Another failed Referendum

By Carrema Lewis

It was a very low voter turnout for the country’s second attempt at a referendum to break away from the London-based Privy Council and accede to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final Court of Appeal.

An empty polling station on referendum day

On Tuesday, 12,133 persons voted against the bill, “Caribbean Court of Justice and Renaming of the Supreme Court” that was meant to have the country recognsie the CCJ as its final appellate court.

According to results from the Parliamentary Elections Office, a total of 21,979 votes were cast on Tuesday with 9,846 voting in favour of the bill while 12,133 voted against it.

This is the second attempt in two years to change the constitution – the CCJ bill along with six others were rejected by the people in the first referendum held in November 2016.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell when announcing the second attempt at a referendum to have the CCJ bill voted on during the 2018 elections campaign, stated that the reason for the failure of the 2016 referendum was because he was not a part of the campaigning process.

He was heard saying at the NNP General Council session, “We have to trust our brothers and our leadership to provide justice for us, sisters and brothers and therefore I would be campaigning this time.

The last time they tied my hand and they tied my foot, this time I loose. Sisters and brothers, I will be going out hard for this Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), who want to come out now and say they are against it…let them say it now but I am coming up against them.”

In responding to the failed referendum on Tuesday, Dr. Mitchell stated that he “will not initiate another attempt at this issue as Prime Minister of the country.”

The Prime Minister, who could not hide his disappointment during a live television interview on Tuesday night, said he will stay far away from another attempt at referendum to accede to the CCJ.

“I don’t want to be a factor in something not getting the desired results because my children and grand children’s future is at stake.

So, if I am the problem for some people, I would not be one to want to interfere with this. I accept the results of the people who have voted in the country,” he stated.

His new political ally, veteran trade unionist Chester Humphrey has indicated that the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) will not give support to the CCJ vote once Dr. Mitchell is Prime Minister of the country.

Humphrey had opposed Dr. Mitcell for the better part of 23 years but teamed up with him for the 2018 poll in which the NNP won all 15 seats for the third time in electoral politics in the country.

Like Humphrey, Dr. Mitchell blamed the failed referendum on the no-vote agenda that was being pushed by the opposition.

The Prime Minister alluded to the initial support given to the CCJ Referendum by Congress and its decision to urge the electorate to vote no in the final days.

Dr. Mitchell said: “You cannot say you support this and go out and vote and ask people to vote and confuse people – a lot of propaganda, cheap propaganda. I mean you cannot do this – everyone of us has a conscience and therefore this is what is happening. It’s the hypocrisy on the part of certain persons in our country for whatever reason.

“I don’t understand, it cannot be beneficial politically because you saw what happened the last time close to an election and the results were almost the same – the same behaviour pattern was in fact done by the opposition element in this country, the major political opposition and they got severe licking a few months later in a general election.

“… So, what (they) would have learnt from that lesson – that you should vote based on something like this on the principle and not think of the politics but it seems that as long as Keith Mitchell is there and is initiating anything, I will oppose it. That seems to be the mindset and then you will go on (and) mention all sorts of thing about bringing gay rights and so on.

“I mean the amount of propaganda that was spread and people that should be knowing better were the ones asking me question – do you intend to do this? Do you intend to do that?

A disappointed Prime Minister Mitchell expressed the view that the opposition has nothing to celebrate over the failed CCJ referendum but in the long run will have a lot of questions to answer.

“I have said before…if this thing does not work then the opposition doesn’t have anything to celebrate – if anything they may have a lot of questions to answer – that is my own personal position. And don’t forget history would also record who took what position when something that is absolutely crucial to the life of the people of our country, was in fact initiated and did what…”, he said.

“I am very clear on my conscience that I did the right thing that I firmly believe that the CCJ is in fact the court that should be dealing with our final judicial system in the region and I have no doubt that history will prove me right,” he remarked.

Dr. Mitchell noted that despite the rejection of the CCJ bill, “nothing has changed” in the country and “we still have 15 seats in the parliament”, and the fastest growing economy in the region.

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