The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is calling for additional public consultations on constitutional reform other than Wednesday’s national public consultation that took place at the Grenada Trade Center in St. George’s.
The party’s political leader, former Finance Minister Nazim Burke made the call at a press conference called by Congress to outline its position on the Constitutional Reform exercise being undertaken by a government-appointed committee.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has asserted that his 19-month old government has already settled on the twelve proposals that were submitted by the Dr. Francis Alexis-led committee to go before the people in a national referendum planned for early next year.
The Advisory Committee of Dr. Alexis gave the people of Grenada an opportunity on Wednesday to further air their views on matters relating to the Constitution with the hope of having it form part of the referendum.
Senator Burke told reporters that every opportunity should be given to the people of Grenada to make a decision on what they would like to have included in the constitution.
He accused the ruling New National Party (NNP) of PM Mitchell of wanting to slam the door in the face of the Grenadian people while the Advisory Committee has acknowledged that the people should still be given a chance to say what issues should be included for the referendum.
“The NDC has taken the position the door must remain open and consultations must continue, and as such we cannot support the position taken by the New National Party,” he said.
Sen. Burke called on Prime Minister Mitchell to give the nation the assurance that other issues that are not among the original twelve proposals and recommended by the Review body and considered to be important enough will be included in the referendum.
He referred to the work of past Constitutional Review Commissions that came up with a total of 25 recommendations, which became useful guidelines for the Alexis committee.
The Congress leader identified 6 items from the previous commissions that are not on the list of 12 as agreed by the Mitchell government that are strong enough for inclusion in the planned Referendum.
These include the need for Proportional Representation to ensure a permanent voice for the Opposition in Parliament, a fixed date for the holding of general elections, and term limits for the Prime Minister.
According to Sen. Burke, the previous commissions made it quite clear that certain things must go forward and be put to the people in any constitutional reform to make it meaningful.
The major item among the list of 12 already agreed to by Cabinet is the abolishing of appeals to the Privy Council in London and for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to become the final court of appeal in Grenada.
Sen. Burke commented on statements attributed to PM Mitchell at a meeting with the Social Partners grouping on September 19 where he allegedly said that his government would not entertain any other items other than the twelve that are already approved by Cabinet.
The Congress leader disagreed with the Prime Minister and called for the people to be given additional time to make their contributions to Constitutional reform.
He said: ‘Give people the time to better understand and appreciate what is in the constitution what are the changes that are proposed, what are the benefits that are proposed and what are the downsize that are proposed.
“Allow them the opportunity to weigh the good and bad, the pros and cons of these recommendations and put them on the ballot so that when a referendum is held the people know what they are voting for,” he added.
Prime Minister Mitchell is said to be confident of getting the necessary two-thirds majority of the electorate with or without support from Congress to make changes to the Grenada Constitution.
The Grenadian leader is still basking from his second 15-0 clean sweep of the polls in the February 2013 general elections – the first being in 1999.