By J. K. Roberts ( Sound Public Policies Advocate )
On 24 January 2024 the NOWGRENADA website publishes “MPs to celebrate 50th Independence with special joint sitting”. The article mentions about a notice from the Clerk of Parliament to the Members of Parliament (MPs) for a Special Joint Sitting of the Upper House (Senate) and of the Lower House (House of Representatives) of Parliament to be held on 06 February 2024 starting at 9:00am, in order to observe the fiftieth Anniversary of Grenada’s Independence; this being in accordance with Standing Order No. 10 of the Senate and Standing Order No. 12 of the House of Representatives. It should be instructive that particularly, Section 12 tends to provide the rationales or the circumstances for the Speaker of the House of Representatives to direct the Clerk to summon the Members for such a sitting of the House; that is, “when the House stands adjourned …. there is (‘an’) urgent necessity …. that the public interest so requires” for the House to meet earlier than the set date for its resumption, as is represented by a Minister of Government or by more than half of the elected Members to the House of Representatives.
Is the reason cited for the Special Joint Sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, qualify under the two fundamental conditions which are specified in the Standing Order for the purpose of such sittings? What reasonable ‘natural and moral and legal’ interpretations will declare that there truly exists “urgent necessity” and / or “public interest” for the Special Joint Sitting, within the ‘holistic context’ of the celebrations of a milestone completion by a nation, such as the Golden Jubilee of Grenada? Has this Grenada’s milestone completion come as an ‘unexpected occasion with an emergency? Isn’t this obviously ‘ad hoc or spontaneous’ decision to summon the Members of Parliament for the Special Joint Sitting, at this time and manner, testify that there has not been any ‘meaningful interest and sound preparations’ on the part of the Government towards the Golden Jubilee? Should there be any excuses on the behalf of the 23 June 2022 Administration of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) for the ‘tardiness, naivety and / or failure’ about its ‘approach to and desire for’ the Celebrations, and thus for the Government to having this ‘afterthought’ about the Golden Jubilee and for the Special Joint Sitting?
The purported Order Paper for the Special Joint Sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, as the Second Session of the Eleventh Parliament, mainly consists of a Motion by the Honourable Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell. The “Motion for the 50th Anniversary of the Independence of Grenada” is riveted on Grenada’s historic existence originating as Camahogne with regional indigenous prominence, which was later colonized by the Europeans after resistance by the indigenous peoples; with the French and the British battling for and twice exchanging ownership of Grenada, and under British rule it forms a part of the Federation of the West Indies and then was given Associated Statehood before gaining Political Independence on 07 February 1974 and becoming a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
And with further considering that 07th February 2024 marks 50 years of the Independence of Grenada from Colonial rule and that Both Houses of Parliament are desirous of marking this milestone, the Motion continues toward seeking a resolution thus : “NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT further endorsed at this Special Joint Sitting of the Houses of Parliament held at Mt. Wheldale, St. George, this 6th day of February 2024, is the sentiment of the motion of 11th December 1973 by the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which read: “That the Grenada Termination of Association Order 1973, a draft of which was laid before this House on 22nd November, be approved.”, and which took effect on 7th February 1974; AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Houses of Parliament of Grenada at this Joint Sitting records fervent independence wishes to all citizens of the State of Grenada.”
Does the ‘context and objective’ of Dickon Motion substantiate the imperative for the Special Joint Sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives? What is the reasonable definition and / or interpretation of the “sentiment” of the endorsed Motion of 11 December 1973 in the Parliament of the United Kingdom? What are the justifications and / or the necessities for the ‘further endorsement’ of this 1973 British Motion by the Grenada Parliament? What really is the significance, the form and the extent of Both Houses of Parliament “marking this milestone” of Grenada’s Independence; is it about ‘acknowledging and correcting’ a fault of the process at the time of hosting the Independence? Why is Dickon Motion limited to “The Grenada Termination of Association Order 1973”, but that it is silent about “The Grenada Constitution Order 1973”? How does the ‘sentiment’ of the 1973 British Motion relate to the letter, the contents and the applications of the Grenada Constitution Order 1973 / the 1974 Independence Constitution (Chapter 128A: Grenada Constitution Act)? Is it a requirement of the Grenada Parliament to ‘further endorse’ this 1973 British Motion before, or in order that, the “Council for Carriacou and Petit Martinique …. the principal organ of local government” there, can be constituted?
Most ‘regrettable and concerning’, is that Dickon Motion does not consider any reason or intention to patriate, or to reform the National Constitution, neither to produce a new Constitution ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’. Is it the consideration of Dickon’s NDC-administration that this Motion would suffice for the ‘worthy and justifiable’ aspirations of the Grenadian-people about the Constitution and so therefore, the Resolution will reduce or quell or dismiss the persistent voices of stalwart citizens on those long-outstanding sovereign issues? Moreover; is the Motion a substitute or an escape about the Government to present at the upcoming Independence Day ceremony, the ‘documentary evidence about Grenada’s Independence’, as Chairperson Dr. Wendy Crawford-Daniel of the National Organising Committee for the Golden Jubilee, hints that there are efforts with the British High Commissioner to possess or to retrieve such historic reference which was presented at that time but may have been lost?
It should be of serious interest and questioning, in realizing that the ‘presumably 24 January 2024’ notice for the Special Joint Sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives comes on the heels of a Public Statement, “Constitution Reform For Grenada At Fifty”, been released on 22 January 2024 by Dr. Francis Alexis KC, constitutional lawyer and long-time advocate for constitutional reforms. The Alexis Statement virtually directs for the Dickon’s NDC Administration to institute and register a constitution reform, with the altering of Grenada’s Oath Of Allegiance; the Statement outlines that this ‘first-time constitution reform’ achievement is possible through the ‘power and will’ of the Parliament, and without the ‘involvement and endorsement’ of the sovereign constituents, citing a pertinent 2002 case in Jamaica.
The Alexis Statement concludes like this : “How momentous would it be that our leaders, on 7 Feb 2024, swear allegiance to ‘Grenada’ …. On this reform we can more lustily sing with rousing patriotism: Hail Grenada at fifty”. Alexis therefore seems to inject and to be responsible for the “urgent necessity” about the Special Joint Sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives on 06 February 2024. This conclusion also conveys that the submission is in the “public interest” within good governance, sovereign independence, patriotic and democratic tenets. Despite the Statement may endeavour for a proud National Achievement for the Golden Jubilee, it has not been sufficiently and thoroughly ventilated in the public domain for the enlightenment of the people and may even not have any pronouncements of views by the ‘independent’ Members of the Senate. A critical question moreover, relates to deciphering whether or not the proposed Endeavour is genuinely about Public Interest versus egoistic Political Expediency, especially when considering the scenario that ‘had not Honourable Delma Thomas Crossed The Floor from the Opposition New National Party (NNP) of Keith Mitchell, following the 23 June 2022 general elections, to give the NDC Administration two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives, which could facilitate this ‘symbolic and superficial’ constitutional reform, would Alexis take this gesture?
Further to the ‘afterthought’ by the NDC Administration about the Golden Jubilee, it is highly likely that there is an inherent ‘conspiracy and disrespect’ against the Grenadian-people with the scheduled Special Joint Sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The point must be made that the ORDER PAPER for the Special Joint Sitting (No. 1 of 2024) also provides for “Request for leave to move the adjournment of the House on matters of urgent public importance” and that Section 12 of the Standing Order of the House of Representatives also provide that “by leave of the House” business other than what has been specified in the Notice could be transacted at any special sitting of the House, whilst Section 14 of the Standing Order is “Adjournment of the House on matters of urgent public importance”.
Do those two referenced parliamentary items in the Order Paper and in the Standing Order provide the entry and chance for the Alexis Statement to form part of the proceedings of the Special Joint Sitting?
How do Dickon Motion and Alexis Statement provide valuable input towards the expressions and realities of the Golden Jubilee theme “One People One Journey One Future”? Indeed the Endeavour for a travesty of ‘decent constitutional reforms’ as at play with the Special Joint Sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, adds to the ‘controversies and confusions’ which typifies Grenada Independence, and it brings to light the substance of the previously internet-circulated article “Grenadians Celebrating Golden Jubilee In DJABJAB Style!“ according to the Prime Minister’s declared intention for the occasion.