Voting and ‘Dotish’ Laws

Caribupdate

Caribupdate Weekly

The voting on the proposed amendments to the constitution has ended, with Grenadians casting ballots in Thursday’s referendum. However, we suspect what will never end is the review, the analysis of the entire experiment — including the posturing of political parties, lawyers, NGOs, the religious community and of other groups nationwide.

You talk to any Grenadian or listen to any radio or television talk show, and you will hear people vehemently complaining of changes that are needed. However, you invariably are left with a distinct sense that each person wants change on his or her terms only, without compromise; or they only are willing to support change, if their political party or political leader is in office. Therefore, Thursday’s relatively low voter turnout and the results ought not to be a complete surprise.

Many people in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique saw merit in some — if not all — of the bills that were put to the vote. Yet, by themselves as individuals, and even collectively with others, a lot of them did just about everything to ‘jumbie’ the referendum; not unlike the forces that were marshalled against Sir Eric Matthew Gairy in 1973/1974 because, though a majority was not averse to Grenada gaining its independence from Britain, they just didn’t want that independence with Gairy as the country’s leader and our first Prime Minister.

The line of opposition to the referendum most frequently used by the ‘no vote’ campaigners was the claim that the ‘process’ was flawed. But, we believe the most interesting response to the flawed process complaint was offered by trade unionist Chester Humphrey, President of the Senate.

He noted that Grenadians weren’t being asked to vote on ‘process,’ but on constitutional amendments that were going to provide them with such things as equal pay for work of equal value, and guaranteeing that certain rights of the disabled are elevated to a constitutional fundamental right.

This exercise of constitutional reform has been a long and arduous journey. Those who have led the exercise, including the late Professor Simeon ‘Randy’ McIntosh and the members of the current Constitutional Review Advisory Committee, have applied themselves diligently, at personal and professional sacrifice. They all deserve our greatest respect.

This newspaper cannot envisage the nation embarking on another constitution reform exercise any time soon — if ever, again. Although, incredulously, NDC political leader, Sen. Nazim Burke, recently pledged at a public meeting that a government of the National Democratic Congress will amend the constitution to ensure that three of members of the senate will be youth, 30 years or younger. If he can lead the NDC to a national election victory and fulfill his pledge, Burke would have achieved a feat of mammoth proportions. We wish him the best of luck.

And, we would like to make a final comment about voting in general. Earlier in the week, a notice was sent out reminding Grenadians that “no alcohol should be on sale while polls are opened.” Has anybody ever considered the context in which orders like this, and court-mandated flogging, were promulgated?

They were put in place by our colonial rulers because they regarded us no better than children who were prone to drinking ourselves into a riotous stupor; and perhaps, in our alcohol-induced state of madness, would either be unable to vote on election day or would vote for the wrong candidate. And, in their mind, the best method of correction for the ignorant natives in the tropics — both during slavery and in the post-slavery period — was corporal punishment. It’s the same mindset that informs US President-elect Donald Trump in articulating his solution to problems in African-American communities as primarily requiring “law and order.”

It makes no sense, as well, with all the improvements in voter registration and in the voting process, that people in Grenada — and other neighbouring Caribbean territories too — continue to subject themselves to cattle-branding, staining their index finger in ink at the voting booth.

All these ‘dotish’ laws and regulations ought to be abolished forthwith. Ironically, though, we had a good opportunity on Thursday to change some of them.

But, we all know how that turned out.

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