The Referendum in Nutshell

Sir Lawrence A Joseph

by Sir Lawrence A Joseph

The upcoming referendum carded for Thursday, 27 October 2016, is the process whereby the electorate will be asked whether they approve or disapprove of each of 7 constitutional amendment bills. These bills seek to amend the Grenada Constitution for the purpose of improving fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals, guaranteeing gender equality, making special provisions for people with disabilities, improving the electoral process, curtailing the power of a Prime Minister and government, minimizing corruption, making final appeals from the courts more accessible and less costly, and engendering a spirit of nationalism, among other things. The seven ballot papers on which each of the seven referendum bills will be placed in alphabetical order are as follows:

BALLOT PAPER NO 1: CONSTITUTION OF GRENADA (CARIBBEAN COURT OF JUSTICE AND OTHER JUSTICE RELATED MATTERS) (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2016. This Bill seeks to amend the Constitution (i) to substitute the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the final court of appeal for Grenada instead of the Privy Council; (ii) to call the supreme court in Grenada, the “Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court” instead of “the Supreme Court of Grenada and the West Indies Associated States”; (iii) to entrench a Code of Conduct as a constitutional provision in order to minimize corruption among public officials; and (iv) to entitle public officials when taking office to swear allegiance to the state of Grenada instead of to Her majesty, Her Heirs and Successors.

BALLOT PAPER NO.2: CONSTITUTION OF GRENADA (ELECTIONS AND BOUNDARIES COMMISSION) (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2016. This Bill seeks to amend the Constitution (i) to substitute an Elections and Boundaries Commission comprising two members each from the government and the main opposition with an independent Chairman appointed by the Governor-General to oversee the registration of voters and the conduct of elections instead of a lone Supervisor of Elections; and (ii) to take over the functions of the Constituency Boundaries Commission which establishes constituency boundaries.

This Bill seeks to amend the Constitution 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 general elections. That Leader of the Opposition will be entitled to sit in the House of Representatives and perform all the constitutional functions of a Leader of the Opposition.

BALLOT PAPER NO. 4: CONSTITUTION OF GRENADA (FIXED DATE FOR ELECTIONS) (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2016. 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 which must not exceed five years following any dissolution of Parliament; however Parliament may be dissolved sooner than the fixed date if there is a successful “no confidence” motion in the government.

BALLOT PAPER NO. 5: CONSTITUTION OF GRENADA (NAME OF STATE) (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2016. This Bill seeks to amend the Constitution (i) to change the name of the state from Grenada to “Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique”; (ii) to establish the expanse of the state.

BALLOT PAPER NO. 6: CONSTITUTION OF GRENADA (RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS) (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2016. This Bill seeks to amend the Constitution (i) to expand fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals; (ii) to protect intellectual property; (iii) to protect children generally, whether born in or out of wedlock; (iv) to guarantee public funded education to all children under the age of 16 years and those with disabilities under the age of 18 years; (v) to guarantee gender equality so that both men and women shall have equal rights and status in all spheres of life; (vi) to establish directive principles regarding: (a) the protection of the environment; and (b) the establishment of an enabling environment for persons certified as being challenged physically, visually, aurally and or mentally.

BALLOT PAPER NO. 7: CONSTITUTION OF GRENADA (TERM OF OFFICE OF PRIME MINISTER) (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2016. The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the Constitution to debar someone from being appointed to the office of Prime Minister once that person has served in that office for three consecutive parliamentary terms.

It is most important that all electors critically analyse each Bill and indicate their approval or disapproval as their consciences guide them.

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