Interim Political Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Joseph Andall and NDC’s Caretaker for the town of the St. George, Claudette Joseph have both expressed disappointment over the failure of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to get the nod over the British-based Privy Council in last Tuesday’s referendum.
The Vote Yes platform that was being promoted by the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell polled 9846 votes as opposed to the “Vote No” campaign, supported by Congress which collected 12, 133 votes.
Speaking to reporters at the party’s new headquarters at Mt Gay, St. George last Thursday, both Andall and Joseph said that theyfelt “saddened” over what Andall described as a “missed opportunity” to have the CCJ become the final appellate court for Grenada.
“The NDC wishes to reiterate that we continue to support the Caribbean Court of Justice both in its original and appellate jurisdictions, however, what transpired on Tuesday…was a very sad chapter in the history of Grenada and in the Caribbean – it was a missed opportunity”, he said.
“We hope that that is not the end for the hope for the CCJ…we hope also that that is not the end of the road for general constitutional reform in our country”, he added.
Attorney-at-law Joseph, who served on the CCJ Advisory Committee for a short period of time, stated that this is not just failure for Grenada but for the rest of the Caribbean.
“It is indeed depressing for all of us that we have not just failed ourselves but we failed the Caribbean because this is the second attempt we made at reforming the constitution which would have brought Grenada to the Caribbean Court of Justice as its final appeal court and it’s the second time that those in charge of the process, went about it the wrong way and very surprisingly doing it the same way they did it as in 2016, obviously, they should have expected the same result…”, she said.
“… We fully support the CCJ and we really want it to be our final court and we’re very saddened and depressed that today it is not our final court but at the same time as responsible citizens we have an obligation to defend our constitution and to ensure that any amendment that makes its way into our constitution meets the highest standard”, she added.
The female NDC executive member went on: Unfortunately, the bill that we (were) asked to vote on did not rise to the level that would have given it constitutional prominence and that is why many of us voted “No” on Tuesday…we have been in constitutional reform since 1985 and it would be sad to drop it now”.
Joseph attributed the failure of the referendum to the political interference that it had throughout the campaigning.
“We see that a golden opportunity was squandered from the outset, given the aggressive partisan tone that was set by the authorities. It was a show, a display of arrogance, of disdain and lack of care for the concerns of the Grenadian people.
“When we the NDC became aware of discrepancies in the bill that (was) designed to take us into the CCJ, we voiced our concerns to all the sectors of society. Notably, the Grenadian Trade Union Council, the Civil Society Organisation expressed concerns over what they consider to be flaws and omissions in the bill.
“…At that stage, we believe that the… government would’ve taken pause, gone back to the drawing board with all stakeholders to try to arrive at a consensus as can be evidence by the numerous public appearances of the number of legal figures.
“There were a lot of disagreement over interpretations on certain sections of the bill, that should have been sufficient to cause the government to go back to the drawing board, correct flaws, deal with the omissions and other inconsistencies within the bill – instead that was superseded by macho political posturing, disregarding the fact that millions of dollars of taxpayers hard earned money has been spent on the exercise and the quest for legacy and in exercising an ego trip, we ended up with the fiasco that we did.
Speculation is rife that current Acting Attorney-General, Dr. Lawrence Joseph was solely responsible for drafting a new CCJ bill for the referendum.
“I would encourage our government and the Ministry of Education to introduce Civics in school, starting from the primary level and make it simple. There are those of us in the Bar Association and Civil Society who will gladly volunteer to go into school and teach civics – on our government structure, our parliamentary structure, our constitution, how laws are made, that kind of thing so that they will become one with and feel a part of”, she said.
“For most people the constitution is an abstract document up there that you don’t feel connected with and at the government level I think we set up a structure, some of permanent Constitution Review Committee that will continue the work so that one day we might arrive at a place where the whole nation can be on the same page in terms of achieving something,” she added.
During an appearance on GBN TV and Radio on Monday morning, CCJ Advisory Committee member, Dr. Francis Alexis laid a lot of the blame for the CCJ failure at the referendum on Dr. Joseph and both the NNP and NDC political parties.
Joseph called for a permanent committee to be set up to look at the whole issue of constitutional reform with a 24 month deadline to help facilitate the CCJ process.
Prime Minister Mitchell has vowed that there will not be another CCJ referendum under his watch as head of the island’s government.
Last Tuesday’s defeat at the polls was the second time within two years that the Grenadian leader suffered a loss in a CCJ referendum.
However, Dr. Mitchell has an impressive record in general elections, with five wins at the polls between 1990 and 2018 to only two losses to Congress.