By Lloyd Noel
Thirty-nine years ago – on 7 February 1974 – our mini-colony of Grenada received its independence from Great Britain, to become the independent state of “Grenada Carriacou and Petite Martinique” within the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Lloyd Noel is a former attorney general of Grenada, prominent attorney at law and political commentator
Like many other instances since then, we were the “first” of the OECS islands to receive our independence – and it came about after a whole lot of struggle and protests, and even loss of lives, and some serious brutality by the “Green Beasts” of Eric Gairy’s security forces of those hectic days and nights.
And as our political history would confirm, the years immediately following February 1974 were no less easy or peaceful. And in March 1979, we had our next major “first” – when the New Jewel Movement (NJM) staged the armed revolution and over-threw the Eric Gairy GULP government, to become the first People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of the English-speaking Caribbean – with the assistance of Cuban troops from comrade Fidel Castro.
From way back then, for those of us living in Grenada in those days, and for years thereafter, it has always been a struggle of one kind or another, and all centred on politics; as well as the adopted ideology handed down from the Soviet Union (Russia) and passed on by Castro to the NJM, from way back in 1973 when the New Jewel Movement was formed in St David’s.
So here we are, 39 years since shedding our colonial status and gaining our independence – and having gone through all manner of political upheavals, and ups and downs and sideways – and in the same month of that anniversary, we are about to go to the polls to elect a new government; or re-elect the last government that came into being, on a bandwagon that included members of the historic NJM group that joined the NDC to gain power in 2008 from the NNP and Dr Keith Mitchell.
And as though our historic political upheavals keep on repeating themselves, over and over again – to the extent that we seem always to be on the lookout for change.
Admittedly the NNP control of state power for the 13 years – before losing to the makeshift group that included those NJM leftovers clamouring for change in 2008 – was quite unusual in our political history since independence.
But despite the very convincing victory of eleven seats against four for the opposition, the winners, soon after taking control, began to squabble among themselves – and well within the term they were elected to serve, they were divided down the middle – and here we are again, with the losers of 2008 looking and performing as though they are just as ready to bring about another change in February 2013.
True enough, the sort of allegations that were leveled against the NNP group and its leader in particular during those 13 years in control have not been forthcoming against the NDC lot in their short time of control.
But just as importantly – from the evidence of lack of performance by the NDC lot, and the level of complaints about genuine hardships suffered by an ever-increasing number of our desperate citizens in need of help – that state of affairs can be just as damaging to the chances of those seeking another term in control.
Whether it will or not, those who go to the polling stations and cast their votes on that Tuesday in February, for the candidate of their choice, or the party they favour, or the leader they prefer to see in control of the nation’s affairs, the final count at the end of the day will determine which side was better organized or more influential.
As one looks at the motorcades and the crowds going to the various rallies up and down the country, it cannot be denied that the support and the enthusiasm on both sides are very intense and quite visible.
As to how the turnouts in the green and yellow jerseys, and the singing and shouting after the various speeches from the platforms will transform into votes for the respective candidates on election day, only time will tell.
Both sides have been attracting large turnouts at their rallies – but there has been some complaints on the routes to the venues that supporters of one side or the other have been misbehaving, and causing disturbance to the free flow of the traffic.
I would hope that the leaders and organizers will caution their supporters to keep the campaign peaceful and clean – because when the rallies are over and the winners declared, we have to live and work together.
And talking about rallies – which seem to be the popular fashion of campaigning these days – the NNP one at Gouyave last Sunday was exceptional in size, and even when some drizzles threatened the crowd they just put up the umbrellas and stayed put.
One speaker actually commented that it was the largest crowd he ever addressed anywhere on the island. If that level of attendance is anything to judge possible results at the polls on “E-Day”, then those in green seem well on the road to victory.
But then again the lime, and the free bus rides and jerseys excitement could be the rationale for the turn out – but standing in a queue waiting to cast that “X”, could be quite something else on the day that matters.
So with the independence anniversary next week Thursday, it is a day mostly of the school children as they celebrate 39 years since 1974, and enjoy the refreshments being provided by government.
And talking about providing anything, the talk of the town last week Friday was the news that government workers had received salaries and wages a whole week before month end. When coupled with the last two or three weeks of potholes repairs on the roads, it leaves one to wonder aloud who is trying to Tam-fool who in the process. Very bad advertisement in my view.
But there is no turning back at this stage – it is a clear case of all systems full speed ahead, to the winners and losers on the 19 February.