Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has pointed an accusing finger at Britain for setting the bar too high for Caribbean islands to effect changes to their independence constitutions.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday in St. George’s, the Prime Minister said it is very difficult for any of the islands in the Caribbean to secure the necessary two-thirds vote as constitutionally required to make changes to the document.
He said the British only require a simple 51% majority vote to institute changes as was the case with the recent Brexit.
Grenadians voted down all seven bills that were put on the Ballot Sheet for the historic event on November 24 with only 32,000 people showing up at the polling booths.
According to Dr. Mitchell, if the bills were passed with this low voter turnout that would have not been a nice message.
He said the two-thirds majority vote that is needed to change the constitution is a very difficult target to meet in any vote in the Caribbean or elsewhere.
“…The same British Government they go to a referendum – 51%, so let’s accept what is happening to us here and if we had 51% we could have gone out as a political organisation and get it passed”, he remarked.
This major hurdle, he said was “a little too high for the average Grenadian” and as such “it was easier to say to them go out and vote no across the board”.
“It’s difficult to expect an average man in Grenada to go and sit down in a polling booth and read out seven bills and decide to vote no and yes…it’s easier to tell them go and vote no right through…”, he told reporters.
“…When voting is taking place in a general election, you’re going to look for the house and you may see the name Keith Mitchell. The house alone you looking at…you’re not looking at the other side of the paper but this time you have to read six columns and seven horizontal portions”, he said.
The Prime Minister went on: “We really, maybe, put our hands a bit high in that respect and all of us…the country has failed in that respect but I honestly believe that we started a process and we have to continue it”.
Dr. Mitchell responded to criticisms that he sent out a wrong signal to the country in a national address in which he seemingly supported only three of the seven referendum bills – Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Name of State and Elections and Boundaries Commission.
He told reporters that from day one some of his ministers were having reservations on some of the bills and he could not go out and tell people to vote one particular way when his ministers had their own reservations.
PM Mitchell explained his decision not to offer any comment on the four other bills since they related to the holder of the post of Prime Minister.
He said: “Term limit talks about Prime Minister, (I) don’t think it is right for me to say to the people yeh or nay on this bill so I kept my mouth shut. (The) issue of Fixed Date, the Prime Minister is the one that gives the date – for me to say no or yes…I didn’t think it was right for me and you can’t expect me to go out and say yes or nay when I don’t feel the same way”, he said.
On the controversial “Rights and Freedom bill” which got the most negative votes in the Referendum, the Prime Minister accused some people in the country of twisting the facts around it “for their own personal agenda”.
In addition, he said those who opposed this particular bill “got some of the churches to believe that this bill could bring in homosexual official activities in our country”.
PM Mitchell bemoaned the fact that Grenadians voted down the CCJ and felt that this body is more than likely unlike the London-based Privy Council might give the thumbs down to same sex marriages.
“…The best chance one has if you are so against same sex union is if you have CCJ,” he said.
Despite the results of the referendum, the Grenadian leader said the process of constitutional reform has started in the country and “I think we are better off having started the process.”
Prime Minister Mitchell said it is the duty of members of government as citizens of the country to examine where the errors were and the next time around find a way to do it right and “to get the people more mobilised and more up to date on what is happening”.