The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is not pleased that “the door” was shut on the party and it was not able to make a formal presentation at last week’s national consultation on Constitutional Reform held at the Grenada Trade Center at Morne Rouge, St. George’s.
Public Relations Officer (PRO) of congress, Senator Franka Bernadine registered the party disgust over the manner in which the consultation was formatted especially the decision not to allow the two main political parties on the island to make presentations.
Member of the government-appointed Constitutional Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC), Sandra Ferguson who outlined the format for the consultation that lasted just about 8 hours, indicated that presentations will come only from members of the committee on the 25 recommendations, and with responses from specific interest groups like the Grenada Bar Association, Conference of Churches of Grenada and the Grenada Trades Union Council.
According to Sen. Bernadine, the NDC was not happy with the process that was adopted especially the exclusion of the political parties from making presentations.
The former Education Minister pointed out that her party got the vote of 22, 000 Grenadians in the 2013 general elections.
”We are unable to represent our views as a political party holding 40% interest of the electorate in an area so relevant to the electoral process,” she said.
The female politician indicated that the vibrancy of a democracy depends on an enlightened people.
She made it known that the NDC is one of the most significant facets of the society, and warned that the island’s democracy must be well guarded.
Political leader of the NDC, Sen. Nazim Burke who was allowed by the commission to speak briefly during the question and answer period felt that as a stakeholder his political party ought to have been invited to respond to one of the presentations.
Sen. Burke believes it is a grave error on the part of the organising committee, headed by former Attorney-General, Dr. Francis Alexis, to have left out the NDC from the Trade Center affair.
The NDC leader said that his party associates itself with the recommendations that have been put forward by the committee and agreed to by the Keith Mitchell-led Cabinet of Ministers but is calling for other fundamental provisions to be included on the referendum ballot.
Burke believes that these will help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the democratic arrangements in the constitution by imposing checks and balances that ought to be included in the referendum package.
NDC’s call is for term limits for the Prime Minister, a permanent place for Leader of the Opposition at all times, Proportional Representation in Parliament, the need for a Unicameral Assembly, selection of the Governor General by Parliamentarians, and a Fixed date for general elections on the island.
“All we are saying is put it (the additional recommendations) to the people, and give them a chance to decide,” Sen. Burke said.
Sen. Burke told the gathering at the Trade centre that the people are saying loudly to the commission and the Mitchell government do not close the door on additional recommendations until the voices of the people have been heard.
CRAC has already presented government with 12 recommendations after conducting 25 consultations throughout Grenada.
However, President of the Senate, Dr. Lawrence Joseph who made a presentation at the national consultation indicated that the existing Grenada Constitution has a number of items which needed to be corrected.
Among the issues to be placed on the Referendum ballot are changing the name of the Supreme Court from being the Supreme Court of Grenada and the West Indies Associated States as stated in section 105 of the Constitution to the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, changing all references in the Constitution to the Chief of Police to the Commissioner of Police, and that the Attorney General must be a qualified attorney-at-law.Another fundamental change is to abolish appeals to the Privy Council in London and to make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) the final appellate court in the jurisdiction.
Others are aimed at ensuring that whenever the name Petit Martinique appears in the Constitution that an ‘e’ must be added to the word ‘Petite’, ensuring that the Oath of Allegiance mentioned in the Constitution which is usually taken by Parliamentarians must be changed to the State of Grenada and not to the Monarchy of the United Kingdom.
During the consultation, Social Advocate John Rullow continued to call for the setting up of a Constituent Assembly to create a new Constitution for Grenada since he believes the current process is flawed.
According to Rullow, efforts have been made from since the advent of late Prime Minister Eric Gairy in the 1970’s to bring democracy to the people and there is now that opportunity to have it.
“I am saying let the people decide because there is no democracy without people,” he told the national consultation amidst loud applause
Rullow said that no imposition of what is to be written in the constitution by any group will be accepted.
He felt that all the proposals coming from the various interest groups should be given the opportunity to be debated by
The social advocate warned that if the authorities fail to include what the people want in next year’s referendum, then the event will be turned into a ‘Plebiscite” against the government.