Government has given a firm commitment to hold a referendum early next year on Constitutional Reform.
The people will be given an opportunity – no matter how prepared they are – to vote on the issues that will be placed before them in order to reshape the 1974 Grenada Constitution document that the island inherited from Great Britain and which came into effect from February 7, 1974 on our independence.
The government will be hopeful that the increasing debate in the country on Constitutional Reform will help refocus the minds of the people away from the burning every day issue of survival in these crucial economic and financial hard times.
The Keith Mitchell-led regime will also hope that Grenadians will put
away for the time being the failure of his18-month old administration to provide the thousands of jobs from the host of investors who were expected to flood into Grenada to help in the building of the promised New Economy.
THE NEW TODAY gets the sense that the government-appointed Constitution Review Committee, headed by our foremost constitutional expert, Dr. Francis Alexis is prepared to do everything possible to accommodate the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) with their concerns with respect to Constitutional Reform.
A hostile Congress and its supporters could put into jeopardy the desire of the government to get a two-thirds majority of the electorate in the referendum to bring home the real prize – the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final appellate court in this jurisdiction.
Dr. Alexis would have learned some vital lessons from the St. Vincent experience when the Ralph Gonsalves government failed in the face of strong opposition from the National Democratic Party (NDP) of Arnhim Eustace to secure the necessary support to change the St. Vincent & The Grenadines Constitution in order to accommodate the CCJ and do away with appeals to the Privy Council in London.
The objective of the exercise seems to be to put as few contentious issues in the referendum in order to try and secure the jackpot.
This newspaper senses that despite of NDC’s declared support for the CCJ, the issue would be the most keenly contested in the referendum as some sections of the population are very concerned with changes to the court system.
The Grenada Bar Association (GBA) has not publicly issued a statement on the issue but two longstanding members of the profession – Lloyd Noel, a former Attorney-General and Anselm Clouden – have put forward arguments for the Privy Council to remain intact for the foreseeable future.
The NDC and its new leader, Nazim Burke cannot help but give consideration to using the Referendum to gauge the mood of the people and their continued support for Prime Minister Mitchell and his NNP grouping.
But the NDC has no ace cards in the pack given its already known support for the CCJ.
The party would be forced to take part in the process and not stage a boycott if the Alexis Committee gives meaningful accommodation to its requests for some other fundamental issues to be placed before the population in the Referendum.
However, Mr. Burke has done the politically correct thing to call on the other major political party in the country – NNP – to inform the people on its position on a number of the critical issues.
THE NEW TODAY calls on the NDC and the Civil Society groupings to influence the Alexis Committee and the Government to put casino gambling on the Referendum Ballot and to give the people an opportunity to decide the issue once and for all.
The people will send a clear message to all and sundry including the anti-Casino lobbyists especially the churches on the island on what they would like or do not like in the country.
Casino Gambling was not an issue put before the people in the February 2013 polls by the NNP victory team.
This thorny issue helped to tear apart the Tillman Thomas-led Congress administration as the likes of Joseph Gilbert and Peter David, former NDC Ministers who have now joined the NNP rank, defied their leader and pushed a pro-Casino line for reasons best known to them.
Mr. Thomas had an opportunity to politically damage some of them but choose to hold onto a letter and not disclose the contents to the Grenadian people because that document linked some within the so-called group of Rebels to a deal with a casino gambling outfit in the United States to give them a license to operate a casino without the knowledge of their own Cabinet colleagues.
The Rebels must be smiling and in full glow as PM Mitchell and NNPare about to do for them what their own Congress group had denied them of fulfilling to those shadowy U.S casino figures.
It was reported back then that thousands of U.S dollars passed through several hands – as the hard currency made its way into the Spice Isle to advance the political stock of a certain someone.
If PM Mitchell is a true democrat he would act like a statesman and put the casino issue on the referendum ballot.
The people are more than capable to decide for themselves since casino is not about “Green” or “Yellow”.
Both Senators Winston Garraway and Jester Emmons – the two leading churchmen on the NNP side, departed from the usual party lines in the Upper House on Monday and abstained on the Casino vote.
If their votes were done on the basis of conscience then the people can equally do likewise on the issue of casino gambling.