by Sir Lawrence A Joseph
The term patriation is generally used to refer to the political process whereby a country takes ownership of its constitution after independence has been handed over to that country by a superior power. For example, it was only when the Constitution Act was passed in the Canadian Parliament in 1982, that Canada’s Constitution was considered to be patriated. This Act was further boosted by the Meech Lake Constitutional Accord of 1987 when the Province of Quebec was officially included in the nation. Hitherto Canada’s Constitution was controlled by the British North America Act for over 100 years and Canada was effectively a Dominion of the British government.
Recently Citizen John Rullow raised the issue as to whether or not Grenada’s Independence Constitution was properly patriated. He claimed that the issue arose as a consequence of his recent “discovery” of a document which was published by a Constitution Review Commission that was established in 2002 by a former Keith Mitchell administration. The Chairman of that Commission was then Justice Nicholas Liverpool. The document acknowledges that the Grenada Parliament did meet on Independence Day, 7 February 1974. However, the document observed that the Hansard which is the official record of Parliament only disclosed that the Instruments of Independence were merely accepted in the Grenada Parliament by then Premier Eric Mathew Gairy from Mr Richard Blaker, the then Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the UK government. It further observed that there was no debate nor any resolution passed in that connection. The Commission’s document, therefore, concluded that the Grenada Constitution was never properly patriated as it has not drawn its authority and validity from an Act of the Grenada Parliament but only from the Parliament of the UK.
Significant questions may, therefore, be asked: Was Grenada’s Constitution properly patriated? Is Grenada’s independence to be called into question? Is Grenada’s Constitution valid? In an effort to answer these questions, it is important to examine the facts. The facts reveal that at the beginning of the document comprising the Grenada Constitution Order of 1973, reference is made to two Orders which were issued by the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council on 19 December 1973. The first is “The Termination of Association Order, 1973” which Order effectively terminated the status of the UK’s association with Grenada as at 7 February 1974. The second one entitled “The Grenada Constitution Order, 1973” acknowledges that a resolution was passed in the House of Representatives of Grenada on 12 October 1973, and by the Senate on 15 October 1973 requesting and consenting to the making of the said Order. The Order itself provided for the coming into effect of the Constitution of Grenada on the date of Grenada’s Independence on 7 February 1974. This Constitution is specifically outlined in Schedule 1 which is annexed to the Order.
Based upon the above, it is reasonable to conclude that the Grenada Constitution was properly patriated because the Parliament of Grenada both requested and consented to the Grenada Constitution Order of 1973. It may be agreed however that Grenadians, in general, were not consulted on the matter. This in itself does not constitute non-patriation. It may be recalled however by many that the Grenada United Labour Party which was led by then-Premier Eric Mathew Gairy campaigned for independence at the 1972 general elections. That mandate was given to the party by the electorate when the GULP convincingly won 13 seats to 2 for the Grenada National Party led by Mr Herbert Blaize. It may be concluded therefore that the official receipt of the Instruments in the Parliament of Grenada was done on behalf of the people of Grenada.
It is posited that even if that symbolic gesture of accepting the Instruments may be considered to be insufficient to constitute patriation, this eventuality does not erode the fact that Grenada is truly an independent country which has the sole authority to conduct both its internal and external affairs. The above-mentioned Orders themselves have in fact released Grenada from the control of the British government. In any event, following the suspension of the Grenada Constitution by the People’s Revolutionary Government after the Coup d’Etat on 13 March 1979, the Constitution was finally restored by the Nicholas Brathwaite administration by an Act of Parliament entitled “The Constitutional (Restoration) Act of 1991. The passage of this Act may be considered to be patriation. The Liverpool document itself states that “In a democratic state, a constitution derives its validity and authority from the consent or acceptance of its citizens, either directly or indirectly”. It is undeniable that over the last 43 years of Grenada’s Independence, Grenadians accepted the Constitution as their own. It is concluded therefore that Grenada’s Constitution was properly patriated and remains valid.