The issuance of the 7 Writs of Referendum on September 23 by the Governor-General Deputy, Sir Daniel Williams has now made it official that the Referendum Poll will take place on October 27.
The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) had taken issue with the prior announcement of the Referendum date by former Attorney General, Dr. Francis Alexis, Chairman of the government-appointed Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC).
Congress had indicated that it was unlawful as the issuing of a referendum date is the job of the Governor General and if she had not done that, then there is no legal basis for the decision that was taken by CRAC.
Although the Writs were issued by Sir Daniel, NDC’s Political Leader, Sen. Victor Burke continues to raise concerns over the manner in which the referendum is being executed in the country.
“We must continue to express our concern that so many persons in Grenada are continuing to say, I don’t know or understand what this referendum is about, or what is expected of me when I get there on Referendum day,” Sen. Burke told reporters at the weekly press conference held by the party.
He made mention of the results of two polls recently conducted by independent persons which show that most Grenadians were clueless as to what Constitution reform is all about.
He said that one of the polls was done by Jude Bernard, a well known local market analyst and it revealed that 71% out of 750 persons interviewed said they have never seen the Constitution in their entire life and 84% said they had never read the document.
According to Burke, a poll that was commissioned by Congress “to assist us with how to approach and better understand the sentiments of the Grenadian people … the numbers revealed as well that 56% (of the approximately 800 persons polled) said they did not know and understand what this referendum is about”.
“So if the majority of Grenadians do not know or understand what the referendum is about, the question is – should we be going ahead with this referendum?”
“This raises a very important issue of Constitutional reform itself, which is – how should the Constitution be amended?
Sen. Burke noted that the 1973 Constitution Order of Grenada provides that in order for any provision to be amended, a two-thirds majority is needed in both Houses of Parliament and the people voting in a referendum.
He pointed out that there is no “minimum threshold” on the number of persons who can take part in the Referendum unlike other countries like the Bahamas and Bermuda where it is stipulated that when a referendum takes place “for it to be valid 50% of the electorate must take part.”
Stating that the size of electorate in Grenada is about “70, 000 people”, Sen. Burke said: “If for example 1000 persons decide to take part in the referendum and 800 of them were to vote yes on all the bills then the Constitution will be changed even though 1000 people take part and only 800 persons would have decide to make that change.”
The Congress leader was at pains to point out that “this perhaps is one of the areas that cry out for constitutional change…”.
“In order words, to amend the Constitution to set a minimum threshold of the number of people who must take part. This is an issue that should have been addressed because of the dangers that we face”, he said.
Sen. Burke felt that it is absolutely important for every single Grenadian to take part in the October 27 Referendum vote in order “to express their will (because) at the end of the day that is the only weapon we have in our hands”.
“Do not squander that weapon, that opportunity…Do not sit on the fence. Take a side, take a stand, but take a stand for what you know, understand and believe,” he urged the electorate.
Police officers are scheduled to vote in the Referendum on Monday, October 24.
The cut-off period for persons to register to vote in the Referendum was October 4.
Only voters whose names are on the current list as of October 4 would be entitled to vote on October 27.
Like a general election, it is expected that the results of the referendum will be announced on the evening of referendum day.
The Supervisor of Elections has to return the Writs and the relevant information to the Governor-General by November 14.