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Dissent continued to grow within Prime Minister Tillman Thomas’s government in 2012 as more of his cabinet members resigned. While Parliament defeated a no-confidence motion in May, Thomas requested that Parliament’s session in September be dissolved in order to avoid a second no-confidence motion, brought against him by a member of his own party. In July, Grenada became the first Caribbean country to decriminalize defamation.
Grenada gained independence from Britain in 1974. Maurice Bishop’s Marxist New Jewel Movement seized power in 1979, creating the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG). In 1983, Bishop was murdered by New Jewel hard-liners Bernard Coard and Hudson Austin, who took control of the country. However, a joint U.S.-Caribbean military intervention quickly removed the PRG and set the country on a path toward new elections.
Prime Minister Keith Mitchell of the New National Party (NNP) ruled Grenada from 1995 to 2008, when his party lost parliamentary elections to the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). The NDC captured 11 seats in the 15-member House of Representatives, while the NNP won the remaining 4 seats. Tillman Thomas, the NDC leader, was sworn in as prime minister in July 2008.
Infighting and dissent grew within Thomas’s government and his NDC party in 2012. On May 15, Parliament debated and defeated a motion of no confidence that had been brought against the Thomas administration by former prime minister Mitchell and the NNP, who criticized Thomas for the state of the economy and the country’s political instability. Several cabinet ministers have resigned or been fired from the NDC administration since 2008, including Foreign Affairs Minister Karl Hood, who resigned in May 2012 and filed a second motion of no confidence against Thomas in August. Thomas avoided a vote on the no-confidence motion by requesting that the governor-general dissolve the fourth session of Parliament in September; only 6 of the original 11 NDC seats in the House of Representatives are still held by party members. Parliament had yet to reconvene by year’s end.
Grenada is an electoral democracy. The 2008 parliamentary elections were considered generally free and fair, though there were allegations of voter-list manipulation. The bicameral Parliament consists of the directly elected, 15-seat House of Representatives, whose members serve five-year terms, and the 13-seat Senate, to which the prime minister appoints 10 members and the opposition leader appoints 3 members. The prime minister is typically the leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives and is appointed by the governor-general, who represents the British monarch as head of state.
Grenada’s main political parties are the NDC, the NNP, the Grenada United Labor Party, and the People’s Labor Movement.
Corruption remains a contentious political issue in Grenada. A new Financial Intelligence Unit law adopted in February 2012 shifts responsibility for investigating financial crimes from the police force to the government, and it also allows the governor-general to appoint the Unit’s director, who will be protected from lawsuits. Opposition politicians have expressed serious concerns over the new Unit’s ability to remain independent and worry that it will be used for politically motivated investigations. In May, Opposition Leader Keith Mitchell accused Prime Minister Tillman Thomas of failing to report a US$150,000 contribution to the NDC from a Saudi donor. Thomas denied the allegation and admitted only to having received US$50,000 from a donor in the British Virgin Islands.
The right to free expression is guaranteed in the constitution and is generally respected in practice. In July 2012, Grenada earned international praise for becoming the first Caribbean country to decriminalize defamation. However, there were reports during the year that the government attempted to pressure the media in order to influence coverage. Reporter Rawle Titus of the independent Grenada Advocate weekly newspaper was fired in March after the prime minister’s press secretary contacted the paper on two separate occasions to complain about an article in which Titus criticized the prime minister’s selection process of the NDC candidates for the next election. Two radio stations also reportedly received similar warnings regarding their political reporting. While there are no dailies, there are several privately-owned weekly newspapers. The government owns a minority stake in a private corporation that operates the principal radio and television stations, and there are several other independent radio and television stations. Access to the internet is unrestricted.
Citizens of Grenada generally enjoy the free exercise of religious beliefs, and there are no official restrictions on academic freedom.
Constitutional guarantees regarding freedoms of assembly and association are respected. Workers have the right to strike and to organize and bargain collectively, though employers are not legally bound to recognize a union if the majority of the workers do not join. Union activity has increased due to continued company layoffs and acts of retrenchment. Failure to resolve a labor dispute between Grenada Breweries Limited and its employees represented by the Technical and Allied Workers Union in December 2011 led to threats of a national strike by the trade union movement in January 2012; the dispute was resolved in February.
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, which is generally respected by the government. Grenada is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States court system and is a charter member of the Caribbean Court of Justice, but the country still relies on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London as its final court of appeal. Detainees and defendants are guaranteed a range of legal rights, which are mostly respected in practice. Protests against police brutality erupted after five police officers allegedly beat to death Oscar Bartholomew, a Grenadian-Canadian man on holiday with his wife, on December 26, 2011. The police officers were charged with manslaughter, and a preliminary inquest was launched in January 2012; the trial continued to be delayed at year’s end. Grenada’s prisons are significantly overcrowded.
The constitution and law prohibit gender discrimination. However, women are underrepresented in the government, holding just 13 percent of the seats in the lower house and 23 percent in the Senate. New domestic violence legislation came into effect in May 2011; however, most instances of abuse go unreported or are settled out of court. Same-sex sexual conduct is criminalized with prison sentences of up to 10 years.