ARTICLES: THREE CASES OF CONSTITUTIONALISM AND CUCKOO POLITICS: CEYLON, BRITISH GUIANA AND GRENADA

IV – GRENADA 1959

In 1959 Grenada was granted a new Constitution setting up both a Legislative and an Executive Council. The Legislative Council was to be elected on the basis of universal adult franchise, while the Executive Council was to consist of the Administrator, the Chief Minister along with two other Ministers, and a few other government officials. However, despite the “advanced” character of the Constitution the Administrator retained extensive powers. One of the major difficulties that arose following the implementation of the Constitution was that the Administrator and the Chief Minister had been made jointly responsible for the government of the territory. Even worse, there were three and at one period four persons responsible for the Colony’s finances: the Chief Minister, the Financial Secretary, the Federal Financial Officers, and also the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Although the constitution encouraged the Administrator to act with the advice of the Executive Council, on very urgent or important matters, or matters that required quick decisions, he did not need to consult the Executive Council. No bill passed by the Legislative Council could become law until it had the assent of the Administrator. He could refuse to give assent to any bill that he felt would be inconsistent with the wishes of Her Majesty’s Government. Furthermore, the Administrator retained control over the Judiciary and the Public Service. However, fiscal control and responsibility were to be shared by the Chief Minister and the Administrator.

Even such a brief summary of some of the provisions of the Constitution makes clear that major difficulties were bound to arise. Three major conflicts did in fact arise: one was over the question of the power to give assent to bills passed by the Legislature, the second was over the role of the Civil Service, and the third was in relation to the financial powers of the Chief Minister and Administrator.

The 1959 Constitution was officially brought into effect in 1960, but new elections under the Constitution were not held until 1961, when the Grenada National Party was replaced by the Grenada United Labour Party, led by Eric Matthew Gairy. Gairy’s political style had been developed in 1951 at a time of crisis and consisted mainly in an attack on the established order in Grenada. The establishment in Grenada is comprised of the white plantocracy and the brown middle class. Gairy’s manner was flamboyant and his appeal personal, and he liked to be known amongst his followers as Uncle. Gairy said when he was sworn into office in 1961 that “in another place Mr. Speaker I was sworn in as Chief Minister of Grenada and today I am sworn in as member of the Legislative Council of this territory. The praises are not due to me but to the Divine Maker, the Divine Architect who, in the divine scheme of things, saw fit to have me come back to the scene. I am reminded of this divine equitable law, a law which lends itself to the maxim that the “cream will always float”. Gairy went on to point out that the implementation and success of the 1959 Constitution depended on a party system, and said that he was totally responsible for the party system in Grenada.

Shortly after his assumption of office in 1961, Gairy proceeded to antagonise many of the bureaucratic agencies. There was considerable misunderstanding as to what were his powers and what were those of the heads of departments. In September of 1961 he even held meetings with a number of Civil Service officials and told them that the Chief Minister was indeed the government of Grenada and that the functions of the Administrator were declining. He and the Administrator soon came into conflict and Gairy charged the Administrator with having usurped the powers of the elected representatives.

The outcome of these events was that Gairy finally had his Constitution suspended in 1962, and in the election following the suspension lost control over the Legislative Council.

However, the period from 1951-59 had already witnessed the gradual transformation of Mr. Gairy from a charismatic leader entrusted with making structural transformations of the society, to a “local” politician who was willing to play the game or procedural politics. His political movement gradually became bureaucratised over the period, and he himself, on many occasions, argued that British constitutional procedure was essential for Grenada’s political development. This transformation or rather routinization meant that Mr. Gairy had become an electoral politician, dependent on electoral politics for his support. This period proved conclusively to him that there are strong limits as to what can and what cannot be done by a local politician under a Crown Colony Constitution.