Referendum Day Drawing Close

Dr. Francis Alexis – the noted constitutional lawyers

Dr. Francis Alexis – the noted constitutional lawyers

Grenadians are still waiting on government to give a date for the holding of the long promised Referendum on Constitutional Changes.

Chairman of the Grenada Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC), Dr. Francis Alexis dropped hints last week Thursday that within the next 48-hours he expected the date to be given by the relevant authority.

Dr. Alexis told reporters at a media briefing the most likely date is sometime in October based on a briefing he had with the Supervisor of Elections, Alex Phillip, the Principal of the Grenada Boys Secondary School (GBSS).

He spoke of Phillip telling him that the Electoral Office is ready to conduct a referendum sometime in October.

However, the CRAC Chairman said that the date will have to be chosen by the government in consultation with the Supervisor of Elections.

Prime Minister Dr, Keith Mitchell has already gone on record as saying that he would like to see the referendum take place long in advance of a general election.

Mitchell’s ruling New National Party (NNP) has only  19 months before its current term in office expires.

Briefing the media on the passage of the seven Constitutional Bills that were approved by the Upper House of Parliament last week Wednesday that were first voted on by the House of Representatives, Dr. Alexis felt it was an historic day for Grenada as, for the first time ever, Bills to reform the constitution were debated and voted upon in the Senate.

One of the Bills passed by the Senate related to the conduct of Constitutional Referendum.

Dr. Alexis explained that this Bill provides for there to be a single ballot paper where all eligible voters will be able to vote for whatever number of items put forward for the referendum.

“The point is that you will not have several pieces of paper to deal with. There will be one ballot paper, and you don’t have to vote for all the Bills on that ballot paper,” he said.

At least two-thirds of the valid votes cast for any of the Bills will carry through the changes to the constitution.

Unlike there being agents of the political candidates at the various polling stations, there will instead be monitors for the referendum being chosen by community organisations including Civil Society, the Churches, and Political Parties.

Dr. Alexis who specialises in Constitutional law noted that Grenada has been going after constitution reform for the past 31 years with several reports coming in from since 1985, 2006, 2010-2012, and 2014-2016.

In giving an indication of what are some of the privileges the Bills are offering citizens, Dr. Alexis said “this will be a modern Constitution,” not to be compared with most Constitutions in the world.

He said he looked at most of the proceedings in the Senate, and praised the contributions coming from Senators Christopher DeAllie and Raymond Roberts who represent the private sector and labour, respectively.

The CRAC Chairman gave credit to Sen. DeAllie for “lifting the debate,” by making the point that there is no need for political partisanship in a debate on reforming the constitution.

He said one does not have to be a rocket scientist to be able to have ideas, but at the end of the day the challenge is to be mature enough to recognise that one cannot get everything he wants in constitutional reform.

He also pointed out that CRAC did not get all that it wanted, “but we are mature enough to refrain from calling other names.”

“At least you’re making a start in constitution reform, and that is what was historic about (it)… because never before was there a debate in the Senate, so you don’t storm out of the Chamber just because all of your brilliant ideas are not being accommodated,” he said.

The CRAC Chairman was clearly referring to the Senators aligned to the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) who left the Senate during the debate of the Bills.

Alexis was a founding member of Congress along with ex-Prime Ministers George Brizan, Tillman Thomas and ex-government ministers Phinsley St. Louis, and Kenny Lalsingh.

Last year, NDC also pulled out its membership on CRAC.

Dr. Alexis also made a plea to Grenadians to take part in the referendum when the Mitchell-led government gives the date.

“We’re calling upon all Grenadians, Carriacouans and Petit Martiniquans, steer the course down to referendum day, vote according to your conscience, be part of this historic moment,” he said.

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