Keith Mitchell Charting A New Course For Grenada
By N Oji Mzilikazi
11 June 2014
On Friday June 6, 2014, I attended the Grenada Nationals Association of Montreal Inc. town hall meeting with Dr. the Right Honorable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of the tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique. Though I left before its conclusion, I was impressed and moved by Dr. Mitchell’s political maturity and statesmanship.
Post-independence West Indian politics has been intensely partisan and/or tribal, defined by fiercely loyal supporters, fiercely loyal areas/parishes/neighbourhoods, as well as defined by class, ethnicity/race. Political garrisons became the order of the day.
Politicians were known to resort to ethnic/tribal/religious values and/or identity as well as stroke ethnic fears to be elected or to stay in power.
Whenever the opposition party forms the government, they and their supporters embrace the mantra, “Is we time now – we time to eat.” And they invariably set about to punish; ensure the supporters and members of the defeated ruling party, and persons employed by them do not eat.
Bipartisanship was bad for politics, as well as bad for business.
The lead up to the December 15, 1976, General Elections in Jamaica was marked with unprecedented political violence between supporters of Jamaica’s ruling People’s National Party (PNP) and the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). To ease the tension and bring people together, Prime Minister Michael Manley organised a Smile Jamaica concert with Bob Marley & The Wailers as the main act.
December 3, 1976, two days before the concert, gunmen launched an assault at Bob Marley’s Hope Road home, knowing full well the Wailers would be in rehearsal. Four persons were shot including Bob Marley and his wife Rita.
Inasmuch as perception was that the Smile Jamaica concert was a ruse, and really a rally in support of Manley and the PNP, the shooting was thought of as politically motivated.
Smile Jamaica did go on as planned. Marley performed, after which he went to the Bahamas to recover. Marley then went into a self-imposed exile in England. During that period he recorded the albums Exodus and Kaya.
Chock full of hits, Exodus contains the seminal One Love.
From Mitchell’s speech, and his denunciation and rejection of the politics of tribalism, recrimination, hate, and spite, and advocacy of rapprochement, and call to the diaspora to assist in any way they can, One Love – the love of Grenada is the government’s ideological approach.
This is Mitchell’s fourth go-around as prime minister, and though he received a mandate that engenders political arrogance and the right to be tribal, he opened his arms to the opposition. That is statesmanship, especially in light of Grenada economic woes, and the country has still not recovered from the devastation wrought by 2004 Hurricane Ivan.
Given the economic rearrangement and economic direction being charted by the government, as well as the economic partners the government has been able to attract, the rebuild of the Spice Islands and improvement in the life of its citizens are a forgone conclusion.