As the date for the referendum draws close for Constitutional reform in Grenada, it has been revealed that about $100,000 is budgeted for an intense public education.
Focal Point Person in the Ministry of Legal Affairs on the Grenada Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC), Robert Branch told members of the media that half of the money has come from the United Nations, which has pledged its support for the process, and the other half was allocated by the Government of Grenada.
“…We are looking at close to a two million dollar project for the referendum,” he said.
According to Branch, the feeling in the international community is that the best practice to use to gain the confidence of the voting population in a referendum is to have an intense public education programme for at least two months.
Speaking to the press at the Grenada National Stadium at Queen’s Park last week Thursday, he said the passage of the Constitutional Bills in both Houses of Parliament has now triggered further international support for the referendum.
He announced that the Civil Society Organisations will carry out the public education sessions although CRAC will continue to be the lead advocate for public education programmes.
Branch spoke of grants having already been given to approximately ten Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) on the island including the St. Andrew’s Development Organisation, St. Mark’s Development Organisation, an NGO from Carriacou, and the Grenada National Organisation of Women to conduct civic education exercises.
A date is still to be given by the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell for the holding of the much-talked about Referendum.
However, Branch said that discussions regarding the date for the referendum, previously set for different times in the past, has always centered around the fact that enough time is needed to educate eligible voters on the final set of measures to be put on the ballot paper.
He believes that people are now gravitating to the issues that are highlighted in the recently passed Bills in Parliament for the referendum.
“Overtime, we’ve been seeing a lessening (to) opposition, and people have began to accept that… and I think the more time we have, the more we’re going to explain,” he said.
CRAC’s Chairman, Dr. Francis Alexis who also addressed the media agrees that the public education programme needs to be stepped up to prepare the people to vote in the referendum.
“I can say with confidence, we (CRAC) have covered a lot of grounds since 2014. When we started talking about ‘Name Change’ (one of the Constitution Bills), we faced open resistance, today it is not like that,” he said.
Dr. Alexis disclosed that over the next few months, his committee expects to meet with more people in order to be able to respond to their concerns.
He is confident that the concerns which they will face from people regarding human rights will be the same regarding term limits for the Prime Minister or the setting up of an Elections and Boundaries Commission.
“We are prepared, therefore, to respond to whatever concerns there might be,” he said.