R. Rose
October 7, 2016

Grenada’s constitutional referendum – Part 2

On October 27, as we in St Vincent and the Grenadines celebrate our 37th anniversary of independence, the voters of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, our southerly neighbours, are being asked to advance their own 42-year independence process, by making changes to the Independence Constitution of 1974.

Seven ballot papers will be put before each voter for them to indicate support or not for the proposals before them. In this way, they can choose to support or reject all seven, or make their own choices among them. {{more}}It is not an “all-or-nothing” package, and makes allowances for voters to weigh up each proposal on its merit.

What are these proposals?

1.The first proposal is to amend the Constitution of the three-island state;

(a) by substituting the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the Final Court of Appeal instead of the Privy Council of Britain;

(b) to officially rename the Supreme Court, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court;

(c) to entrench a Code of Conduct as a constitutional provision in order to minimize corruption among public officials; and

(d) to entitle public officers when they are taking office to swear allegiance to the state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, instead of to “Her Majesty, her heirs and successors”.

2. The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Bill. This seeks to:

(a) substitute the EBC (comprising two persons nominated each by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, and one appointed independently by the Governor General) for them to oversee the registration of voters and the conduct of elections instead of the current lone Supervisor of Elections; and

(b) take over the functions of the Constituencies Boundaries Commission.

3. Ensuring the appointment of a Leader of the Opposition.

This proposal aims to authorize the Governor General to appoint a Leader of the Opposition from the party getting the second highest number of votes if one party wins all the seats in the general elections. That individual will be entitled to sit in the House of Representatives and perform the constitutional functions of Opposition Leader.

4. Fixed date for Elections.

This Bill seeks to amend the Constitution to authorize Parliament to establish a particular day of a particular month after a fixed number of years, not exceeding five years, following any dissolution of Parliament, for the holding of general elections. However, it provides for Parliament to be dissolved sooner than the fixed date, if a “no confidence” motion against the Government is passed.

5. Name of State. This sets out to:

(a) change the name of the state to Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique; and

(b) establish formally the territory of the newly-named state to be the same of that of Grenada at Independence in February 1974.

6. Strengthening Rights and Freedoms, by:

(a) expanding fundamental rights and freedoms, including those of persons under arrest;

(b) protecting intellectual property;

(c) protecting children, in and out of wedlock;

(d) guaranteeing public-funded education to all children under the age of 16 and under 18 for those with disabilities;

(e) guaranteeing gender equality so that both men and women shall have equal rights and status in all spheres; and

(f) establishing directive principles regarding (i) the protection of the environment, and (ii) the establishment of an enabling environment for persons visually, aurally and mentally challenged.

7. Finally, the Term of Office of the Prime Minister.

This amendment seeks “to debar or prevent someone from being appointed Prime Minister if that person has already served as Prime Minister for three consecutive Parliamentary terms”.

These are the clear choices on the ballot paper, though, politics being what it is in these parts, all sorts of red herrings are being introduced.

I ask my readers to note them carefully and I will provide comments in the concluding section next week.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.