Sen. Burke calls for the right to know

Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Senator Nazim Burke is encouraging the people of Grenada to be cautious when they vote in next week’s referendum.

Sen. Burke who was addressing a political meeting of the NDC at Tivoli Junction in the Constituency of St. Andrew’s North East believes that the Government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell wants the electorate “to close their mind and go and vote “yes” to the items for the referendum.

Seven Constitution Bills are being put before the people for consideration to make certain changes to the 1974 Independence Constitution.

“As citizens of Grenada you have a right to know your Constitution, you have a right to understand your Constitution. Do not vote yes for anything that you don’t understand. Do not vote yes for anything that you don’t know. You have a right to know,” he told the gathering.

Sen. Burke outlined the legal process for making changes to the Constitution.

He said the first thing that has to happen is that the government must pass laws in Parliament which must be approved by at least two-thirds of the Parliamentarians before it must be taken to the people in a referendum.

Sen. Burke said if two-thirds of the eligible voters who participate in a referendum to have changes made to the Constitution vote no, the changes cannot take effect.

Attempts were made on three previous occasions to make changes to the Constitution before the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) led by Constitution Lawyer Dr. Francis Alexis was formed in 2014.

In 1985 there was a Constitution Review Commission under the Chairmanship of Sir Fred Phillip that was set up by the Herbert Blaize Administration, another in 2002 established under the Chairmanship of Justice Lyle St. Paul, and the Professor Randolph McIntosh Commission in 2010 as a one-man body to review the Grenada Constitution.

The Congress Leader recounted the number of recommendations the various commissions presented on how the Constitution can be improved.

One of the recommendations made was for the person being the Prime Minister to not hold the Office for more than ten years, or two consecutive terms.

Another recommendation is for there to be a system by which the date for General Elections should be set in the Constitution.

It was also recommended that all Parliamentarians should elect the Governor General.

The Commission also recommended that there should be proportional representation in the parliament instead of just having the “first past the post system,” and that the people should have the right to recall their Member of Parliament.

Sen. Burke told the public meeting that Congress supported the new Commission, and had former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas as its representative on the 14-member committee.

However, he said the main opposition political party expressed the concern that many of the interest groups including the farmer’s organisation was not a member of CRAC at a time when the Grenada Bar Association was already a member, and the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) Bar was also given membership.

The Congress Leader spoke of the Grenada Constitution as being the supreme law, which sets out the rules by which the country will be governed.

“It is the law that creates our Parliament, it is the law that creates our (law) courts, it is the law that creates the Cabinet of the country… it is the law that sets out who can be a minister in government and how that person becomes a minister, it is the law that sets out how (one) can become a Member of Parliament,” he said.

Sen. Burke stated that the idea of having constitution reform is to enhance the country’s democracy.

However, he said a vast number of Grenadians do not understand what they are voting for in the referendum.

The Congress Leader indicated that a recent poll conducted by former Director of Tourism, Jude Bernard showed that 41 percent of the Grenadian people have not seen the Grenada Constitution, and 82 percent of the Grenada population has never read the Constitution.

“If you want to bring constitutional change why not take the time to educate our people on the Constitution?” he asked.

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