Strange and also lukewarm

Yes – a date has been set for the holding of the Referendum on Constitutional Reform in Grenada.

The October 27 date has been given by the Chairman of the Constitutional Review Advisory Committee, headed by noted constitutional lawyer, Dr. Francis Alexis, QC.

The date will only become effective when the Governor-General Dame Cecile La Grenade issues the writ for the Referendum and it is then printed in an issue of the Government Gazette.

All for now the date could be treated lightly as it was not done as expected by the Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell – similar to what is done for the holding of a general election.

Is the date cast in stone or can it be changed?

The attitude of the ruling New National Party (NNP) to the holding of the referendum seems to be rather strange and also lukewarm.

The government seems to be leaving the Public Relations on getting persons out to vote in favour of the seven bills totally up to the Dr. Alexis-led committee.

And even NNP as a party is not hitting the ground with its foot soldiers to sell Constitutional Reform. Is it that Prime Minister Mitchell is more concerned about general elections and not too enthusiastic about the Referendum?

THE NEW TODAY was expecting to see CRAC do the technical work leading up to the preparation of the bills for the referendum and for the public relations work to be done by the government itself.

After all it was Dr. Mitchell and NNP that triggered constitutional reform and appointed a committee to make the necessary approaches to the people to feel their pulse with a view to determining the necessary changes.

However, this paper does not get the feeling that the NNP as a party is putting in the necessary time, resources and effort to sell constitutional reform to its supporters and the man on the street.

Earlier in the year, the party held a General Council session and it appears that none of the leaders including the Prime Minister, his deputy, Elvin Nimrod and Works Minister Gregory Bowen delivered speeches as a signal to get the party supporters to hit the ground and campaign for constitutional reform.

Is it a case of NNP leaving it up to their supporters to vote on the basis of conscience?

The elected NNP members spoke in Parliament on the constitutional reform bills that were presented for passage and there was no consensus among them on the issues to be presented to the voters.

A few MP’s openly stated that they could not support the bill seeking to have an Opposition Leader in Parliament at all times, as well as a fixed date for elections and term limits for the Prime Minister.

The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is more forthcoming with its position and intends to give support to the “no” vote campaign.

Congress is hoping to use the Referendum as a dress rehearsal for the more significant event – the general election that is due within the next 18 months.

A successful “no” vote in the Referendum would send a signal to Political Leader Nazim Burke and company that Dr. Mitchell and NNP are beatable and the 2003 election scenario can be repeated with a massive reversal of NNP’s 15-0 showing in 1999.

It appears that NDC will not be spending any money on the “no” vote campaign but holding onto whatever it has and hopes to obtain solely for the holding of the general election.

The party is planning to hit the ground in a more concrete way from September in order to prepare for the national poll whenever  the Prime Minister decides to pull the date out from his briefcase or back pocket.

There appears to be a confidence creeping into the ranks of the NDC that the party has turned the corner following its humiliating 15-0 defeat at the hands of Dr. Mitchell and NNP in the 2013 general elections.

Its foot soldiers are very optimistic that some of the NNP seats are within their grasp especially the two in St. Patrick’s, St. David’s, and St. George North-east.

The NDC is also very mindful that the political ground could significantly shift in its favour closer to an election if the people decide to vote on the stewardship of PM Mitchell in office in the past three-and-a-half years given his failure to deliver on the many promises made that saw him sweep back in office in 2013.

There is no doubt that Mr. Burke and company are planning to use October 27 as an opportunity provided to test the ground politically and the first step in the battle to unseat the man who has dominated Grenada’s political landscape in the past 21 years.

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