There was a resounding “NO” from the estimated 32,000 persons who voted on the seven bills in last Thursday’s referendum on Constitutional Reform in Grenada.
Despite the setback, Chairman of the Constitutional Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC), Dr. Francis Alexis said the vote shows that democracy is alive in the country.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference alongside two other members of the committee at the head office at the National Stadium last Friday, Dr. Alexis said although the number of “no” votes were not anticipated, it was “real democracy” at work.
The CRAC chairman said the results have been accepted as that of the will of the people.
“Naturally the committee accepts the results on all the bills – the people have spoken, the people have spoken decisively. You can say that the referendum was a success in that it went smoothly and it put Grenada on a pinnacle in terms of demonstrating that democracy is alive and kicking in this country,” Alexis told reporters.
The defeated bills were the Caribbean Court of Justice and other Justice Related Matters, Elections and Boundaries Commission, Ensuring the Appointment of the Leader of the Opposition, Fixed Date for Election, Name of State, Rights and Freedoms and Term of Office of the Prime Minister.
The two bills that received the most support from the electorate were Name of State and CCJ.
According to Dr Alexis, there is hope for the CCJ bill which is intended to do away with appeals to the London-based Privy Council and to establish the CCJ as the final appellate court in Grenada.
“You would also have noticed that the margin arithmetically between the no vote and yes vote on that bill, the margin was not very large; meaning just over 3000 votes separated yes and no of a voting population of some 70,000 people with some 32,000 or so turning up”, he said.
“It must be said that especially in relation to that bill, it’s not quite all over but is not for us on the committee to chart the way forward regarding that bill…”, he added.
In the face of widespread outcry that not enough was done by CRAC to educate the population on the contents of the bills, Dr. Alexis held a different view.
He said: “I think we did enough; that is not to say that more could not be done. Every Grenadian will tell you no doubt, he or she knows much more about the Constitution of Grenada now than before we started our work back in 2014. I don’t think that can be denied.
“…The country is far more familiar with the constitution. As a matter of fact, the Government Printery will tell you copies of the constitution were sold out during the course. That is evident that the people generally speaking have gotten more interested in the constitution now than ever before,” he added.
Dr. Alexis outlined what he sees as the way forward for the country on the issue of Constitutional Reform.
He recommended that there should be continued reading of the constitution, continued attention to the constitution and constitutional issues and continued debate on the need for constitutional reform.
He said CRAC will repeat its recommendation to the Keith Mitchell-led government that it sets up a permanent commission on Constitution reform with a permanent headquarters to keep the debate ongoing on the issue.
Trade Union representative on the committee, Bert Patterson of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) told reporters that the result of the referendum poll shows that the majority of Grenadians are satisfied with the present constitution.
“The fact that the no vote was successful, then there is no question that by majority we have to be satisfied with the present constitution. Issues to how it could be changed in the future, or how it will be changed in the future or if it will ever changed in the future, is outside of the ambits of this committee”, he said.
Patterson noted that it has to be “a political decision” to engage once more in constitutional reform since it is only a ruling party in government that can decide whether or not to send something to referendum.
THE NEW TODAY visited a number of polling stations last week to sound out the electorate on their views.
We did speak to two people who did not seem to be in support of the bills.
One man said: “I think that (the) whole process is a farce. They are trying to force something on the people which I find is unfair…I don’t want what I perceive to be the gender equality, meaning the man will be lying with man or woman with woman. That’s my main objective for going and vote there. I am going and vote “no” to all. I firmly believe that we could do this thing better. I hope it will fail, let it send a message to the powers-that-be, we did wrong the first time”.
Another voter shared the same sentiments.
She said: “This is my opportunity where I can speak out by voting what I want for my country. I want the best for my country, I don’t want things to go out of order and I am not able as a Grenadian to speak about it. I would feel comfortable in my skin knowing that at least I try to push things back a bit. If it works out that everybody vote counts I would be happy that I did my part”.