“This is not a political issue. This is an issue to advance the governance of the country and therefore people must be informed so that they can make an informed decision when they go to cast their ballot”.
Those were the words uttered by outspoken Attorney-at-Law Anselm Clouden, who called for more detailed sensitisation on the bills that are to be decided upon in the upcoming referendum poll.
Clouden told reporters last week Friday that he would like to see a more “aggressive dispensation or distribution of information on certain aspects of the referendum”.
His call came just one day after the Grenada Bar Association (GBA) staged a two-hour session as part of accelerated sensitisation efforts on the upcoming referendum poll at the Public Workers Union (PWU), Tanteen, St. George, which was attended mainly by members of the legal fraternity.
The lawyers were later joined for a brief period by some law students attending the T.A. Marryshow Community College (TAMCC)
According to Clouden, there appears to be a lack of widespread public education on the upcoming referendum and this “must be accelerated in every village, secondary school, and hamlet to achieve its purpose”.
Noting that not many people have a copy of the Grenada Constitution, Clouden expressed the view that the Constitution should have been printed in preparation for the referendum a year or two ago and distributed throughout the country.
This, he said would have enhanced the debate on the island as to why the amendment and how the people should vote with respect to those proposed amendments to the constitution.
The long-standing Barrister-at-Law told reporters that “it is not too late” and cited the need for a “massive public information distribution of the constitution and the amendments of the areas that are being addressed”.
However, Clouden expressed his support for the constitutional amendments in the proposed Human Rights and Freedoms Bill, which includes protective mechanisms to particularly deal with the issues surrounding the area of due process of law among other significant areas of contention that the amendment is seeking to address.
He said that “in the past much ado has been made of this (due process of law) because we never had it in our Constitution and we had to by implication under the fair trial doctrine under Section 8 of the Constitution that speaks of fair trials, we attempted to incorporate the principles of due process, which is procedural fairness at every stage of the proceedings especially, in the criminal jurisdiction of the court. That is now included as part of the constitutional amendment”.
He cited “the right to counsel, where someone who has been apprehended by the police must be advised without delay of his right to have a lawyer present before he is interrogated or made to speak to the police and the right to counsel, as two of the protective mechanisms that enhances the human rights aspect of the Constitution”.
Attorney Clouden also registered his support for abolishing appeals to the Privy Council in London and recognising the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final appellate court in the jurisdiction.
The lawyer who once voiced reservations about the CCJ called on the electorate to vote “yes” on referendum day for the court.
Clouden also told reporters that as far as the other bills are concerned, such as term limits for the Prime Minister and the appointment of an Opposition Leader at all times in Parliament, he would “put them down for further discussion’.
The noted criminal attorney expressed his firm belief in democracy and the democratic principles upon which these policies exist.
“I think the will of the people when expressed ought not to be withered out,” he declared. (What does this mean – vox popele vox de).
“When the people say they would give one party everything, that is the wish of the people, it may change subsequently but I don’t think that the appointment of an opposition is the way to go – if the people decide not to elect an Opposition Leader that’s the people’s wish”, he added.
On the issue of term limits, Clouden said this should be properly discussed and ventilated by the people and it then enshrined in the Constitution to ensure that there is no injury to democracy.
“If the people decide that they would want to restrict the leader to two consecutive terms then they must be told that this is part of our democratic process/and therefore enshrine it and the culture would develop as a consequence but I don’t believe there should be an appointment of an opposition”, he remarked.
Clouden was in disagreement with the notion having a one-chamber parliament with both elected and non-elected members.
“I have always advocated having an elected Senate of seven and they could act as a check on the Lower House. They would be a law making body very much akin to the Senate in the United States so that you have internal checks and balances within the parliamentary body itself”, he said.
Clouden suggested that it is not too late to have “massive public information distribution of the Constitution and the amendments of the areas that are being addressed” in the upcoming referendum and called on the authorities to do more in this regard.