The Referendum is Simple


Caribupdate Weekly

It would be an interesting learning moment if we could only know what our ancestors, who fought long and hard through the centuries for complete self-rule and self-determination, are saying about the current dynamics in Grenada and the deliberate melee that some are injecting into the efforts at reforming the British-made and created constitution handed down to us at independence in 1974.

We say “deliberate” because there is no other way at describing the pretense at trying to make an otherwise simple vote on seven issues, an unwarranted complicated exercise. Caribupdate, as a newspaper, would like to know what is so very complicated — what’s there to be educated about — on voting, for example, on changing the name of our State from “Grenada” to “Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.” And someone needs to explain to us the difficulty in voting on whether or not there ought to be term limits for the prime minister; on ensuring that there is always an opposition leader; enabling parliament to provide fixed dates for general elections; instituting an elections and boundaries commission; and requiring that allegiance be sworn, no longer to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, but to Grenada.

We strongly believe that the vast majority, who now are claiming lack of understanding of the referendum bill — on their behalf or on the behalf of unnamed innumerable numbers of Grenadians — are the same people who, from the outset of this Francis Alexis–led process, never had any intention of supporting constitution reform; not so long as Keith Claudius Mitchell is Prime Minister of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Feigning lack of public education on the reform process or the content of the bills for the 27 October referendum is as phony as a 3 dollar bill.

It is merely trying to establish an alibi, to blame lack of public education and consultation, should the referendum not succeed by failing to get a two-thirds majority vote.

Yet, all thinking Grenadians know that the real reason of the opposers and would-be saboteurs, who are endeavouring to “jumbie” the referendum process, is politics and a dislike for Dr Mitchell. Frankly, it’s nothing new in the politics of our country, and it’s funny how history repeats itself.

The country experienced the same phenomenon in 1973/1974 in the discussions around Grenada seeking independence from Britain. Many of the political players, even those proud to call themselves “progressives” and who were unflinching in supporting liberation and independence struggles around the world, staunchly opposed the move at breaking ties with Great Britain; at Grenada’s taking its place as a sovereign and an independent nation. They couldn’t embrace an independent Grenada because of their opposition and hatred for Eric Matthew Gairy.

Among the interesting commentaries written about the Grenada referendum was one penned by Cynthia Barrow–Giles, a senior lecturer of political science at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.

She writes that, “one of the unfortunate aspects of a referendum is that as voters take their cues from self-interested individuals, groups and organizations like political parties with which they identify, a referendum can be used to score political points which are not always in the best interest of a nation.” Barrow–Giles believes a no vote on 27 October “will simply represent a politically backward step for a country which has been grappling with much needed constitutional reform for the last 30 odd years.”

Whatever happens on 27 October, our nation owes a debt of gratitude to the members of Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) for the professionalism and commitment to the job to which they were assigned. They sacrificed their time and demonstrated the highest level of professionalism and patriotism, while striving to ensure that the recommended constitutional changes reflected the wishes of the Grenadian people, and that the process was free of all political bias and interference.

CRAC Chairman Dr Francis Alexis and his team should take a bow for a job well done.

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