Major far-reaching issues concerning CCJ referendum

The despicable ‘attitude and approach’ employed by the powers-that-be during the process for the 24 November 2016 first constitutional referendum since the nation’s 7 February 1974 Independence, remains for the second attempt to have Grenada accede to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in its final appellate jurisdiction on 6 November 2018.

Regrettably, the ‘educational darkness’ by which the constitution was introduced at Independence is synonymous by which the constitutional referendum is being undertaken, with great insult to the intelligence and sovereignty of the people.

Review the previously internet-circulated article “Grenada Constitution Reform: In Darkness!”, and its related links; particularly, this commentary presents various areas and aspects which need to be understood.

A Constitution of Grenada (Caribbean Court of Justice and Renaming of Supreme Court) (Amendment) Bill 2018, was laid in Parliament on 15 May 2018, but without having the key civil society stakeholders, including Grenada Bar Association, being familiarised with it.

On 29 August 2018, a government-sponsored yes-vote campaign for the referendum on the CCJ was launched in a so-called public consultation under the theme “Break the Chains of Colonialism for One Caribbean”, the occasion, however did not have any concerted conversation and circulation of the bill.

After the passing of the bill on 7 September 2018 by the House of Representatives, the Senate is expected on 14 September to do likewise from a political viewpoint.

However, the Senators have been asked to exercise soberness, substance and sincerity on the bill; also review the previous internet article, “Focus for Senatorial Debate on Grenada Second CCJ Referendum”, which indicates the scope and effects of the grave issues, especially with respect to Grenada not using the CCJ’s Original Jurisdiction to protect its people.

Notwithstanding the anticipated vote by both Houses of Parliament for the CCJ, and the loudness and bombardment by the proponents of the CCJ for a yes-vote at the referendum, Grenadians are warned to be very mindful of the risk of surrendering to the powers that-be, their ‘last reserved’ entrenched and safeguarded constitutional control, for participating in such a demanding, noble and far-reaching vote.

Past experiences, even as is evident in this recent time, should be the most compelling factor for negotiating on the CCJ referendum, by taking the powers-that-be to task and parading real people’s power.

Thus, it would be difficult to comprehend workers generally, and public officers specifically, having to pacify the harsh judicial, legislative and socio-economic irregularities and exploitations being faced, by voting for the CCJ under the present governance arrangement and outstanding grievances, without the labour-force gaining any sufficient and satisfactory solutions on the pertinent problems.

Whilst the powers-that-be, including the proponents for the CCJ, are demonstrating political posturing, rhetorical entertainment and emotional persuasions to grab, especially the unsuspecting electorate, by campaigning on the ridiculous theme, regarding breaking the chains of colonisation and completing regional independence, the pointed and substantial issue concerning the content and context and consequence of the CCJ Bill is not presented and explained to the people.

Herein lies ‘deceit and danger’; nightmares and regrets would come from loopholes, red-herrings and any treacherous acts to be discovered following the passing of the bill in the referendum.

Again, it cannot be over-emphasised that obtaining justice in a ‘corrupt and dark’ setting is about swimming against the heavy tide, fine prints, procedural hurdles, convenient technicalities and legal interpretations would bring gross disappointments and disadvantages.

Moreover, it must not be missed that the service of the CCJ can only be obtained after first fulfilling certain prerequisites and climbing certain steps, as declared in the five-part article,

“Is Grenada’s CCJ Referendum really about access to Justice?” (see parts one and two).

The average Grenadian, especially the small business persons and the youthful population, should not vote for the CCJ Bill without understanding the essence and essentials of the 2001 Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and particularly the proclaimed 14 February 2001 legal agreement establishing the CCJ.

Moreover, the people must determine the basis and rationale for enshrining this regional legal agreement, whose ‘primary supplementary’ purpose is about trade, into the Constitution of Grenada, and thereby threatening, or rather removing, their national constituent sovereign power.

Are Grenadians prepared to embrace neo-colonialism facilitated under the auspices of a kingdom controlled by the Heads of Caricom?

It must be noted that unfortunately to this date, there has not been any public response to the internet-circulated “Open letter: CCJ Bill 2018 – request for clarifications” by Grenadian Social Activist Sandra Ferguson, re CCJ Bill 2018: Making the Agreement Establishing the CCJ a Constitutional Instrument.

It would be instructive also to know the status of this Agreement in relation to the constitutions of the four countries having the CCJ as its final appeal court.

Within a climate of allegations, perceptions and/or realities of corruption by government institutions, as well as constitutional abuses and disrespect for the rule of law by the powers-that-be, the status of the electoral machinery to engender integrity of the CCJ referendum is critical to be assured.

Typical consideration is the legislative regulations for the conducting and concluding of the elections, with particular attention to the limitations and loopholes of the Constitutional Referendum Act and the Representation of the People’s Act.

Recall the internet-circulated articles, “Should the referendum be with the current elections provisos?” and “Could Grenada’s 2018 voting be declared unethical and illegal?”, making reference to the revealing reports by overseas democratic Elections Observer Missions, on the state of the local electoral machinery.

This unresolved case also may put a clear verdict on the credibility of the main opposition political party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) which had raised pertinent concerns, but has remained disturbingly ‘dumb and passive’; review the NDC Heartbeat column “Electoral Reform before another referendum”, as appears on the internet.

Equally of concern and significance is what follows after the powers-that-be would have had their way with the upcoming referendum.

That is, the structural arrangement and implementation phase on the CCJ Bill should also be advanced to the people.

The passing of the bill gives an implied authority to the politicians to remodel the supreme law of the nation, but resulting in a degrading value for the people.

As cited for a Constitution of Grenada Restructuring Act, the politicians are happily anxious to reposition and renumber the provisions of the constitution, as well as to draft new regulations for legal interpretations, after the passing of any constitution amendment bill at a referendum.

Are Grenadians then aware that they can vote for their ‘self-inflicted’ long-term autocratic rule at the CCJ referendum?

The CCJ Bill is not in the name, interest and authority of the people, neither are the affairs of the CCJ referendum under the knowledge, scrutiny and control of the people.

Whilst the action of voting yes or voting no is simple, the question for the referendum is not simplistic and the event would be historic with far-reaching consequences.

The challenge for the electorate is to decide whether or not the referendum will facilitate real justice for the masses, or will secure more privilege for special interest groups. Being uncertain and uninformed, Vote No; by exercising an abundance of caution, wisdom and safety.

Absolutely, there is nothing to lose by voting no to the CCJ, but much to gamble by voting yes!

J. K. Roberts

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