Grenada preparing for Constitutional Reform Referendum

With Grenadians likely to go to the polls within the next three months to vote in a referendum on making changes to the 1974 Constitution document,  attorney-at-law Ruggles Ferguson who is involved in the organizational work appears to be pretty optimistic about the outcome.

Ferguson, a member of the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) believes that constitutional reform is a major aspect of the agenda in the first quarter of this year.

The barrister who is the President of the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) Bar said after 30 years of talking about constitutional reform “we are finally seeing some action.”

Ferguson who hosts a weekly radio programme on Chime FM Radio Station said he knows the debate will be intense among those in favour of the reform as compared with those who are against, and those who are neutral on the issue.

The OECS Bar Representative on the body has declared his hands on where he stands with constitutional reform by stating, “I hope to vote in favour of the constitutional reform process, vote in favour of the Bills presented.”

He expressed the hope that when the public education exercise is completed, the population will vote on the basis of conscience and what they see as being right and best for the country.

Six Bills approved by the Cabinet of Ministers to give effect to constitution reform had their first reading on December 4, 2015 in the Lower House of Parliament.

This Ferguson sees as a clear indication that Grenada has entered a new era of constitution reform.

Among the six Bills are an Act to alter the Constitution of Grenada to change the name of the State from Grenada to Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, as well as an Act to alter the Constitution of Grenada to make better provision for the Rights and Freedoms of the individual and an Act to alter the Constitution of Grenada to establish an Elections and Boundaries Commission to carry out the functions formally provided by the Supervisor of Elections.

There is also an Act to alter the Constitution of Grenada to provide for the establishing of the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final Appellate Court for Grenada in substitution for Her Majesty in Council, as well as an Act to alter the Constitution of Grenada to limit the term of office of the Prime Minister, to authorise Parliament to set a fixed date for General Elections, and to ensure that there is at all times a Leader of the Opposition.

Ferguson believes that most of the items are non-controversial, and is confident that they are receiving broad support.

However, he said CRAC needs to intensify the public education sessions with the hope that when the referendum takes place on April 26 that people are persuaded to look at the items in a very open-minded, non-partisan, political manner.

“The changes (to the constitution) are not intended to benefit any political party. The changes are intended to benefit the country as a whole. There are no colours to any of the recommendations, but the debate will add colour to the process. The debate will generate interest in the process,” he remarked.

The OECS Bar Representative spoke of constitutional reform always being an ongoing process, and expressed certainty that this will not be the last time for Grenada’s Constitution to be reformed.

“If those Bills are successful, or the majority of them are successful, I firmly believe that we will have a better constitution to better serve and protect our people,” he said.

For the referendum to be successful, a two-thirds majority of the people who participate in the process is required.

The change also requires a two-thirds majority vote of all Parliamentarians.

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