By J. K. Roberts
The electorate of Grenada is aroused with political rhetoric and propaganda to vote blindly in a constitutional referendum on Tuesday, 6th November 2018, to decide for the second time within two years, whether or not the nation should accede to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its appellate jurisdiction as a final court.
The exact proposals by the powers-that-be, as amendments to the Constitution, are contained in the Constitution of Grenada (Caribbean Court of Justice) (Renaming the Supreme Court) (Amendment) Bill 2018; however, this CCJ Referendum Bill has been analysed to be of deceit, deficiencies and danger.
In fact; every aspect of the move for the CCJ is questionable.
Firstly, the premise for the upcoming referendum on the CCJ is superficial and misleading. This does not only, not engendered confidence in the referendum-process, but it questions the credibility of the powers-that-be about the referendum and about their respect for the people.
Particularly, it is offensive for the proponents of the CCJ to say that from the seven failed constitutional referendum bills in 2016, the CCJ Bill drew most attention and interest of the electorate, and thus this speaks about the desire of the people to revisit the issue of the CCJ by itself.
There has been also the view, that the best time for the referendum is just after the general elections, when party-politics is not prevailing.
A more rational and meaningful lesson for action from the results of the 2016 referendum, should have been made from the statistics that the referendum-polling had a very low voter turnout especially among the young people; less than thirty-three percent of the registered voters participated.
Why then the powers-that-be pretends to listen to the about 9639 voters who showed favour for the CCJ; but without it considering the more than sixty-six percent of the electorate who was not attracted by the referendum. The rush and urgency for acceding to the CCJ seems to overshadow the genuine attention and treatment needed for the apathy
and negligence of the people on the CCJ issue.
Secondly, like it was for the 24 November 2016 referendum, the process for this referendum is filled with darkness and deceit. No opportunity was given for the people to participate in the formation and the understanding of the CCJ Bill.
The parliamentarians never delved into the substance of the bill in their debates. No White paper was in circulation for review and recommendations by the people. In a most vulgar manner, a so-called national consultation for the launch of a Yes Vote campaign for the CCJ was held, but the CCJ Bill was never introduced to the people.
In fact, the declared statement of the bill in its preamble for an Act to alter the constitution of the people, does not include the name and the authority of the people; neither are the dates for the coming into effect of the amendments in the bill known to, and are to be determined by the people.
The approach by the powers-that-be on the referendum has been contrary to the spirit and intent of the constitutional provisions, and the nobleness of the exercise.
The marked desperation with the rush and urgency employed for the CCJ referendum, and the lack of serious collaboration and commitment with the national stakeholders on this national effort, give the thinking of a ‘hidden intent’ which can tantamount to treason of the nation by the powers-that-be.
The theme for the referendum, “Breaking the Chains of Colonialism for One United Caribbean”, stirs false emotions and distracts the people from the reality of the exploits and entangling by their new colonial masters.
The construct and content of the CCJ Bill leaves a-lot to be desired.
Whilst the bill is promoted as simply replacing the Privy Council, or Her Majesty in Council, with the Caribbean Court of Justice, the thirty-one section document presents unfamiliar legal references (such as the CCJ Agreement) and unrelated provisions (such as the Interpretation and General Provisions Act of 1989) into the 1974 Constitution.
Regrettably, there is no evidence of improvement in the constitution with the proposed amendments, but critical areas on the constitutional rights of the people are negatively affected, particularly on “access to justice” and “people power”.
There are indications that the bill was erroneously and badly drafted, resulting in a wide scope for judicial interpretations, and with having the ‘fundamental, supreme and foundational’ legal instrument of the people convoluted, further remote, and not user-unfriendly.
It should also be instructive that whilst the drafters of the CCJ Bill freely and unilaterally put new entries and extraneous inclusions for the reformed constitution, there is much resistance and unwillingness to address the genuine observations and wishes of the people.
Typical is the deficiency of being able to bring political and electoral litigations to the CCJ, in-line with its nature and principles and boasted merits. Typical also is the hypocrisy with the campaign theme of removing the last vestige of colonialism, when the proposed amendment in the 2016 CCJ Bill, to cease allegiance to Her Majesty was removed and not included in the current CCJ Bill.
Moreover, one Pastor Thomas Welch graciously submits in his article, “Righteousness, Justice, Same Sex Marriages and the Caribbean Court of Justice”, published in The Grenadian Voice (Vol. 38 No. 40; Friday October 05, 2018) that, “we need to give the court (‘CCJ’) the moral constitutional boundary within which it must operate”. Aren’t these fair and wise calls of the people?
There have been various expressions of disapproval and disagreement by a wide section of the population, including the Grenada Trade Union Council, the Grenada Bar Association and the main opposition party, with the position of the powers-that-be on the CCJ Referendum.
Retired Architect, Mr. Norris Mitchell, captures the salient concerns and problems associated with the referendum, as he advises the voting public to Vote No, in his latest article “Let Us Not Be Bamboozled Into A False CCJ Paradise”.
Also review the internet-circulated article, “Major Far-reaching Issues Concerning Grenada’s CCJ’s Referendum”, in substantiating a satisfying decision-vote at the referendum.