By Lloyd Noel
The month of February in this New Year will be outstanding for celebrating a number of very historic events in our political calendar.
The most important date will be February 7, 2014, which will be our 40th anniversary as an independent state – from February 7, 1974, when we achieved our political independence from Great Britain and ceased to be a British colony.
Lloyd Noel is a former attorney general of Grenada, prominent attorney at law and political commentator
The next two dates, viz., February 2, when the National Democratic Congress (NDC) will be electing a new party leader, to replace Mr Tillman Thomas who will not be contesting the party leadership at its national convention.
And February 19, when the ruling NNP government will be celebrating one year since winning all 15 parliamentary seats in the general elections last year – for the second time since independence, and on both occasions under the same leader Dr the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell as prime minister.
The 40th independence anniversary is the most important of the three dates in my humble opinion.
And those who were in Grenada, like myself, on that memorable date and in the period leading up to the 7th, I am sure they would agree it was a very historic period, and I would add that it is unequaled in the English-speaking Caribbean.
The political leader who persuaded the British government to grant our independence, was the late Eric Mathew Gairy, who was the leader of his Labour Party.
And the opposition against independence under Eric Gairy was led by the New Jewel Movement (NJM) headed by the late Maurice Bishop and widely supported by Grenadians in the tri-island colony in those days.
There were demonstrations in St George’s for two or three weeks before February7, and electricity was off due to striking workers – so that on the night of February 6 leading up to midnight, on Fort Frederick where the ceremony was taking place to make Grenada an independent state in the Commonwealth, a Delco had to be used to provide lighting for the occasion, but the whole process was very brief.
And it was from that period that the struggle against Gairyism intensified by the NJM and, although we contested the elections in 1976 and lost to Gairy’s party, the struggle continued right up to the Revolution in March 1979, when the NJM seized political power by force of arms.
The rest is now history – with detention and mass killings and political prisoners in little Grenada, until the rescue mission by US forces sent in by President Reagan in 1983 to release prisoners from detention and protect US students at the St George’s Medical School in Grand Anse.
February 2 is the date of the NDC convention to choose a new leader to take over from ex-PM Tillman Thomas, who lost his seat at the elections on February 19 last year – when the NDC failed to win a single seat in the current parliament.
The then governor general appointed three of the NDC losers as senators in the Upper House of parliament and the story now is that two of them, Nazim Burke and Franka Bernadine, will be contesting the leadership vacancy at the convention.
Many onlookers are predicting that Mr Burke will be the chosen leader, to rebuild the party to regain power from the NNP in the next four years. Some are also suggesting that it will make a welcome change to have a female leader and prime minister after all those 40 years under the control of male leaders and not very much to show for that.
All are matters of opinion and we will see how the membership responds at the convention on February 2.
Whatever the decision of the party members next month, the new leader will have his/her work cut out to rebuild the party after all the chaos and confusion that badly affected the party towards the end of its control of power in the last parliament, when two or three of its MPs resigned from the government.
The party was more or less at a standstill after those resignations, so it was no surprise when the leadership at the time failed to persuade the voters to even elect one of its 15 candidates to parliament.
Whoever the new leader may be, he or she will have a heavy workload in trying to rebuild the party so as to be able to influence the voters to choose the NDC candidates to replace the NNP lot in 2018.
And while it is fair to argue, that the new leader will have ample time at his/her disposal in the next four years, it is also just as obvious that the controllers in charge have the same length of time to put their policies in place, and learn from their mistakes.
So as we come to that historic month of February this year and those significant dates of the 2nd, the 7th, and the 19th, there should be no denying that 2014 will be a memorable year in our political history in the years ahead to 2018 and beyond.