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Grenadians vote in referendum on October 27

By Linda Straker

St. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Jul 29, CMC – Grenada will vote in a referendum for a new constitution on October 27 this year with the authorities acknowledging the importance of the month in Grenadian history.

“Putting all things on the table… we have learnt that October is a month of great significant for Grenada, great things have happen in October and referendum day will be October 27.

“On the contrary setting 27th October for a referendum day is a matter of building the referendum into our history and using our history as a guide for going forward into the future,” said the Chairman of the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC), Dr. Francis Alexis.

A statement posted on the Grenada government website, notes that October 1983 is arguably the most traumatic period in recent Grenada history.

“Within a week, the nation lost its Prime Minister, several other cabinet ministers, leaders of business and labour, military personnel, school children and other civilians.

“In four years leading up to 1983, Grenada was ruled by the People’s Revolution Government (PRG) of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. The PRG came to power on March 13, 1979, after the New Jewel Movement (NJM) overthrew the government of the late Prime Minister, Sir Eric Gairy.”.

Dr. Francis Alexis

Dr. Francis Alexis

The statement noted that the PRG, despite accomplishments such as embarking on the construction of an international airport, and advances in literacy and health, was criticised by internal and external detractors on a number of fronts, including its refusal to hold Westminster-style democratic general elections.

“Alexis, a constitutional expert, told a news conference on Friday that “we pray that God will especially bless the 27th of October, 2016, as referendum day across Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

“We think every Grenadian who is eligible to vote will respect the historical significance of the month of October and come out to vote fully on referendum day,” Alexis, a former attorney general here said.

Earlier this month, the Senate approved the eight bills that would allow for changes to the Grenada Constitution once two thirds of the voter population approve the measures.

Parliament last month also passed legislation that allows the island to replace the London-based Privy Council with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), as its final court.

The bills approved by legislators include one that changes the name of the State from ‘Grenada’ to ‘Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and another would institute term limits for the Prime Minister; ensure that there is always an Opposition Leader; enable Parliament to provide fixed dates for general elections; institute an Elections and Boundaries Commission; introduce the modern styling ‘Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’; and require that allegiance be sworn, no longer to the Queen, but to Grenada.

During the news conference, attorney Ruggles Fergusson said the CRAC would continue with the education process brushing aside suggestions that the Keith Mitchell government should now be in the forefront of the exercise.

“The Prime Minister and the government of Grenada have consistently said that this is a national process and should involve all Grenadians and the government in its conduct…has, while empowering the committee has not been the lead advocate in the public education process and so the my understanding, the Prime Minister felt the committee is the body to drive the process…,” he added.

Alexis said that symbols would be used during the referendum but left the details to the electoral officials.

“Yes there will be symbols on referendum day. You could say use of symbols on voting day is practically part of our political culture and the Supervisor of Elections is going to respect that culture,” he said.

The CRAC officials also pointed out that on referendum day, voters here will be voting on seven bills individually for approval.

“The voter has a choice on Election Day…and each voter will vote on a particular bill,” they said, explaining how the required two-thirds majority will be counted..

“If for the CCJ bill, the total number of voters amount to 300 therefore two-thirds will be two-thirds of 300. So it is not two-thirds of the total number of persons voting on referendum day. It’s two thirds of the persons voting on each bill.

“Some may vote on all bills, or some may vote on some bills and abstain on others. So in that context, we are checking vote per bill,” they said

Senior Counsel in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Robert Branch, who is the focal point for the Committee in the Ministry, said last month that the required budget for the referendum vote will be close to two million EC dollars (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents).

The UN Development Fund is providing EC$500,000 towards the public awareness through grants for community base organisations such as the church and civil society groups while the Government of Grenada is providing a further EC$500,000.

Branch said that remainder of the funds will be used as operating expenditure for the electoral officer.

Opposition Leader Nazim Burke, who voted against the bills in the Senate, had called on the government to name the date for the referendum.

But Branch said Friday there was no sinister motive to announcing the referendum date.

“It’s the first time we are doing this and we wanted to make sure that everything was done right,” Branch told reporters.

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By Linda Straker

St. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Jul 29, CMC – Grenada will vote in a referendum for a new constitution on October 27 this year with the authorities acknowledging the importance of the month in Grenadian history.

“Putting all things on the table… we have learnt that October is a month of great significant for Grenada, great things have happen in October and referendum day will be October 27.

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“On the contrary setting 27th October for a referendum day is a matter of building the referendum into our history and using our history as a guide for going forward into the future,” said the Chairman of the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC), Dr. Francis Alexis.

A statement posted on the Grenada government website, notes that October 1983 is arguably the most traumatic period in recent Grenada history.

“Within a week, the nation lost its Prime Minister, several other cabinet ministers, leaders of business and labour, military personnel, school children and other civilians.

“In four years leading up to 1983, Grenada was ruled by the People’s Revolution Government (PRG) of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. The PRG came to power on March 13, 1979, after the New Jewel Movement (NJM) overthrew the government of the late Prime Minister, Sir Eric Gairy.”.

Dr. Francis Alexis

Dr. Francis Alexis

The statement noted that the PRG, despite accomplishments such as embarking on the construction of an international airport, and advances in literacy and health, was criticised by internal and external detractors on a number of fronts, including its refusal to hold Westminster-style democratic general elections.

“Alexis, a constitutional expert, told a news conference on Friday that “we pray that God will especially bless the 27th of October, 2016, as referendum day across Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

“We think every Grenadian who is eligible to vote will respect the historical significance of the month of October and come out to vote fully on referendum day,” Alexis, a former attorney general here said.

Earlier this month, the Senate approved the eight bills that would allow for changes to the Grenada Constitution once two thirds of the voter population approve the measures.

Parliament last month also passed legislation that allows the island to replace the London-based Privy Council with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), as its final court.

The bills approved by legislators include one that changes the name of the State from ‘Grenada’ to ‘Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and another would institute term limits for the Prime Minister; ensure that there is always an Opposition Leader; enable Parliament to provide fixed dates for general elections; institute an Elections and Boundaries Commission; introduce the modern styling ‘Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’; and require that allegiance be sworn, no longer to the Queen, but to Grenada.

During the news conference, attorney Ruggles Fergusson said the CRAC would continue with the education process brushing aside suggestions that the Keith Mitchell government should now be in the forefront of the exercise.

“The Prime Minister and the government of Grenada have consistently said that this is a national process and should involve all Grenadians and the government in its conduct…has, while empowering the committee has not been the lead advocate in the public education process and so the my understanding, the Prime Minister felt the committee is the body to drive the process…,” he added.

Alexis said that symbols would be used during the referendum but left the details to the electoral officials.

“Yes there will be symbols on referendum day. You could say use of symbols on voting day is practically part of our political culture and the Supervisor of Elections is going to respect that culture,” he said.

The CRAC officials also pointed out that on referendum day, voters here will be voting on seven bills individually for approval.

“The voter has a choice on Election Day…and each voter will vote on a particular bill,” they said, explaining how the required two-thirds majority will be counted..

“If for the CCJ bill, the total number of voters amount to 300 therefore two-thirds will be two-thirds of 300. So it is not two-thirds of the total number of persons voting on referendum day. It’s two thirds of the persons voting on each bill.

“Some may vote on all bills, or some may vote on some bills and abstain on others. So in that context, we are checking vote per bill,” they said

Senior Counsel in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Robert Branch, who is the focal point for the Committee in the Ministry, said last month that the required budget for the referendum vote will be close to two million EC dollars (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents).

The UN Development Fund is providing EC$500,000 towards the public awareness through grants for community base organisations such as the church and civil society groups while the Government of Grenada is providing a further EC$500,000.

Branch said that remainder of the funds will be used as operating expenditure for the electoral officer.

Opposition Leader Nazim Burke, who voted against the bills in the Senate, had called on the government to name the date for the referendum.

But Branch said Friday there was no sinister motive to announcing the referendum date.

“It’s the first time we are doing this and we wanted to make sure that everything was done right,” Branch told reporters.