The Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government has turned to government-paid Imani Youths to try and influence their peers to vote “yes” in the referendum on October 27 aimed at changing the Grenada Constitution.
This was announced at Tuesday’s post-Cabinet press conference by Minister of Youth and Sports, Roland Bhola, the Member of Parliament for St. Andrew North-east.
Bhola told reporters that about 100 Imani workers have been engaged by the government-appointed Grenada Constitutional Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) in an effort to encourage their peers at the community level to vote on referendum day.
The committee reportedly came up with the idea after recognising that 60% of the population is made of youth and not many of them are interested in constitution reform.
According to Bhola, this is a cause for concern and government decided to endorse the initiative of CRAC.
“One of things that I know the committee would have done is that they have engaged even some of the same young people, some of the people within the IMANI. They came to the Ministry of Youth a couple weeks ago and they said, look this is a concern to us and maybe if we use their peers to try to reach out to them”, he said.
Bhola admitted that given the time span before the holding of the referendum, he is doubtful as to how many youth will be reached in time before October 27.
He said the Imanis have received some form of training to engage with their peers.
“I do not know that at this present time we can change the minds of a lot of them (youth)”, he said.
“…I know at the moment there are about 60 to 70 young people going out there trying to meet them on the blocks, going house to house.
This week they are going to complete training of another 40 or 50. So the numbers should be about 100 island wide that are trying to reach out to them,” he added.
The senior government minister pointed out that despite concerns expressed by some people about the timeframe given for the referendum, the fact of the matter is that constitution reform is something that Grenadians should be willing to be engaged in.
He said: “When we received our constitution in 1974, there were a couple of Grenadians from my understanding that was a part of the planning and preparing…just a handful.
“It’s extremely sad now that we do have an opportunity to help determine and to steer our future by getting an opportunity to say “well look we want to amend X, Y or Z in our constitution …some people argue that we should cut a lot deeper, further.
“As you know several attempts have been made before, it is the first time we have gotten that far in terms of having a referendum on our constitution being reconstructed”.
The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is expected to lead the charge to call on Grenadians to vote “no” against the seven bills to be voted on Referendum Day.
Congress leaders have been expressing the view that Cabinet rejected some of the issues that the people have been calling for inclusion in the constitution.
Speculation is rife that NDC intends to use the Referendum as a vote on the popularity of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in the country.
Government insiders have said the regime is taking the view that even if it loses the Referendum Vote it can still win the upcoming general elections as was the case with Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) in St. Vincent.
The Vincentian electorate voted against the move by government to replace the British Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of justice (CCJ) as their final appellate court but returned Dr. Gonsalves to serve for another term as their elected leader.