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

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

Within three weeks of the ceremony of Grenada’s Golden Jubilee on 07 February 2024, Dr. Francis Alexis QC., former Law Lecturer, Attorney-General and Political Leader, floats abruptly and forcefully on 22 January 2024, “Constitution Reform For Grenada At Fifty” by having the Oath Of Allegiance as denoted in the 1974 Independence Constitution been altered.  The alteration of the Oath concerns deleting the words “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors” and substituting the word “Grenada”, as transported from the 2016 Constitution of Grenada (Caribbean Court of Justice and Other Justice-Related Matters) (Amendment) Bill for a constitutional referendum.  The Clause for altering the Oath had appeared as an ‘attached carrot’ in the forty-one Clauses comprehensive 2016 Bill towards an Act predominantly aims to alter the Constitution to provide for the establishing of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final appellate court for Grenada in substitution for “the Judicial Committee of Her Majesty’s Privy Council” of the United Kingdom.  The Bill was rejected by Grenadians in the constitutional referendum on 24 November 2016, and in a following one on 06 November 2018 having no Oath Clause.

Dr. Alexis may have intended to capitalize about the alteration to the Oath of Allegiance, during the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee which also features a great deal of ‘sober reflections as well as spontaneous emotions’ about the nature and extent of Grenada’s Political Independence and the thrust to advance and strengthen Grenada’s decolonization or delinking process from the United Kingdom.  Alexis’ urgings and determinations, with various defences and references, were to have the Constitution Reform been realized “in a matter of days” in time for the occasion on 07 February, so as to register for Grenada a ‘first’ constitution reform, although superficial it may be; a ‘new’ sovereign beginning into the next fifty years, although merely as symbolic; and a ‘refreshing’ civic-consciousness wherewith the people “can more lustily sing with rousing patriotism” the National Anthen : “Hail Grenada”.  A few individuals accepted Alexis’ position and joined in calling on the Government to have the Oath made “no longer to the British Monarch”, with Attorney Jerry Edwin expressing that ‘any step that is possible to kick the English crown to the curve is a step in the right direction and that the people are ready for that step’.  

According to the report, “Edwin: “We are ready for that step””, on the website of TheNewTodayGrenada, Attorney Edwin holds that the “people of Grenada …. 50 years down the road deserve no more appropriate a gift” than the alteration to Grenada’s constitutional Oath of Allegiance, as proposed by Senior Attorney Dr. Alexis.  Edwin promotes that the proposal and the opportunity should be seized for ‘true independence and freedom and the value of equality’, and hopes that soon by law, Grenada “will codify the fact that we are not subjects of the United Kingdom – No King, no Queen, no Prince, no Princess.” The ‘soundness and seriousness’ of Alexis and Edwin in terms of ‘sympathizing and sharing with’ the Grenadian-people is however in question, when none has returned to comment for the ‘no action’ taken by the Government about having the altering of the Oath for the Independence occasion and to demand of the Government a response to the Proposal and / or explanations for it not realized.

Alexis addresses that the Constitution Reform can be effected through the ‘power and will’ of the Grenada Parliament, and without the ‘involvement and endorsement’ of the sovereign constituents; and no doubt, this has added insult to injury for the Grenadian-people. With the timing and attitude displayed for the alteration of the Oath of Allegiance, it is not unreasonable for an ‘experienced conscious patriot’ to suppose that the people were exposed to a treacherous plan. That is; an ‘unknown or non-transparent’ Bill for the altering of the Oath was anticipated to be passed by the politicians in short order, even without having thorough public debates for the understanding by the people about the ‘context and sense’ of the Bill, as well as of the constitutional processes, consequences and options associated with it.  Recall the article, “Must Alexis Cool Down On Grenada Oath Of Allegiance At Golden Jubilee (Day)?”, which ventures to fault Alexis for the omission or deficiency of the legislative and democratic aspects in campaigning for the Change albeit it’s a recurring issue. ‘Imposition in darkness’ is ugly at Independence!

What are some of the pertinent issues regarding the ‘context and sense’ of Pledging Allegiance, or of ‘taking and subscribing to’ an Oath of Allegiance?  Firstly; in the broadest ‘context and sense,’ the action-phrases such as to pledge, to vow and to guarantee convey the same message, and this message is fundamentally about making a solemn declaration or oath of a resolved intention to fulfill or keep genuinely a binding agreement. When the pledging of an allegiance applies to a nation like Grenada, there is generally what is referred to as a National Pledge which expresses a recognition of ‘patriotism and pride and passion’ for the country; of an interest in the prosperity and security of the country; and of a commitment to “defend and uphold the Honour, Dignity and Laws and Institutions” of that country, as the Pledge of Allegiance for Grenada exemplifies. Whilst the National Pledge relates and applies to every citizen and deals with Civics, the Constitution of Grenada comes with an Oath of Allegiance to be taken by high-status Government officials who have supreme fiduciary duties and are expected to serve with distinction, statesmanship, and credibility. Those Officials are required to sign ‘freely and faithfully’ to “honour, uphold and preserve the Constitution of Grenada”, as an Oath of Office also exists for filling.

Whilst there is an impetus for changing the Oath of Allegiance as of its immense importance and necessity to mark national sovereignty and loyalty, there seem to be concerted efforts not to have the meaning and observance of Grenada’s National Anthem, National Pledge and National Motto cultivated and cherished in the consciousness of the people.  At official functions including the ceremony held for the Golden Jubilee on 07 February last, did the attendees ask to join in the singing of the Anthem and to be followed by the reciting of the National Pledge? Quite often the lyrics of the Anthem are not voiced when programmed and presented, but musical renditions are used regularly even on the mainstream media.  Which one of those pledges takes precedence, the National Pledge versus Oath of Allegiance; is it the Oath of Allegiance since it is a requirement by the Constitution and must be completed by signing?

Secondly.  What or who is the object of the Oath of Allegiance; is it directed or sworn to a State, or to an executive authority or to a sovereign people? Why does the change to the original Oath be to “Grenada”, and should not be for example to ‘Grenada and its people’ so as to certify in clear terms that the Oath is between the Governors / Oath-takers and the Governed / citizens?  The Oath does not make direct reference to the Government and governmental system of the United Kingdom, nor does it dictate that Grenada be subjected to the Government and the governmental system of the United Kingdom.  Is it the argument however that ‘Her / His Majesty’ embodies the governing authority, system, philosophy and domain of the United Kingdom and thus swearing allegiance to the British Monarch implies its domination over Grenada? An interesting article “The “Oath of Allegiance is already to Grenada” by Grenada Loyalist also appears on the NewToday website, which tends to clarify and give an edifying dimension about the Oath.  The Grenada Loyalist challenges specifically a transmitted connotation presented by Alexis in the article “Reasoning and precedent advocate change of Oath of Allegiance”.

The Grenadian Loyalist refutes the ‘core rationale’ for altering the Oath of Allegiance thus, “Dr. Alexis is far from the only one in this country that argues …. that the current Oath requires ministers and members of parliament to swear allegiance to the British monarch, rather than to Grenada …. This argument, however, does not hold water for one simple reason: it is not true”.   The condemnation stems from and draws attention to the fact that “there is no mention of Britain in this Oath, only to the King himself”, and induces pointed questioning as to “Why is this?  Because King Charles III is not just King of Britain.  He is also King of Grenada, and it is in this capacity that the Oath of Allegiance is taken; not to him in his capacity as King of Britain. This is an important distinction.”  This reasoning in the 10 February 2024 published article may have been verified by the Governor-General at the ceremony celebrating Grenada’s 50th Anniversary of Independence; in reading the Independence message from His Majesty King Charles III, Dame Cécile La Grenade signed-off by indicating “Charles The Third King of England, King Of Grenada”.     

Public debates on the significance and mechanism about the Oath of Allegiance must also involve exploring substantial perspectives and analyses on the pertinent sections of the Grenada Constitution which provide for the status and role of Grenada’s Executive Authority. Thus for example; “there shall be a Governor-General of Grenada who shall be appointed by Her Majesty and shall hold office during Her Majesty’s pleasure and who shall be Her Majesty’s representative in Grenada …. the executive authority of Grenada is vested in Her Majesty …. (‘and’) …. may be exercised on behalf of Her Majesty by the Governor-General either directly or through officers subordinate to him or her” (section 19 and section 57). Indeed the ‘purpose and substance’ of the constitutional Oaths must be promoted and upheld firmly.

Further considerations about the ‘context and sense’ for pledging allegiance to Grenada, and about altering Grenada’s constitutional Oath of Allegiance, must also focus on ascertaining whether or not swearing to Her / His Majesty has facilitated the malpractices and malfeasances which Grenada has suffered from its Political Directorates.  Is this Swearing responsible for the setbacks why long-standing institutions such as The Integrity Commission of Grenada are not enthused and / or empowered to bring culprits to justice? Would changing the Oath enforce accountability and criminal charges against its violators?  It will be proven of ‘goodwill and good faith’ on the part of Attorneys Alexis and Edwin, to mobilize ‘with the same measure of energy’ all the advocates for the change to the Oath, so as to come foremostly to the rescue of the Grenadian-people, by ensuring Good Governance of accountability, transparency and integrity by the Oath-takers.  It should never be missed that Dr. Alexis highlights in the article “One nation, one future, one allegiance” that changing the form (‘and possibly the details’) of the Oath would not interfere with its purpose, namely, to commit the oath-taker to duties of loyalty, which accords with the ‘purposive’ canon of interpretation. Moreover; whilst the symbolic Form of the Oath is being argued, the British Westminster government system is being enjoyed in the Parliament of Grenada.