The content originally appeared on: The Barnacle News
Joseph K. Roberts

By J. K. Roberts (Sound Public Policies Advocate)

Grenadian Dr. Francis Alexis QC. constitutional lawyer and advocate for constitutional reforms, is a recognizable and experienced discussant concerning constitutional governance throughout the Caribbean region, and he was given the opportunity to spearhead Grenada’s first constitutional referendum through a broad-based Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) to change the nation’s 1974 Independence Constitution.  Alexis promoted the required ‘consultative, educational and collaborative’ process for altering the ‘principal ideals, governing substance and structure, and development aspirations’ of the nation as an “Open University” for the Grenadian-people, and for the ‘attention and guidance’ of the CRAC he has collected and combined various recommendations from the “very substantial Reports” submitted by the two Constitution Review Commissions which were established previously by the Government.  Alexis’ 06 February 2014 working document for the CRAC, “Recommendations by Grenada Constitution Review Commissions”, also includes references to a 2011 Draft Constitution, called The Draft Constitution of the Commonwealth of Grenada, by the deceased Grenadian Law Professor, Simeon Charles Randolph McIntosh who was a former Review Commissioner.

The March 2016 article “Grenada Constitution Reform : Open University!” drew the attention of the powers-that-be to the reasonable expectations, in terms of the objectives, approach and other pertinent features of the Open University, which would result in an empowered and informed citizenry toward a harmonious and honourable referendum, but this was never achieved on 24 November 2016.    The past article “Grenada Constitution Reform : The Misleading Phenomena” pinpoints some  dire infections and imperfections of the Reform Process, and this was evident in the confusions created for the citizenry which leads to a rejection of all seven Referendum Bills, among those who sensed the need to cast votes.

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, corporate attorney-at-law and unknown political and labour agitator, declares and thus far demonstrates no ‘interest and commitment’ to initiate another constitutional referendum, and particularly he affronts the Grenadian-people with the excuse that the Parliamentary Opposition party will “play political football” with this sovereign undertaking.  The two-part article “Diversionary Tactics About Reforming Grenada’s Constitution” empirically rejects and refutes the prime minister’s posture which does not speak favourable and fitting for any leader who is ‘resolute and earnest’ about the remedial aspect of National Transformation.  The Article also emphatically asks the prime minister to disclose the extent of any constructive contributions, or of any political ‘criticisms and conspiracies and contradictions’ coming from or by his part, to the Reform Process which was undertaken by the preceding Prime Minister Keith Mitchell; as well as the extent of his (Dickon) familiarity with the related materials under consideration then.   Even though at that time Dickon may not have been active in frontline politics, the Reform Process has been a typical avenue for him, like all well-meaning citizens, proving to possess and radiate nationalistic attributes for the ‘advancement and reputation’ of Grenada. 

As a matter of fact; Dickon has a responsibility to prove whether it was an opportunistic or a deceitful stance on the road to the office of the Prime Minister when he was expressing on the Grenada Broadcasting Network on 18 January 2022 that ‘it is the citizens of the country who will make the determination of which political party wins the general elections if it were called snap or otherwise …. elections are not about the opposition but are about the citizens of the country making and giving their opinions as to whether or not they are satisfied with the governance of the country’.  It is thus for Dickon to explain why this expression does not relate or apply to a referendum on changing a system which, as has been alluded during the same occasion, is ‘outdated and counterproductive to democracy and doesn’t lead to good governance but for political exploitations’. Is Dickon really convinced that the Grenadian-people will be hesitant to vote for any ‘meaningfully changing’ of a governance system which gives unfettered powers to the prime minister and does not hold State-executives criminally accountable, or be swayed from voting for a new constitutional regime which they ‘actively and satisfactorily crafted’?

As the referenced article about the Diversionary Tactics recounts; after offering a provocative keynote address on “Reparations, Republicanism and The Rule of Law : What Next After Fifty Years Of Independence?”, at a memorial public meeting of the legal fraternity, the prime minister further lectures about ‘not having a constitutional referendum as an imperative’ for the 23 June 2022 administration of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), in response to a question from the attendance.  Dickon Mitchell decides to ‘not waste time by trying to create constitutional reform from a government perspective alone’; although the NDC been in opposition without having a seat in Parliament, considers and enters this sovereign Issue in its 2017 – 2030 Policy Agenda, to be undertaken for “A Well-Ordered And Equitable Society”.   Appreciating the return of the NDC to Government and having Dickon as its new leader with a National Transforming Agenda, and in consistent with the ‘weight and demand’ of the Topic presented, the question of Grenada “going through a referendum and constitutional change to have a constitution of the people, by the people and for the people’ was appropriately directed to the prime minister as a test and for expecting a potential closure on this Issue, especially in light of the nation’s Golden Jubilee. 

Disappointingly to date; no political entity, no legal person, and no high-flying activist for constitutional reforms has publicly sought to cause the ‘revaluation or the refocus’ of the novice prime minister’s ‘carefree and careless’ thinking on the outstanding need for rectifying the ‘deficiencies and queries’ about the Constitution, which would also facilitate the enlightenment of the Grenadian-people on the ‘substance and scope’ of nationhood.  Could the prime minister really claim to be acting ‘in the public interest or for the better good of the nation’, when the unfortunate message is transmitted that he is ‘unprepared and unwilling’ for exploring and devising a ‘welcoming and viable’ strategy to accommodate all stakeholders including the Parliamentary Opposition towards addressing a Sovereign Goal which transcends partisan thinking?  Instead of realizing the needed ‘correction and counsel’ to Dickon about Constitution Reform, there has been the passing at a Special Joint Sitting of the Houses of Parliament on 06 February 2024, without deep questions and broad debates even by the Members of Parliament, of a motion to ‘further endorse the sentiment of the motion of 11 December 1973 by the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, “That the Grenada Termination of Association Order 1973 …. be approved” which took effect on 07 February 1974’ with the hosting of the Independence Constitution’.

After a hiatus in the public domain on matters in relations to Grenada’s Constitution, since the ‘failed’ 2016 constitutional referendum and another one on 06 November 2018; on the verge of the ceremony of the nation’s fifty years of Political Independence, Dr. Alexis emerges robustly with substantial utterances in the form of interviews and writings, seeking to have as an Independence gift to the Grenadian-people, “Constitution Reform For Grenada At Fifty” by having the Oath Of Allegiance changed by substituting “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors” with “Grenada”.  Like the ‘timing and manner’ of calling the Special Joint Sitting of Parliament, the ‘pitch and proposal’ of Alexis’ re-emergence shocks the experienced ‘sober and conscious’ citizens, and with ‘curiosity and perplexity’ within the context of the Special Joint Sitting, leads to the articles “Grenadians Must Condemn Parliament Special Sitting For Golden Jubilee” and “Must Alexis Cool Down On Grenada Oath Of Allegiance At Golden Jubilee?”.  Notwithstanding any perceived good reason or substance, at face value, for admiring and accepting the Special Sitting and the Independence Gift, both articles sought to show the lack of ‘goodwill and goodfaith’ by the powers-that-be for the democratic principles of Grenada.

Despite the exclusion of constitutional reforms as an imperative of the NDC-Government’s transformational agenda, the prevailing condition is ‘ready and right’ for public discourse and civic consciousness on the Independence Constitution towards an Indigenous Constitution. Moreover; the ‘appeal, motivation and experiences’ in pursuit of a new constitution, essentially as of 13 March 1979, set the ‘foundation and factors’ for constitutional reforms. Whether or not it was a pacifying or a hypocritical comment as part of the response to the question which was raised following the Keynote Address at the 22 November 2023 Memorial Public Lecture, Dickon Mitchell has declared happiness ‘to have the conversation and be an advocate for the process of constitutional reforms and about what type of Government is needed for Grenada over the next fifty years, from an education point of view’.

Is Dickon aware of the continued public conversations on Constitution Reform and Good Government by institutions such as the Independent Caucus for Constitution Reform and by stalwart professionals such as Attorney Ruggles Ferguson KC who is featured regularly at pertinent fora? Is it the intention for the approval of the Motion on 06 February 2024, to gratify the calls and concerns by individuals like Citizen John Rullow about the patriation of the Independence Constitution and for re-founding Grenada through a Constituent Assembly?  Aren’t the various presentations by Regionalists for acceding to the Caribbean Court of Justice and to Republicanism, form valuable and serious conversations in the Education Process? The apparent ‘passing’ return of Dr. Alexis on Constitution Reform, and with the attention it generated, increases the dynamics and dimensions on the discussions for constitutional reforms with the invoking of new debaters.  Alexis holds in the 22 January 2024 Public Statement, “With that change, our Oath of Allegiance would be, no longer to the British Monarch, but instead to our own ‘Grenada’.  This would be very monumentally meaningful patriotically.”  Attorney Jerry Edwin is a radical proponent for this premise and proposal by Alexis and asserts that ‘the Grenadian-people are ready to kick the English crown to the curve, which is the right thing to do after 50 years of Independence’.   The statements and stances by both attorneys triggered strong rebukes by a strange group, The Grenada Monarchist League, via the website-circulated article “Misinformation about the Oath of Allegiance and our Head of State must stop” which sees as ‘hypocritical and deceitful’ the information presented to the general public about the status, role and domain of His Majesty King Charles III as the Head of Grenada. This challenging condemnation by the Grenada Monarchist League further fuels the need for the return of the Open University, for deeper understanding about the ‘rationale and substance’ of the existing constitutional provisions, as well as for the recommendations for altering and / or advancing the Constitution.