By Ian Francis
The growing contradictions and disappointment about ineffective management and governance in the Caribbean Commonwealth region continue to be a growing concern by many observers and commentators. These deficiencies are not only evident in our regional institutions like the CARICOM Secretariat, OECS and others. They are very much institutionalized in our governments, their statutory corporations and other institutions under their direction. Given the existence of such continuing and disappointed calamities, it is not difficult to conclude why the Grenada political and governance situation has climaxed to such an uncontrollable height.
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
It remains a nightmare for the governing junta, continued disrespect and insensitivity to the struggling population and an embarrassment to other regional regimes who have adopted the usual excuses that “Thomas’s governing problems is an internal matter”. This Grenadians clearly understand, however, when it is seen and becomes known that another regional colleague has embarked upon undemocratic tactics to hold on to governing, the line becomes drawn and fence sitters must emerge and give a helping hand.
Earlier this morning, I completed my daily task of scanning through the various print Caribbean outlets, which include this online medium Caribbean News Now. Recognizing that it is Tuesday, I was convinced that former Grenada Attorney General, Lloyd Noel’s column might appear. I was also convinced that he would continue with his weekly stinging indictment of the regime that he was once alleged to have been associated with, although he has shrugged off the allegations.
What is very well known to Grenadians at home and in the global Diaspora is that, in 2008, shortly after the Thomas administration was sworn in to govern Grenada, there were deep concerns about previous contractual and other monetary engagements transacted by the former Mitchell administration.
As a result of the above, the Thomas administration solicited the assistance of Noel, Bristol and Joseph to probe some of the above dealings by the Mitchell administration. Many interviews and examination of various documents were undertaken by the three-man, NDC appointed committee. It is not known whether their work was completed, what was the remuneration and the final outcome.
However, as I scanned his column of September 24, 2012, I found an interesting historical comment he cited about Grenada. “Grenada seems to be the first for everything.” Three notable events were mentioned, which included: 1) independence in 1974; 2) an armed uprising in 1979, which led to the overthrow of the Gairy regime, although it is often debated that the events of 1979 were a “popular peoples uprising” and not an armed revolution, as the Grenada Armed Forces were not involved in the events; and 3) the invasion of Grenada by United States and Caribbean forces in 1983.
The current mutiny in the NDC is not the first of its kind in the Caribbean. The problem rests with the manner and approach in how it has been dealt with. There have been previous party infighting and disintegration in the St Lucia Labour Party; the Dominica Labour Party and the Jamaica Labour Party. There might have been others but the three mentioned stand vividly in my mind, as former St Lucia foreign minister, George Odium was a very close friend.
Returning to the political saga in Grenada, Thomas’s NDC has ten months left in office and, if poll indicators are correct, Mitchell’s New National Party (NNP) could be returned to power. The political saga in Grenada is not exaggeration but true reality. The nation’s Parliament, which had its usual summer recess, was due to be reconvened later this month. However, Thomas suddenly advised the governor general to prorogue the Parliament. With Parliament’s impotence, every item that was on the order paper including the Hood no confidence motion has died. As observers have it, prorogation has given Thomas some additional time to hang on to state power.
As the laid off Parliamentarians began to sulk at the prime minister and governor general’s unnecessary action, Thomas was suddenly faced with a bombshell when his Minister of the Environment; Honourable Glynnis Roberts resigned from Cabinet and will sit as an independent. Given Roberts’ action, parliament prorogation and a nowhere to be seen prime minister, another troubling constitutional question emerged as to whether the Thomas NDC can continue to boast of its parliamentary majority.
Unfortunately, up to the time of writing and submitting this article, the concerns about a parliamentary majority and Parliament’s re-opening have not been answered. There has been no sitting of the Parliament and the prime minister cannot be contacted to answer these critical questions.
The NDC Parliamentary majority must be analysed within the given situation so there is no misunderstanding. The constitution of Grenada provides for 15 elected members, who are designated elected parliamentarians. In 2008, the NDC formed the government with 11 elected parliamentarians and the remaining 4 went to the NNP and became the opposition.
When the party mutiny was made known to Grenadians, Church resigned from Cabinet, followed by David and Hood and Roberts. Gilbert was fired for misconduct. These five non cabinet members have indicated that they would sit as independents. This means that Thomas does not command them in Parliament and therefore is unable to boast of a reliable parliamentary majority. Taking the five dissidents and adding them to the four NNP members, it becomes clear that the Grenada House of Parliament is badly fractured and poses a clear threat to Thomas’s survival. This being the case, we might very well find the answer for prorogation.
Given the above perspective, Thomas is tactically using prorogation to hang on to power. However, his junta must also realize this growing undemocratic conduct might not sit well with voters. It is an affront, opportunistic, selfish and disrespectful.
Given all of the above, Grenada’s governor-general, Sir Carlyle Glean has a responsibility to act in the national interest. He needs to do the following:
1) Track down the prime minister and have a frank discussion with him about the situation.
2) Summon the leader of the opposition to apprise him of the discussions with the prime minister and to carefully examine the national interest impact.
3) Instruct Thomas to rescind his prorogation request and ensure the immediate re-convening of Parliament.
4) Restore all motions, bills and other items that were on the agenda when Parliament was suddenly prorogued.
5) Ensure the prime minister informs the governor-general that his NDC administration has a firm and sustained parliamentary majority when the Parliament is reconvened.
6) If #5 cannot be realized by Thomas, House Speaker McGuire has an alternative a) to ensure that the Hood’s no confidence takes priority for debate; and b) to facilitate a House roll call to confirm that Thomas has a majority.
7) If Thomas cannot command a majority, the speaker’s next task is to call upon the opposition leader to determine if he can command a majority. If he can, the GG should know and he should be invited to form a new government.
8) If the opposition leader can’t, then the speaker has to inform the GG. Parliament will be dissolved and a date set for fresh general elections.
To many observers, the above is the most appropriate way to resolve the saga. Alternatively, Thomas can revisit his position by saying,” I do not have to reign for the full five. I will advise the GG to dissolve Parliament.
If Thomas insists on prorogation and ruling by decree as a junta, then Grenadians will have another few months to wait. Time to end the saga.