Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Of mass deception and paranoia

GRENADA’S Finance Minister Nazim Burke was on one of his tours of mass deception on Wednesday, while avoiding the issue of his dealings with the National Insurance Scheme.

He won’t subject himself to any interview with the Associated Press, the Caribbean Media Corporation or CARIBUDPATE News – but he went on very friendly territory Wednesday, including of course – naturally – the Government Information Service.

He was all over the place declaring that government did not “request” any money from the NIS, while in the same breath stating that government has “business with the NIS” – business that he says is “not wise” to speak about.

He told GBN that the report (I guess supposedly the CARIBUPDATE and/or CC6 one) “is totally false”, yet he told MTV that “this may be so, but..”

Mr Burke went on a well thought-out and orchestrated campaign on Wednesday to try to confuse people and deliberately mislead.

Also disingenuous was his assertion that businesses and institutions do business all the time, but they don’t speak about it.

The government is –well just that – the government who supposedly is beholden to the people. The National Insurance Scheme is not a private credit union or some commercial bank – it belongs to the workers of Grenada technically.

Whatever transactions that go on between the government of Grenada and the NIS are of national interest – and it is fair for people like us to ask questions.

This “none of-your-business” attitude that repeatedly comes from Burke does little credit to his own government.

Burke must stop hiding behind semantics, and state whether what we ascertain as the facts are true or not – no beating around the bush.

Has not government sought 10 million dollars from NIS, offering the organization land and government bonds in return?

Isn’t this the third time for the year the government has gone to the NIS with some “business proposal” so that it can get money to “meet its current bills” – well in our interpretation – to pay salaries?

This writer is absolutely confident that these are the basic facts of the most recent developments – and Burke can look to dance around it how he wants to his own declining credibility.

Most of us who have seen his sleek operations have always known that he is stingy with the truth – no wonder he avoids as the plague any invitation to sit down for an interview, at any time, at any place and under any general conditions of his comfort.

Here is a gentle reminder, my learned friend: The truth needs no avoidance to tough questions.

“We are in business with the NIS. The NIS is in business with us,” Burke told GBN on Wednesday.

Since the Minister has an inability to piss straight – let me break it down for him.

What you are saying, sir, is that you went to the NIS (again) for more money, in exchange for lands and bonds, and it is considering the application

So fair enough – you are in business with the NIS, and the NIS is in business with you.

And what is so sinister about this, that you cannot give a simple acknowledgement?

I suspect the problem with the Minister is that it reminds people of the government’s fiscal crisis, and how he has so badly mismanaged the economy, in yes sure – an otherwise very, very difficult economic environment.

On another note, I caught tonight Burke’s “despicable” responses to comment on the management of the economy by members of the business community.

As true to form, without dealing item by item with the concerns raised, he went on a broadside to question their motive, to suggest that as if they are political motivated and have axe to grind with this government.

Burke even accused members of the Chamber of “conspiring” with the previous government to economically mismanage the country.

Is this Minister of Finance for real?

Or are we seeing a new standard of paranoia that is off the charts by his own consistent sweating state of nervous discomfort anytime he is seriously questioned?

But it should not surprise those of us who have studied this government closely.

From the Prime Minister on down, its standard response to anybody or any group that has been “fresh enough” to ask tough questions – is to use state and other resources to systematically try to smear them.

There is an orchestrated one in full gear against Chester Humphrey for example – the man who was their hero when he was lambasting the previous government – but all of a sudden is the worse human being in town.

They had tried it with Scholar when he sang a critical calypso a few years ago.

The same man interestingly they were running down recently to contest a seat for them in St Patrick’s West. (Good for Scholar he is not as “suicidal” and he is smart enough to stay away from this “burning deck”)

Speaking about Burke’s paranoia – as Lew Smith asked him about the CARIBUPDATE report on the economy – he dismissed it with this retort: “This person has taken a very strong dedicated commitment to try to bring the government down.”

Is that me Sir?

Not guilty!

It wasn’t me that has spent four years fighting for power, bad talking colleagues and undermining leaders. (I have just been commenting on it).

You’ve done a very good job at that – and you needed no help.

Friday, November 23, 2012

On the issue of trust

AN ISSUE that appears to light up the online community overnight has been the statement by Deputy Prime Minister Nazim Burke that he was not a member of the hated Revolutionary Military Council that was formed in Grenada in 1983.

Burke at the time, as reported elsewhere, was speaking on the You Decide television programme with host Byron Campbell on Wednesday night.

At the center of the discussion was the issue of trust – the argument Burke was making for the return to power of the NDC, in spite of him presiding over the country’s worst economic times perhaps in recorded history.

Setting off the firestorm was a caller’s assertion that Burke should not be speaking about trust given his political history – dating back to those difficult days of 1983.

I am always one who is careful not to use that old 1983 bogey against anyone – something that frankly has been overused in Grenada’s political context through the years.

But since it was being discussed overnight as an issue regarding trust, it became a relevant discussion again.

Burke was reported as saying: “Your accusation that I was a member of the RMC was false. You know that I was never a member of a military council.”

When host Byron Campbell sought a follow up asking him of his role as the Minister of Finance following the killing of Bishop, Burke said: “It is false.”

Burke said further: “I was never the junior minister of finance under the revolution.”

Here is the fact, as we were best able to ascertain from our research.

When the formation of the RMC was announced following the death of Bishop in 1983, Burke was not listed as a member of the 16 names announced on radio.

Those were mainly of military people, and included by some accounts Vincent Roberts – who is currently among those associated with the current administration.

Burke, from most accounts however, was the defacto Minister of Finance in the six days between the killing of Bishop and the US invasion – though there was no such formal position in the chaos.

His name was also mentioned as a nominee to “a civilian government” that was to have taken over within two weeks.

It has also been established that between the time of Bishop’s death and the US invasion, Burke had joined two military officials in meeting with business leaders in Grenada, to talk about “the economic policy” going forward.

His role was widely publicized at the time – and some historical records listed him as “a Ministry of Finance official” for the new government.

Burke may be technically right per se in that he was not a member of the council, but he was their finance guy, and headed the Ministry of Finance in the aftermath of the killing of Bishop.

He was widely regarded as a member of the inner circle following the death of Bishop.

He was reported by many accounts to be “physically on site organizing things” during the days of the now infamous “shoot-on-sight curfew.”

But after all these years, Burke has still refused to answer exactly where he was on the day Bishop was killed, and what did he do on that day and in the days in the aftermath.

There have been some tantalizing stories, but through the years he has never been one of those to discuss them – not even off the record nor in old talk.

But Naz committed no crime – and he must stop acting as if there is something to run from.

His attempts at denial over the years, that he “never held a gun nor killed a chicken,” have always rung disingenuous.

And those attempts to paint himself as what is he is not – is more troublesome that any “sins” he might have committed – real or imagined.

These are the things that go to the heart of the issue of trust – the very argument he was seeking to make the other night on television.

For me I have long forgiven any role he may have played in 1983 – then he was just an impressionable young man from Carriacou with burning ambitions of any average 20-something-year-old.

 I have been more concerned about the more mature Naz of 2002 – especially since this is the episode that I have more intimate and firsthand knowledge of.

To me and others, he still needs to explain exactly what his role was in 2002 in the plan to unseat Tillman Thomas as the leader of the NDC at the Gouyave convention.

What role did he play in getting the late Teddy Victor to front the push – and who are those in the end that scuttled it?

In understanding that period, we may all come to understand what has transpired in the last four years.

What stands out for me during the lead up to that convention was Burke’s now famous – or maybe infamous -- declaration that (in his words): “Tillman Thomas can’t lead me.”

Friday, November 9, 2012

A mistake spelt with three letters

I have listened with amusement, the Prime Minister's attempt to walk back on his announcement a couple of weeks aback that a new Board of Directors was in place for Gravel and Concrete, when at the time it was not. 

He told a radio interview this week, that the announcement was " a mistake".

A mistake?

What is there to be mistaken about? 

The Grenadian leader watched us in the face and told us that 24 hours earlier HIS cabinet had taken a decision on the board.
Sir, it either happened or it did not.

What is there to make a "mistake" about? 

I have a less that complimentary description for that episode. 

Chester Humphrey said on radio this week that "in court that is called perjury." 
He is even more diplomatic on this, than I'd be.

And why is all this important? And is this a big deal? 

In and of itself, maybe not. But in the larger scheme of things, it is. 

You see, the Prime Minister has built his political career on an almost unreproachful sainthood; this warrior for Christ who has been divinely appointed to deal with all of us charlatans.

In his own mind, and those who promote him, Prime Minister Thomas is supposed to be no ordinary politician; and you dare not question him because by doing so you immediately become inherently "evil." 

There are many things he said at that press conference that were not consistent with reality; and there were a few others that were downright misleading; such as that the decision to retrench the Gravel and Concrete workers was only a "proposal". 

Some people are of the view that in some of those cases, it is because the Prime Minister had been badly misinformed; in others purposefully misled by his advisors. 

And indeed, some of these analyses might be actually true. 

But since 2010, I had come to painfully personally accept, that our goodly Prime Minister is very capable of making -- well what he will call mistakes -- but what I will describe more brutally with a three-letter word. 

Two years ago the Prime Minister conspired with a couple of people in his office, along with George Grant and George Worme, to mislead the nation in a matter involving me.

And Prime Minister Thomas was so inept with his politics, he did not even allow surrogates to do it, but instead inserted himself at the scene of the crime.

Interestingly after the Prime Minister's barrage then, when I inquired what was that all about from someone in his office, he had put it down to "a mistake" his boss made that "should not have happened." 

Another told me it was because the Prime Minister was "misinformed". 
(Only that being so badly misinformed as a leader is 10 times more dangerous than driving drunk). 

But like the Gravel and Concrete thing, I am long satisfied that it was not just a mistake -- it was calculated to mislead -- to give a particular impression.

This declaration back then that somehow I was upset with him and his government because some "contract" I had demanded was turned down, was an untruth he told, that up until then, I never believed he was capable of. 
(And while I have gotten private apologies about it from some of his aides, I still await his). 

But for those who have been in denial, get use to what I have come to know since 2010; this warrior for Christ is capable of making -- err -- well - mistakes. 

Only that in my household, we spell "mistake" with only three letters.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

When will we begin to take action?

Poor Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.

He called a press conference on Tuesday morning to report on his visit to the United Arab Emirates for an environmental conference – but all the reporters wanted to know – reflecting the mood of the nation, is when is he going to recall parliament.

And he duly stuck to his inarticulate talking points with a straight face – and at one point, even a mischievous giggle.

He said there is nothing illegal about the suspension (as if any sane person had questioned that), and that people in Grenada still have rights (as if that, too, was questioned).

When the Prime Minister has the time to sit down with William Joseph and Glen Noel and others to craft a half decent answer, here is the question that still needs to be answered: Exactly what is the reason for the delay in re-opening parliament?

That is the crux of the matter.

And while what is being done is apparently based on the letter of the law, is it in the spirit of any self-respecting democratic society?

The provision to be able to suspend parliamentary sitting for up to six months, one will suspect, is to take care of extenuating circumstances – like a national disaster, a country at war, et cet.

Tillman Thomas' own political survival is not an extenuating circumstance – especially so when a country is facing its worst economic crisis in its history, and one of its biggest political meltdowns, save 1983.

Thomas continued touting of his democratic credential gets more hallowed each time you hear it.

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is still the recognized leader of that country – and I guess technically and legally – he is authorized to send troops to various cities and bomb people he deems as “counters’’ and “terrorists’’.

But there comes a time in politics when, irrespective of what “legal authority’’ leaders clothe themselves in to govern, that there is something bigger that matters –“moral authority’’.

With more MPs opposed to the regime, than supporting it; with the ruling party divided down the middle; with the economy in free fall; with salaries late again – Prime Minister Thomas has lost the moral authority to govern.

He needs to reconvene the parliament or call general elections.

And if he doesn't anytime soon, we – the ordinary people of Grenada – must begin to do something about it.

We must come together and peacefully, through all democratic channels, send a message to this regime -- that our very democracy is worth defending.

Grenada's biggest crisis right now is the failure of leadership – and it’s not only in government.

The NGO and Trade Union leadership has let us down; and the church leadership has retreated into a post-revolution cowardice.

As for the likes of opposition MPs Keith Mitchell and Peter David – I have heard your protestations; I have heard your complaints. They are all welcomed.

But move the ball one step further! Start mobilizing people and bring them together – for real action; or also lose your relevance, as Prime Minister Thomas, already has.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


The theme song tonight at the end of convention rally of Grenada's ruling National Democratic Congress was "Better Days Are Coming." Interestingly the response chorus to the song was: "They lying, they lying and they lying."

When Black Stalin and then Eric Donaldson did the song -- it was a tongue-in-cheek statement of 'unbelievability'.

And so some of us from the outside watched with unbelievable-awe as guys with the hand grenade, pulled the pin tonight.

The men in charge of the flight, effectively crashed the plane during the ruling National Democratic Congress convention in rural St Andrew's on the eve of October.

The old saying September Remember; October All Over came into full effect.
Inspired by the strategy authored by my good friend William Joseph and built on the long-held leadership ambition of Nazim Burke, the NDC succeeded in tearing its heart out by expelling the foundation members of its 2003 revival.

It traded inclusivity for exclusivity, ignoring the basic arithmetic of politics.

In doing so, Burke got out of the way anyone that may challenge his ascendancy to leadership after Tillman Thomas duly loses his seat in parliament within the next nine months.

But in many ways history is repeating itself.

As he had done in being the RMC's Minister of Finance for a few short days back in 1983, Burke is again set for short term glory, as people settle for long term pain.

In adopting the strategy, the party sacrificed a long term chance for a short term dance -- as the MC for the afternoon rally Ann Peters effectively declared in essence mission accomplished.

If the expulsion was the mission, she was bang on the money.

It reminds me of the US mission in Afghanistan. NDC has decided that victory is not winning against NNP at the polls early next year, but winning against former comrades in September.

New Chairman Franka Bernadine then duly obliged that there is now a party with one view.

It is indeed now a party of one view and many contradictions.

One of the glaring contradictions in the Soviet-style politburo putz  on Sunday is that the party of good governance on the eve of elections has now decided that contracted public servants can hold executive positions.

And in a party that preaches due process, the "rebels" were afforded none, as the divinely appointed submitted to the rule of the mob.

(In another instance of contradiction that was the beef of the gathered press -- we were told no media allowed to the closed door session -- but then George Worme was allowed to witness the process. You interpret this as you may).

Hypocrisy has been in full effect in the lead up to the convention, including a daring silent clamp down on any media the authors of the putz engineered.

There is evidence that there was direct intervention by the Prime Minister's office -- as it had with the Rawle Titus affair -- in influencing the Grenada Broadcasting Network -- in an amazing betrayal and capitulation of a Barbados-based colleague -- to tell Godfrey Augustine he cannot no longer host 'River Stone.'

The reason -- it has become too political and too hostile to the government -- really to mean Thomas and Burke.

A private station was directly threatened last week, as that dreaded call came to the owner that Calistra Farrier should not proceed to interview Glynis Roberts and others.

Other than the blatant hypocrisy of this government, Grenada is facing a cold, dark reality  -- in the context of where democracy is hijacked -- liberty is under strain.

The "heavy manners" is not limited to the "10 rebels"-- and if we don't stand up as a nation, and not just take note, but also act, heaven knows who can be next. 

But on another note, a party that has confusion and ungratefulness in its DNA, is heading for a 1999 style beating that nobody -- not the expelled 10 -- could have saved.

No matter how good you are, it's hard to promote a defective product.

And, in all the political drama which unfolded on Sunday -- there was one moment of classlessness and near treachery that we should not let anyone forget.

The then outgoing chairman Stanford Simon duly showed up to take charge of the meeting on Sunday.

Sensing a tension, he approached Nazim Burke and Glen Noel and said to them if it is the wish of the executive for him not to chair the meeting, he is willing to opt out.

They assured him it is not the will, and then allowed him to start  the meeting -- only to move to embarrass him and unceremoniously throw him out.

Maybe the lesson here is that there are some men whose word you can never take.

And finally, a passing comment.

Now that the men with the hand grenade can claim victory amidst the crash, prove me wrong and test it in the wider playing field.

In the words of the soca hit -- if you bad, touch a button.