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Commentary: Prison time did not change too many Grenadians with political ambition
Published on December 26, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Hudson George

Most people who spent years in prison for their involvement in politics activities never change. People of such caliber never abandon their dreams to be members of the top circle that controls state power. Some of them might change their approach to reach their political goals, based on the political environment they are living within, but their ambition remains the same.

Hudson George has a BA in Social Science from York University, Toronto, Canada. He has been writing since his early teenage years and now contributes letters and articles to a number of Caribbean newspapers
However, as a Grenadian, I can point my fingers at some individuals who were locked up behind prison bars for more than four years during the Grenada revolution, due to their political activities and ideological differences with the leaders of the revolution and, after they got their freedom, one way or the other they are still playing major roles in party politics again. As a matter of fact, some of them are involved in the day to day political process in Grenada in order to hold on to their political clout.

Apart from those who were locked up during the revolution, after the revolution leaders created their own demise, some of the top leaders served long prison terms for crimes they committed. For example, there is political character who was a former PRG top brace soldier and party member during the revolution, who had absolute power to do as he liked during that period. That individual was very anti-rural, even though he was born in a village about three miles away from Grenville town in St Andrew, before his parents migrated to St George's, the capital city.

The individual spent about 26 years in prison. Some of his prison time was on death row and the rest of the period on life sentence and finally on a particular number of years sentence, through a successful appeal, before he was freed, together with his other comrades. But during the time spent in prison, the individual and his other comrades were educating themselves as university students in various academic courses. So we must say kudos to them.

However, the individual is one of those convicts who studied law. He did excellently as a student behind prison bars during his studies and we must congratulate him for his great academic success. But it seems as though the individual is still committed to his lifelong dream of wanting to be in authority. He still wants to be a member of the ruling elite class making decisions. This time around, he knows that he cannot achieve his political goals by the barrel of a gun. On the other hand he is thinking very cleverly. He wants to be a practicing lawyer and he has the academic skills and learning to be an attorney of law, but his criminal records creates a stumbling block in his way. So one of his comrades, who did not serve prison time as he did, is his attorney presently. And his attorney is challenging the law, so that the individual can practice law in his home country Grenada, even though he has some serious criminal records.

So it is obvious that this individual is creating a new kind of social and political melee in Grenada again. And as it is a known fact that Grenadians like to create melee, this particular individual and his attorney seem to be fearless and shameless enough, they are trying to turn the law and justice system into a melee junction, while the Grenadian masses look on with disbelief and shock. Now the big question is: Who will stop this individual and his attorney from showing disrespect towards our legal system and society? And even though the high court judge was wise enough to deny the individual his bold and shameless demand, it is expected that his shameless and bold faced attorney will appeal the judge’s decision ruling and try another legal trick in the law again.

However, it will be up to the Grenadian people to tell the individual and his attorney, enough is enough. The Grenadian people must tell the individual to keep quiet. If he really wants to contribute towards society, maybe he should go about serving the nation as a motivational speaker for the youth, teaching them not to make the same mistakes as he did in the past. The Grenadian people must remind him that this is not the same period of 1980 to 1983, when he had absolute power and he wanted to create a new Grenada with the blood of those who did not support his political agenda. They must remind him that he was hostile to some villages in the rural communities. They must let him know that he can live in peace within society, if he keeps the peace, rather than trying to get back into the spotlight.

Personally, as a Grenadian of the same era as the individual, it is important for me to give my opinion on this issue. Prior to March 13, 1979, most of us did not know too much about that individual. We did not know he was a member of a splinter political group that was secretly tied to the New Jewel Movement, with the main intention to use the NJM organisation and followers as political hosts to prey upon, in order to achieve their political goals. Therefore, how can this individual be trusted again?

It is very important for us as Grenadian people to know and always be aware of the fact that the vast majority of people who were incarcerated for political crimes and other political activities, whether they were wrong or right, never really changed their political and moral beliefs, during the time they spent behind prison bars. As a matter of fact, people of that sort always see themselves as heroes and if or when the masses give them a second chance, they tend to repeat the same thing as they did in the past again. And in this individual’s case, he was a young educated thug, who lost all the respect for human beings, when he had military power. He really thought that his political ideology was more important than human lives. It is time for Grenadians to turn the page on the individual and his attorney, once and for all. I say thanks to the judge’s decision.
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Vinci Vin:

Hi Hudson:

The individual you wrote about has all rights to challenge the court with respect to his character to practice law. As far as you wrote, I deduct that he meets all of the academic requirements but is being rejected by the bar due to his incarceration for political crimes. Well, that is nothing new. In our common law jurisdictions a person applying for entry to the bar must meet certain good character traits. For example, he cannot be a bankrupt (even though the period of bankruptcy can be overcome if it is stale), he cannot be a criminal convict (with certain exceptions), etc.

Certain convictions could be removed from a person's record on grounds of the age when the crime occurred, proof of rehabilitation after incarceration, the nature of the crime, the individual's promise to serve society in his new profession, character witnesses, other circumstances, etc. This second chance principle might even apply to people who had committed and been convicted for manslaughter or murder.

It seems to me that the individual of whom you write might have a good case if he can show that his crime was done under extraordinary political times/circumstances. In other words, it was the politics of the day that lead to his acts, prosecution and incarceration. He might even challenge the judgment as being coloured by anti-revolutionary sentiments, i.e. the judges were prejudiced against NJM revolutionaries. And that's his perogative in a democratic system operating under the rule of law.

As for your thoughts that this person has not changed his ways and motivations, that's an opinion that has no weight under the law. Why do you think that he was successful in getting his death penalty and other judgments over-ruled? The man has proved that he believes in the democratic system by gaining an education while in prison and earning the ability to contribute to society after gaining his freedom. Seems to me that his success in challenging the courts to gain his freedom has laid the groundwork for his appeal to have the convictions quashed. Furthermore, throughout the world there is history of many lawyers being imprisoned and then gaining their freedom to serve society. Think about Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Jeruhlarlal Nehru, Fidel Castro, et al. No one can foresee how this individual will operate in the future. Therefore, he must be given the benefit of the doubt to prove his goodwill. We cannot afford to throw people away!

In the Eastern Caribbean the population sometimes display an unforgiving attitude against certain convicts, especially politicians, particularly black people. We are often against rehabilitation of our own brothers and sisters due to ignorance and what we call "bad mindedness" towards our own people. This is especially true for patriots deemed 'ambitious'.

On the other hand, we tend to embrace foreigners of dubious character. A good example is the numerous bankruptcies of the Donald Trump companies. Yet those companies emerge from bankruptcy with clean slates to operate businesses and you do not see people marching in the streets against Trump. In fact, I believe that the Trump organization might have an operation on Canouan in the Grenadines, And for the record, bankruptcy is a legal remedy to rescue someone deemed bankrupt from the crushing blow of debt and provide opportunities for a new start.

Consequently, my Caribbean neighbor and possibly relative -- I have relatives in Grenville) you need to soften your attitude towards the person you wrote and admire him for using the courts to assert his rights under the Grenadian democracy. If he succeeds, it would be a Testament to the strength of our democracies and provide hope for many who have been imprisoned for political reasons. Think about the good that Fidel Castro, Mahatma Ghandi, Robert Mugabe, Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame nKrumah, Patrice Lumumba,Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, et al have done, even though they were all convicts. As the saying goes: "There but for the Grace of God I stand".

Best regards,

Vinci Vin

Hudson George:

Vinci Vin, I like your argument. You making a lot of sense with the comments you put forward. However, the individual was not a lawyer before he went to prison. He was not fighting against a colonising people, who came to his country and oppressed his people, as in the case of Fidel Castro, Mahatma Ghandi, Robert Mugabe, Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame NKrumah, Patrice Lumumba,Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King. The victim was just a young man acting as a thug and creating political division among the Grenadian people

Remember, Adolf Hitler used the democratic process to get rid of democracy. I personally believe that the victim and his other comrades can play a role in society for the betterment of the country, but they should not be allowed to be a part of top decisions making rules. Their presence within some institutions, can only lead other to anger and hurting of old wounds, that have been healed but the scars remain.

Yes, I do agree we must work towards creating a good democratic system throughout the OECS countries, but in order to build that new democracy, we have to build a foundation. In order to build that new foundation, we got to demolished the old and build the new. We cannot mend new garments on old garments, neither pour new wine into old wine.

If you want to do a research on the political mind set of persons involved in politics in the OECS region over the last 30 years, Grenada is the most suitable Caribbean country to find study cases. And even though I am not a psychologists, as a Grenadian I have a good understanding about the mind set of some of the political characters, regardless of their political ideology.

Anyway, it will be very interesting to see the out come of that individual struggle, to get back into the scheme of things. It is also very important for you to know that the old revo clique is still cohesive and they act as support and mentors for each other. Their main plan is to infiltrate any major political party that tolerate them and slip in one of their comrades, so that in the future he/she can hijack the political organisation and they all will have another period of political feasting.


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