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.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Men with the hand grenade

IT is another month end – and as the government continues the maladministration, we were hit with the news that the Thomas-Burke-Noel triumvirate of economic no-hopers have decided to sell the people’s shares in GRENLEC to pay its recurrent public service bills.

The only silver lining in this thinking is that those shares will be sold to the National Insurance Scheme, which is technically owned by the people of Grenada.

Burke, in speaking to his favorite television channel – GIS-Lite MTV – said the talk about the sale of shares – is, well at least premature, but interestingly, not entirely out of the question.

“The government is engaged with negotiations with several companies, to talk about its shareholding in those companies, and the possible divestment of some or all of those shares,” he told MTV.

You see with Minister Burke, you have to become an expert at reading between the lines. His arguments on whatever matter are like his politics – always well said, but never straight. He can be economical with the truth (as he is with paying bills), and is an expert at dealing in “optics” –as his last two budget presentations – which have failed basic arithmetic tests – have shown.

The bottom line, is that for a second straight month, Grenadians have not been told where the cash-strapped government has borrowed money from to pay its current bills.

Minister Burke’s “none-of-you-all-business” attitude is seethed in his contemptuous posture that he is the brightest man in the room, and none of us lesser mortals would ever really understand and appreciate those nuances in financial (mis)management.

But that would have been bad enough, even if it was not a country that is going to hell-in-a-hand-basket we are talking about.

Hand it to Naz, at least he has been smart enough to only grant interviews to some of my colleagues who are either not willing enough, prepared enough nor researched enough to ask the tough questions that will force real answers.

As a nation crumbles – its economy grinding to a halt; its politics a standard joke around the Caribbean – the ruling National Democratic Congress is in “a mother of all battles” to remain relevant, let alone survive.

And so it holds its convention on the weekend – a grand celebration of the failure of leadership – the kind of which we have never seen anywhere in modern Caribbean political history.

On the eve of an election, NDC’s biggest claim to fame is that they have “defeated Peter David” – whatever that means.

Is this how success must be measured? Is that what the last four years was about?

Never mind the failure on good governance and transparency. Never mind the failure to put together a serious economic policy. Never mind policies that now have led to the resurrection of Jonah.

Eight years of co-ordinated struggle against the Keith Mitchell government, was to defeat Peter David, pauperize Grenadians, and lay the foundation for the return of the said Keith Mitchell.

Brilliant guys! I could have never engineered that plan – and I thought I was good.

That’s why we are here, at this grand round-about of nothingness, fueled by hypocrisy and ingenuity.

And so here is the NDC’s re-election platform – you are poorer and more hopeless than you were four years ago, but vote for me still, because we fought and defeated Peter David; and you should still fear Keith Mitchell.

Not even counting the inability of the captain to keep his team together – the basic test in leadership - the abysmal record of this fumbling-bumbling take-no-responsibility government, already qualifies the Thomas administration as the worst since independence.

And as Thomas celebrates on Sunday that amazing achievement of mash-up-ability, I would suggest that on his way to Seamon, he takes a detour to Carriacou, and visit the grave of Herbert Blaize.

Seek atonement for how he savaged Blaize at his memorial service for his perceived failed leadership of not being able to manage the original gang of four – of which he was the most disrespecting member.

Thomas, who always hated Blaize’s “Bind Us Together” hymn, has taken a generous page of the old Blaize failed playbook  – a leader whose uninformed rigid autocracy undermined a good thing – and paved the way for another Mitchell era.

I know the likes of my good friend Sandra Ferguson and other leaders in the NGO community, and some trade unionists too – so fear the spectre of Mitchell’s return that they can’t bring themselves to criticize this administration for “sins” that in another time they would have been marching against.

I won’t call this hypocrisy because I can testify that I was once stricken by that fear – and so let some things pass – that otherwise I should not have.

I have since been liberated from this, because fear should never be the basis of anyone’s existence.

But for bringing us to this place – with the feeling of a one-night stand gone horribly wrong – “civil society” should also now want to join me in proverbially, hanging this leadership in the public square.

And as those “leaders” ponder how to get to this place, enjoy Sunday’s final rites, complete with flag waving cheerleaders, and a fair deal of chest thumbing by the architects of this “victory.”

Glen Noel, Nazim Burke, Willie Joseph – and some other comrades of mine – remind me of the story of the man on a plane with a hand grenade, who celebrates the take-over of the flight because he now has the ability to blow it up.

And to prove that he is now in charge of the pilot, crew and passengers, he proceeded to pull the pin.

Sure he had the ability – but in pulling that pin –he crashed everything.

For Willie, who wondered if I have already put up the white flag, I declare I have duly done so on command.

I surrender all – not to the self-anointed soldier of Christ – put to the men with the hand grenade on the flight.

You run things. Pull the pin.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

When will the buck stop with Burke?

The Grenada Minister of Finance had a point when he was interviewed by Lew Smith when he said that there is “no silver bullet” that can fix the ills of the economy.

Any politician whoever comes to say “vote for me” and all your troubles will be over the next day, should be immediately dismissed.

That said – I have begun going over statistics from since independence – and just on the bare evidence – looking through the reign of every Minister of Finance – it appears that statistically, the current Minister is the worst since independence in 1974.

I am sure there can be counter arguments, some subjective, that can argue that outside of the raw local statistics, one has to cater for external factors that would have influenced those.

And so given that reality, it might be a debate that will never have an agreed conclusion.

What bothered me – more than the statistics – and after having listened Minister Burke being interviewed by Lew Smith on Wednesday, is the refusal of the Minister to take responsibility for anything that has happened under his watch.

Even the half-baked apology for the late payment of salaries was compounded by a series of conjunctions.

His act on Wednesday was the best impersonation of “it wasn’t me” since Shaggy was caught with his pants down.

Now, let’s not sweep it under the carpet – Burke was dealt a difficult hand coming in.

By the time he took office, the economy was in decline, the fiscal position was precarious and the economic world outside hostile.

But he has never acted as if there was a state of economic emergency.

And that’s where bad turned into worse.

And as Lew rightly commented on his show – forget the silver bullet – how about trying a bronze bullet?

The Minister has set his own self up to fail. The problem with that, however, is that an entire nation is failing with him.

When he shot himself in the foot, it left the entire nation crippled.

He has never attracted the right people around him to give him the policy guidance that any Minister will need at anytime – even more so in the worst of time.

At some point, Burke needs to answer what ever happened to the National Economic Council that was recommended and signed off on by the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, on advice, had given the go ahead for the setting up of such committee – and people like Richard Duncan and Ambrose Phillip and a few others were identified.

These people would have provided, as true Grenadian patriots – free advice in a structured way to the Ministry of Finance.

It was the Prime Minister’s declared wish. It just never happened.

And it was not a case of there being no money. It was going to be a voluntary committee.

Minister Burke has not hired any economist since he took office, and has marginalized everyone of the others he met there.

The only person he has hired of significance is Chris De Riggs.

Now Chris, an old sparring partner of mine, has many talents. But we have one thing in common – whatever strengths we have -- economics is not one of them.

I would have thought that as a student of Bernard Coard – Burke would have learnt his best traits.

As Minister of Finance back in the early 1980s, Coard had seven Island Scholars working with him including Grenada's IMF world renowned expert, Dr. Davidson Boodoo. He also had a Professor of Economic Planning, Clairmont Kirton of Jamaica. Former President of Chile, Salvador Allende's Chief Economic advisor, Professor Edward Bernstein also did a six month consultancy during the period.

It is that kind of “bronze bullet” Burke needed to hire – but has consistently resisted to his detriment -- and that of the nation.

Additionally, there have been constant complaints privately and not-so-privately from business people – both local and foreign – about how hostile the Minister and his aides have been to them; the “take-it-or-leave it” approaches at so called “consultations”, of showing up late to meetings with no apologies and with a rush to leave.

The problem with the way this current government has been structured is that the Ministry of Finance has been both a government and a law onto itself – and not even the Prime Minister’s wishes are always carried out.

Where I fault the Prime Minister is that there have never been consequences.

I remember the Sewang One World Affair – and how the Prime Minister was hung out to dry.

Then, there is the current case of the late payments of salaries.

When I interviewed the Prime Minister on it, I genuinely felt pained for him. No leader deserved to be put in this position.

Forget -- as bad as that is -- public servants not being informed about the problem.

How about informing the Prime Minister?

No matter what we think of him – and I had my fair share of criticism – Tillman Thomas is the Prime Minister. The least we can do is respect that.

In the midst of all of the salary payment problems, the Minister hops and goes abroad – and leaves the Prime Minister to do the apologizing.

Sewang anybody? So once again, the PM is left to hang out to dry.

If running the Ministry of Finance was boxing, then we would have had a good man in place.

This current one is an expert at bobbing and weaving – and getting out of the way.

During the 2012 budget, when the figures did not add up; he said no problem. He doesn’t have to tell us the plan, but trust him.

Now on the borrowing to pay salaries, he again says he don’t have to tell us.

It’s bad enough to leave the Prime Minister to hang out to dry.

But, an entire nation man?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The truth don’t destabilize

As old President Ronald Reagan will say: “There you go again…”

In this case, it is Grenada’s Minister of Finance Nazim Burke.

Below is what he said September 12, 2012 in an exchange with Lew Smith, blaming everybody and everything except his stewardship for Grenada’s economic mess.

After blaming the world recession, the debt, NNP (long gone for four years), colleagues (I suspect he means the likes of Peter David and Joe Gilbert) “speaking out of turn..” he then went on to blame “certain journalistic forces” in the country for the country’s lack of investments and other economic ills.

NAZIM BURKE: “The internal challenges inside of the party and the government (have) had a negative effect throughout the Caribbean. It was projected by certain journalistic forces in the country; it was projected by certain media houses that Grenada is a mess.

Grenadian journalists and media people pushing that line throughout the Caribbean to ensure that they discredit the government, but in the process of doing that, investors in the Caribbean are saying Grenada is not a place to put my money at the moment. Not realizing that they hurting the country. Not realizing that they are shooting themselves in the foot.

LEW SMITH: Are they speaking the truth?

NAZIM BURKE: They may be speaking the truth but……

MY TAKE NOW: … but what Mr Burke?

Sir, in defense of the “journalistic forces” of which I am a proud member, understand this:

Our job is not to be a bunch of nationalistic flag wavers. Our job is to ask hard questions, raise real queries and report harsh realities.

There is no “but” to the truth.

We are not the Government Information Service.

There will always be a natural tension between governance and what we do.

We had that tension when the New National Party was in office; we have it now with you and we will have it again with whoever replaces you (at which point you'd love us again, as you used to).

It is a discussion I remember I had about 12 years ago with Rawle Titus about what our role should be in terms of what others might see as a national agenda.

He was reporting at the time for the Caribbean News Agency – CANA – during the Keith Mitchell era.

And the government of the day had taken him to task for reporting to the region about a shortage of water at Grenada’s hotels in the south.

Their attitude was that he should not have done it because it will undermine the country’s tourism.

I remember telling him clearly – stand your ground and don’t let anybody intimidate you – your role is not to undermine, protect or promote tourism or any other thing.

You role is to roll with the facts – even when they are not so nice.

I went on to argue: It will be worse for Grenada’s tourism, if we never alert people there is a problem, they then come and find the problem, and then they begin to ask: so how come nobody warned us?

My argument went on: But when people know the facts – they might still take their chances – and there will be no hue and cry afterwards – because at least they were aware what they were getting into.

Recent history shows that when journalists abdicate that role and become some unashamed national flag wavers – it ends up – ultimately destabilizing the nation.

The US media forgot the truth about George Bush’s lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and waved a US nationalistic flag and urged on a nation into a trillion dollar war – that in the end destabilized the US economy.

Only if our US colleagues had put down their national flag – and wave the banner of hard questions and of telling the truth; America – and indeed the world would have been a better place today.

Maybe even the Grenada economy might be better off today.

One little advice Naz – institute better economic policies, find creative ways to expand the Grenadian economy, encourage more foreign investments, make sure public workers are paid on time.

When that happens, the truth will be on your side. And we will have to report on those good truths (whether we like it or not). And then there will be no buts.

There are many things that are destabilizing Grenada. The truth is not one of them.