructuring. The new regime must build and sustain an effective communication strategy by using various media vehicles in order to explain government policies and programs.
Like many Grenadians at home and in the Diaspora, I am eagerly looking to change after February 19, 2013. Grenadian voters are eagerly awaiting change and PULP's Winty Fredericks must understand that soft-loans are something of the past and could be described as voodoo thinking.