Burke: Referendum date is unlawful

“The CRAC has no legal authority to set any referendum date.”

Those were the words uttered last Friday at a sitting of the Senate by opposition Senator Nazim Burke who is the Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).

It was the most forceful statement made by Congress in light of the October 27 date announced for the holding of the Constitutional referendum by former Attorney General, Dr. Francis Alexis, Chairman of the government-appointed Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC).

The committee believes that enough consultation have been done to allow seven bills to be voted upon by the electorate in the referendum.

According to Sen. Burke, the issuing of a referendum date is the job of the Governor General and if she has not done that, then there is no legal basis for the decision that was taken by CRAC.

He told the sitting of the Upper House at the Grenada Trade centre at Grand Anse that the Constitution Referendum Act passed into law this year gives Dame Cecile the authority to issue a date for the referendum.

Sen. Burke said that since this has not been done then the date set by CRAC cannot be considered legal.

“We understand the bill to be saying in section four, the Governor General is the person who must call the referendum on the constitution to be held by issuing a writ on the referendum. The act provides for the Governor General to issue a writ that will appoint the date on which the referendum will be held. To date no writ has been issued in respect to a constitution referendum and to our mind no date has been formerly set for holding of the referendum in Grenada,” he remarked.

It is in this regard, that the NDC Political Leader is contending that the Alexis-led committee has no authority to set the date for the holding of the referendum.

“Essentially, the question is, are the procedures that are being laid out, that are being undertaken are consistent with our laws and with the constitution? And if it is wrong, whether this amendment addressed that impropriety in relation to the Supervisor (of Elections) or it seeks to amend in relation to the CRAC, it is well within the ambit of a debate of this nature”, he said.

“…I am of the firm belief that the announcement that was made by Dr. Alexis on the 29th of July purporting to declare a referendum date has no legal basis whatsoever, that he has no authority in law expressed or implied to declare any referendum date in Grenada”, he added.

Sen. Burke also pointed out that there are glaring deficiencies in the process and it is because of this that  most of population is unsure as to what the bills are about.

“Just talking to people as the crow flies and observing and listening and so on, it appears to us that a significant section of the population, I would not be surprised if it’s about as 50% has no idea what is in these bills and have no idea on what they would be called upon to vote on referendum day.

“They appeared to be a mad rush to the referendum. We have seen Mr. President, some bills were published in the Gazette…what was published in the Gazette was different from what was passed in the Parliament…if you rush things in this way, there is bound to be mistakes,” he said.

Congress has already signalled its intention to throw its support behind those persons in the country pushing for a vote “no” to the planned changes intended for the Grenada Constitution.

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