The referendum vote

The issue of ‘Barbados Today’ of February 16, last year, tells us that the present Freundel Stuart’s administration is proposing to make the Barbadian constitution more Barbadian, by reforming that “country’s most important legal document”, so that its present “monarchal form” of government gives way to a more independent republican one.

Accordingly, I am wondering to what extent will our  referendum of November last year, and our recent celebration of our 43rd anniversary of independence, make us come to appreciate, that independence matters.  Independence matters because as a people Grenadians count.
Independence matters.  Decolonisation matters.  Intelligence matters. Imagination matters. Truth matters.

It’s high time that here in Grenada, by and large, our teachers, our political leaders and our ministers of religion, come to accept that defining is one of the most important tactic for effective communication with others.

Furthermore, questioning is always all important in attempting to uncover the truth, and curiosity is always an important quality of those who are devoted to finding the facts or the truth.

So when the NDC leaders advised Grenadians to vote according to their conscience, when they went to cast their ballots for or against the referundum bills, it was sad that enough people did not question what that statement really meant.

Indeed, the questioning should have begun inside the camp of the NDC, and should have been followed, by questions by the general public, including members of other political parties and journalists.

Leaders should not only define the important terms and concepts they use in public discourse, they should expect to be questioned about them, and also about their actions.  Too many of our politicians continue to treat us as people who are incapable of thinking beyond our next box of Kentucky fried chicken.

In my perception, the most important bill presented to us during the referendum, was the one proposing our exodus from the British Privy Council into the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).  Those who expressed some skepticism of the bill, on the grounds that the CCJ was very susceptible to interference by Caribbean politicians, seemed unaware that already Grenada was part of what is referred to as the “original” jurisdiction of the CCJ, and the bill was proposing that we became part of its “appellate” jurisdiction.

Apparently, they were also unaware, that four Caribbean countries had already made the CCJ their final court of appeal. These countries are Belize, Guyana, Dominica and Barbados. These people did not seem to know too, that there were over a dozen provisions made to protect the integrity of this court, so that it did not become a victim of Caribbean partisan political interference.

The provisions include how the CCJ is funded, it is not funded by Caribbean governments, but by a loan taken from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). They also include how the regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (JLSC), the body which manages the court is structured.

There are other provisions that determine how judges are appointed and removed, that allow for persons from other parts of the Commonwealth to be employed as Judges, and which allows for poor persons to access the Court “without fees and security for costs”.

History should have taught us that decolonisation of former European colonies, often demands the unity of the dominated peoples, to achieve their liberation.

India, one of the first British colonies to win its independence from Britain, began its independence campaign in 1937, by mass protests against what was then known as the Salt law.  British lawmakers failed to recognise that India had vast reserves of local salt, so that the monopoly of the Indian salt business by British merchants could be perpetuated.

Under the leadership of Mahatma Ghandi, millions of Indians defied this law by marching to the sea to collect sea water to boil, to utlilise their own salt. We are told that over 80,000 Indians were imprisoned for exercising this right to go to the sea to collect sea water. Continued mass protest finally resulted in the law being repealed.

I am encouraged to learn that the Government and Opposition in Antigua, recognising that to some extent, they are traveling on the same road, have united, to ensure that there is a positive outcome in their referendum later this year, which is aimed at reforming the Antiguan constitution, to make the CCJ that nation’s final court of appeal.

In our referendum in November, there was no victory for anything or anybody. That Grenadians could not at least vote for the CCJ is a great loss for the whole nation, which should continue to bother our consciences for some time.

Devonson LaMothe

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