Constitution Reform Referendum further pushed back

Another date is being looked at for the referendum to give effect to constitution reform in Grenada, according to committee member, attorney-at-law, Ruggles Ferguson who hinted that the new date might be sometime in July.

Ferguson said it has been a challenge for the committee that has been engaged in public education over the past year.

The lawyer represents the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) Bar Association on the Constitution Review Advisory Committee (CRAC) headed by leading constitutional lawyer, Dr. Francis Alexis.

Ferguson told a local radio station on Sunday that although a formal date has not been announced he is aware that the month of July has been looked at as a possible time for the holding of the referendum.

Legal Counsel in the Ministry of Legal Affairs Roberts Branch who is also a member of CRAC had earlier disclosed that the referendum would take place by the first quarter of 2016.

Ferguson said the hope is that constitution reform should not be dealt with in a partisan/political manner, adding that the referendum has nothing to do with political parties.

However, he stressed that changes cannot come to the constitution unless the two-thirds majority is obtained from the people who would have participated in the voting process.

“To get that two-thirds majority… would require the support of both opposition and government,” he said.

“But let us not politicise the process,” said the lead attorney in Ciboney Chambers.

The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has already signaled its intention to engage in a “no-vote” campaign for the planned referendum.

Congress has repeatedly expressed concerns with the role of Cabinet in giving approval to what is included or excluded on the ballot paper for the referendum.

The party has not been able to get the green light for several of its key proposals including limiting the Prime Minister to only two terms in office.

Eight Bills to give effect to constitution reform have already had their first reading in the Lower House of Parliament.

The eight Bills are the Caribbean Court of Justice and other Justice-related matters (amendment) Act 2, Name of State, Restructuring (amendment) Act, Term of Office of Prime Minister, Fixed Date For Elections, ensuring the appointment of Leader of the Opposition (amendment) Act, Elections and Boundaries Commission (amendment) Act, and Rights and Freedoms (amendment).

Ferguson is encouraging the eligible voters to first understand the Bills and then participate in the referendum.

It is estimated that the constitution reform process would cost the country over $2M.

The first attempt at constitutional reform following the gaining of independence in 1974 took place in 1985, under the Herbert Blaize-led New National Party (NNP) government.

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