By Ian Francis
In 2008, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) wrestled political power from the New National Party (NNP) that had dominated the political management of Grenada for thirteen years. Many political observers have now concluded that Mitchell’s government managed the operations and direction of the nation extremely well, as prosperity and satisfaction was everywhere. Unfortunately, Grenadian voters wanted change and went on to give the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Tillman Thomas a commanding electoral mandate of 11 - 4 seats.
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
Sadly to report, the NDC has squandered this mandate and thrust as it is consumed by an internal revolt against the leader and prime minister. There have been resignations and dismissals from the Cabinet with the most recent one being Environment Minister Giynis Roberts. A crisis exists and it is time that the governor-general steps in and tells the junta representatives that things cannot run this way. Dissolve Parliament immediately.
Recognizing the NDC rampage and its likely inability to recover from voters’ resentment, party infighting, a shattered economy and a second no-confidence motion filed by former Foreign Affairs Minister Karl Hood, Prime Minister Thomas and his inner circle made the last minute decision to abuse the Grenada constitution and parliamentary process by advising the governor general to prorogue Parliament.
While Thomas continues to defend and rationalize his action by denying that the decision to prorogue had anything to do with the no confidence motion, Grenadian voters have not bought Thomas’s version and feel strongly that prorogation will provide some more navigational support to the NDC’s automatic pilot that has been directing the nation for the past two years.
A few days ago, the opposition New National Party (NNP) hosted a press conference to denounce Thomas’s action and at the same time sounded the alarm bell to voters about ongoing irregularities at the electoral office with respect to the voters list. While the alarm bells and warnings fell short from accusing any one directly, Terry Forrester, NNP’s public relations officer noted that several requests to the Supervisor of Elections for an updated enumerated list of voters have been ignored. In addition, he expressed concern about a recent burglary at the electoral office in which computer equipment was allegedly stolen and officials took several days before reporting the incident to the Royal Grenada Police Force.
The NNP in a most recent statement alluded to the fact that there were abnormalities in the electoral office and the Supervisor of Elections seems very much not concerned. The NNP has promised close vigilance and monitoring of the situation as electoral fraud and vote-rigging are of grave concern.
As the state of the economy declines, and public servants and pensioners are placed in a situation of uncertainty with respect to their monthly wages and allowances, Thomas and his inner circle have embarked upon a strategy to utilize the airwaves and make unsubstantiated allegations against former government members, accusing independent MP Karl Hood of being unpatriotic for filing a no-confidence motion.
Late last month, Thomas took to the national airwaves and made another address to the nation that was filled with anger, hate and loathing towards the opposition leader, Dr Mitchell and MP Karl Hood. Post address response by those who listened to his address seemed not to be inspired .They felt the unnecessary attacks on Mitchell and Hood were not warranted as Grenadians are more inclined to hear what the specific plans to revive the economy and return national prosperity as previously enjoyed under the NNP administration are.
State and electoral power is deeply cherished by those who have acquired them through democratic means. Certainly, there is no question or doubt about Thomas’s rise to state power. However, there seem to be growing concerns in the nation as to how he has handled such power over the last year.
There is his constitutional argument that the NDC was elected for five years. Although, his NDC was elected for five years, the current governing situation has deteriorated, with colleagues resigning from the cabinet, party infighting and an increasing amount of mutinous members. With such an obvious and embarrassing situation, political common sense and decency should take centre stage, by Thomas recognizing that he lost control of the situation and should consider calling it a day.
Unfortunately, he has clearly ignored these options and decided to embark upon a strategy of parliamentary prorogation, political misinformation and false promises to the Grenadian people.
Thomas’s rationale for pursuing prorogation is clear and simple. With the lower house set to resume in late September after the summer recess, there was a second no confidence motion filed by former foreign minister Karl Hood. Reliable rumours swirled and there were clear indicators that Thomas could not muster enough parliamentary support to defeat the motion in a debate. His obvious choice is to avoid Parliament by asking the governor general to prorogue Parliament. Hood’s motion and other important legislative matters are now null and void.
Political misinformation, repetitive accusations about aid and debt irresponsibility against the previous administration and challenges of the global economy have all been mentioned as inhibiting development factors in Grenada. Voters have heard the same stories over and over and they have concluded that Thomas needs to push a new line.
Grenadians at home and in the Diaspora understand the global economic situation and its impact on Grenada. At the same time, they fully recognize and understand that even during the NNP’s last term in office, there were already in existence growing warning signs about the global economy.
The Mitchell administration clearly understood these signs and planned accordingly. Unfortunately for Thomas, he felt that the NDC could escape the wrath of voters’ disgust by blaming Mitchell and the global economy. It has not worked and Grenadians are fully cognizant and tuned in about NDC incompetence and tomfoolery behaviour.
As the yellow jerseys and tee-shirts become pale and replaced with bright and upbeat green colours, red hearts are fading and knocking the doors of the house, Thomas and his inner circle continue to hang on to state power and run the affairs of the nation as a junta. The recent upbeat promise of a pending state visit to Qatar that is likely to yield truckloads of dollars is still pending. Given Qatar’s pre-occupation with the Syrian conflict and possible another conflict between Iran and Israel, one doubts very much that a Thomas joy ride to see the ruling emir will generate substantial resources to revive the economy of Grenada.
The recent signing of a development cooperation agreement between Grenada and Trinidad on energy is not likely to generate miracles in the economy. It is rumoured that the signing of this agreement might have afforded the administration some recurrent expenditure dollars for the next two months to meet public servant and pensioners’ payroll.
The recent establishment of diplomatic relations between Grenada and the Republic of Latvia does not offer any economic hope or relief to Grenada. They will accept the invitation to visit Grenada for the independence celebrations. However, we cannot shrug reality and must ask the following two questions: 1) Will the NDC be around; and 2) will Venezuela send their paratroopers to land in Hermitage? We do not know and time will surely tell.
As prorogation and parliamentary abuse take centre stage in Grenada, Thomas and his junta members are leaving no stone unturned as they continue with their strategy of misinformation and false anecdotes. The most recent is contained in Press Release #90/2012 dated September 18, 2012, which originated from the Prime Minister’s Office. The release indicated that government and a social partnership have established benchmarks for the improvement of the Grenada economy.
While social partnerships should be encouraged and promoted in Grenada, successful and sustainable outcomes are possible when there is an atmosphere that has latitude and longevity. The current junta and their social partners do not have either, given the socio-economic situation in Grenada.
With unemployment growing, workers being laid off and a roughneck labour organization pressing for higher wages, two central private sector organizations have made the decision to pursue a watch and see attitude. The hotel association is still in retrenchment mode and waiting on the junta’s finance minister to arrange a meeting with local bankers to seek an increase in their lines of credit. In addition to these challenges, the Grenada Employers Federation remains in a mute position and the junta continues to promise feeder roads, river dredging; erection of a new hospital and parliament building.
Finally, when all is said and empty promises made to Grenadian voters, there are still no indicators that $760 million will be injected into the Grenada economy. Grenada’s Finance Minister Burke recently indicated that the government of Grenada had signed $600 million in agreements that will be used to improve the economy. In addition, the government had obtained a commitment from the Chinese to build a five star hotel at a cost of $160 million in Mt Hartman.
Grenadians welcomed the above and enthusiasm re-appeared. As the junta paddles its straits, nothing more has been heard of the $600 million in agreement and it is not known when the Chinese are coming. So the uncertainty continues and ten months is not enough to effect massive economic revival.
Is it some more All Fool’s Joke? Only Tilly and Naz to answer these questions.