Low voter turnout, as Grenadians snub changes to Constitution

By Linda Straker

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Nov 25, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has promised a post mortem examination of yesterday, Thursday’s referendum where voters rejected all seven bills that would have resulted in a reform of the 1974 Constitution.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell

“Definitely we will be reviewing the entire process that led us to this point and making a conclusion which will be told to the people,” he said.

Preliminary figures released by the Parliamentary Elections Office showed that while more than 70,000 people were eligible to vote on Thursday, less than 25,000 did so.

ballot-referenMitchell said he did not regard the outcome as a defeat for this ruling New National Party (NNP) that had won all 15 seats in the last general elections.

One of the bills rejected had called for the appointment of an Opposition Leader, but according to the preliminary figures, only 6113 supported the idea as against 15, 473 who voted “no”.

Voters also turned down the opportunity to replace the London-based Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the island’s final court.

Supervisor of Election, Alex Phillip, said that the Caribbean Court of Justice and other Justice related matters Bill received 43 per cent support while 57 per cent of the voters were against the Bill. He said in terms of votes, 9,634 people voted in favour of the CCJ while 12,605 did not support the court that was established in 2001 and also functions as an international tribunal interpreting the Treaty of Chaguarmas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement, CARICOM.

CCJ President, Sir Dennis Byron, said he had “hoped to be in a position to welcome Grenada to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the CCJ but I am very respectful of the decision that has been made by the people of Grenada”.

He noted that the JURIST Project, a five-year Caribbean judicial reform initiative being executed by the CCJ, had recently participated in judicial reform activities in Grenada resulting in a reduction of the backlog of cases.

 The CCJ President reiterated that the Court will continue to provide support to the nation notwithstanding this recent development and thanked Prime Minister Mitchell and his government for championing the historic referendum.

Sir Dennis said over the last year considerable efforts had been made to educate the Grenadian population which would auger well as Grenadians can still utilize the CCJ in its Original Jurisdiction.

Antigua and Barbuda is due to hold a referendum next year on the CCJ and in a statement, Friday, Dr. Clarence Henry, the head of the National Coordinating Committee, said the “people of Grenada have spoken loudly and with much clarity, that they do not wish to have any amendment to their Constitution at this time”.

He said what is “however, noticeable about the CCJ Bill is that it contained other clauses in addition to the clause that provided for the replacement of the Privy Council.

“The Bill also provided for the changing of the name of the Supreme Court in Grenada, it also sought to entrench a Code of Conduct in the Constitution to minimise corruption among public officials. It also made provision for public officials on taking office, to swear allegiance to Grenada and not to Her Majesty the Queen.

“What is further interesting about the CCJ Bill is that the electors were not given a choice or the option to vote for the CCJ and not for the other clauses or vice versa. The elector was either required to vote for the Bill in its entirety or don’t vote for it at all, “Henry noted.

Henry said that as a result “it is extremely difficult to conclude that the electors in Grenada voted against the CCJ. They could have wanted the CCJ, but did not want the contents of any or all of the other clauses to be included in the Constitution.

“We in Antigua and Barbuda have taken a totally different approach. The people of Antigua and Barbuda will be asked one question in the simplest of ways -should we replace the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice?

“There will not be any other Bills or other clauses in the Bill that will confuse or burden the electorate in Antigua and Barbuda,” he said, adding that his committee would continue its educational drive throughout the country.

Prime Minister Mitchell had expressed disappointment that the CCJ bill had not received the nod from the voters.

“The one bill that I feel strongly about that maybe I should have gone out more publicly on take a position I feel as a Grenadian, a Caribbean man we are hurting ourselves as a people.

‘It is time for us to enjoy the benefits of the Caribbean Court of Justice and I will not stop advocating this because I think it is fundamental. It is not about NNP (ruling New National Party), NDC (National Democratic Congress). It is about the people of our country,” he said.

Mitchell also took time to thank the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) chaired by the former attorney general and constitutional expert Dr. Francis Alexis.

The committee included representatives of the two main political parties, the religious community, the trade union movement, the OECS and Grenada Bar Associations as well as the media.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Linda Straker

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Nov 25, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has promised a post mortem examination of yesterday, Thursday’s referendum where voters rejected all seven bills that would have resulted in a reform of the 1974 Constitution.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell

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“Definitely we will be reviewing the entire process that led us to this point and making a conclusion which will be told to the people,” he said.

Preliminary figures released by the Parliamentary Elections Office showed that while more than 70,000 people were eligible to vote on Thursday, less than 25,000 did so.

ballot-referenMitchell said he did not regard the outcome as a defeat for this ruling New National Party (NNP) that had won all 15 seats in the last general elections.

One of the bills rejected had called for the appointment of an Opposition Leader, but according to the preliminary figures, only 6113 supported the idea as against 15, 473 who voted “no”.

Voters also turned down the opportunity to replace the London-based Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the island’s final court.

Supervisor of Election, Alex Phillip, said that the Caribbean Court of Justice and other Justice related matters Bill received 43 per cent support while 57 per cent of the voters were against the Bill. He said in terms of votes, 9,634 people voted in favour of the CCJ while 12,605 did not support the court that was established in 2001 and also functions as an international tribunal interpreting the Treaty of Chaguarmas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement, CARICOM.

CCJ President, Sir Dennis Byron, said he had “hoped to be in a position to welcome Grenada to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the CCJ but I am very respectful of the decision that has been made by the people of Grenada”.

He noted that the JURIST Project, a five-year Caribbean judicial reform initiative being executed by the CCJ, had recently participated in judicial reform activities in Grenada resulting in a reduction of the backlog of cases.

 The CCJ President reiterated that the Court will continue to provide support to the nation notwithstanding this recent development and thanked Prime Minister Mitchell and his government for championing the historic referendum.

Sir Dennis said over the last year considerable efforts had been made to educate the Grenadian population which would auger well as Grenadians can still utilize the CCJ in its Original Jurisdiction.

Antigua and Barbuda is due to hold a referendum next year on the CCJ and in a statement, Friday, Dr. Clarence Henry, the head of the National Coordinating Committee, said the “people of Grenada have spoken loudly and with much clarity, that they do not wish to have any amendment to their Constitution at this time”.

He said what is “however, noticeable about the CCJ Bill is that it contained other clauses in addition to the clause that provided for the replacement of the Privy Council.

“The Bill also provided for the changing of the name of the Supreme Court in Grenada, it also sought to entrench a Code of Conduct in the Constitution to minimise corruption among public officials. It also made provision for public officials on taking office, to swear allegiance to Grenada and not to Her Majesty the Queen.

“What is further interesting about the CCJ Bill is that the electors were not given a choice or the option to vote for the CCJ and not for the other clauses or vice versa. The elector was either required to vote for the Bill in its entirety or don’t vote for it at all, “Henry noted.

Henry said that as a result “it is extremely difficult to conclude that the electors in Grenada voted against the CCJ. They could have wanted the CCJ, but did not want the contents of any or all of the other clauses to be included in the Constitution.

“We in Antigua and Barbuda have taken a totally different approach. The people of Antigua and Barbuda will be asked one question in the simplest of ways -should we replace the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice?

“There will not be any other Bills or other clauses in the Bill that will confuse or burden the electorate in Antigua and Barbuda,” he said, adding that his committee would continue its educational drive throughout the country.

Prime Minister Mitchell had expressed disappointment that the CCJ bill had not received the nod from the voters.

“The one bill that I feel strongly about that maybe I should have gone out more publicly on take a position I feel as a Grenadian, a Caribbean man we are hurting ourselves as a people.

‘It is time for us to enjoy the benefits of the Caribbean Court of Justice and I will not stop advocating this because I think it is fundamental. It is not about NNP (ruling New National Party), NDC (National Democratic Congress). It is about the people of our country,” he said.

Mitchell also took time to thank the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) chaired by the former attorney general and constitutional expert Dr. Francis Alexis.

The committee included representatives of the two main political parties, the religious community, the trade union movement, the OECS and Grenada Bar Associations as well as the media.