Most people in Grenada are in favour of seeing the Caribbean Court of Justice become Grenada’s final appellate Court. The National Democratic Congress (NDC) is of that same desire.
The NDC is disappointed though not surprised, that Government seems bent on ignoring the calls for a postponement of the vote and in so doing, will almost certainly sacrifice a successful vote on the altar of expediency and narrow political interests.
The TUC and the President of the Grenada Bar Association have also called for a postponement of the vote and for very good reasons. As far as the NDC is concerned, another 4 to 6 months will allow us more than enough time to put things right as they relate to the referendum Bill and to the electoral system.
Like the Caribbean Court of Justice, we believe that attending to electoral reform must be done on a bi-partisan basis. The referendum will be utilising the electoral system that many agree contains loopholes and deficiencies.
We are therefore prepared to work with Government to fix these matters ahead of another round of voting in our country. A vote to change our Constitution should be treated with more care than even a general election because in the case of a general election the people get to do it over every 5 years. How many ineligible people will be allowed to vote now and in future because of the loopholes in the electoral system?
The NDC, TUC and now the President of the Grenada Bar Association have all called for a postponement of the referendum to address several issues with the Bill and otherwise. Many of these issues Dr. Lawrence Joseph, Dr. Francis Alexis QC and others on the Advisory Committee agree are well founded. Yet, Dr. Keith Mitchell and his Cabinet REFUSE to postpone the referendum. What are they up to? What are they hiding from us?
The Bill does not give the judges of the CCJ sufficient protection from political interference or pressure. It leaves the power in the hands of Parliament i.e., the politicians to amend the CCJ agreement anytime it wants. Even our High Court and Court of Appeal judges will have more Constitutional protection from political influence than the judges of the CCJ if the referendum is successful. To fix this, a new referendum will be needed.
The TUC says that since the CCJ will be “our Court”, then it should be the final court of appeal in cases relating to the outcome of a general election. The Bill does not provide for this. Dr. Lawrence Joseph says the TUC has a good point but it is too late to include it in the Bill.
The truth is there is no law stopping a postponement of the referendum. Why the rush? Why are they agreeing with the concerns raised but refusing to address them? What are they not telling us? If we want to make this change to our Constitution in future, we will need another referendum.
There are other errors and anomalies in the Bill such as with the value of a claim where there is a right of appeal and the apparent invalidation of section 103 of the Constitution by the new section 104B. They know this, but they are saying they will fix it after. Why are they in such a hurry for November 6th?
Then there is the misinformation, half-truths and outright lies the campaigners for the CCJ are telling people. All of this we see as unnecessary because most people already want the CCJ as our final court of appeal. They just want to make sure that we do it right. They mislead people about greater access to justice. Greater access to justice will be achieved when Government puts more resources into the lower courts.
Many ask why the NDC did not point out the errors in the Bill before.
The answer is simple. Just like the other organisations, we simply were not given the Bill in time. The referendum date was set even before the Advisory Committee was set up. The draft Bill was shared with us only days before it was taken to Parliament with no time allowed for proper scrutiny and feedback. That is why there was so little feedback from everyone, not just the NDC.
In a land with a long history of being revolutionary, we do not need to be serenaded on the merits of breaking with our colonial past. What the NDC wants to ensure for the people is that in the end we have something that is better than what we have now. We are not convinced that the Bill to be voted on will give us that.
There simply has been too much of a rush to November 6th and not enough attention to the concerns that people have. That is why we say to all Grenadians if you love Grenada reject the highhandedness of this exercise. VOTE NO on Tuesday. When you vote no, you will not be rejecting the CCJ, you will be rejecting arrogance and dictatorship on display. You will be rejecting an attempt to change your constitution without properly consulting you.
Do not be concerned about not getting another chance. Go to the CCJ we must and we are certain that if the message is sent loud and clear, Government will do it right, or at least better next time.