by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- NDC never part of any Yes Vote campaign
- Referendum failure due to direction taken by government from the beginning
Although in support of Grenada acceding to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the country’s final court of appeal, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) maintains that they were never a part of any Yes Vote campaign despite being asked to serve on the CCJ advisory committee.
Political leader Joseph Andall stated that a false narrative has been put in the public domain that the NDC was part of the Yes Vote campaign but pulled out last minute. “We were never part of any yes vote campaign. We were invited to serve on what was called CCJ advisory committee, it turns out that committee [was] a committee set up to promote a yes vote. We have no problem with the government or anyone else promoting a yes or no vote, but we believe that everything must be above board and that no traps are set to ambush people. If you are invited to be a part of an advisory committee, you expect the committee to be what the name says, ‘advisory’.”
Andall reiterated the NDC stance that they were never in a position to vote yes to the bill as presented and like the Trade Unions Council (TUC), had asked that the government postpone the referendum to address the glaring issues. However, Andall says despite the various calls made, the government was bent on continuing. “There were a lot of disagreements of interpretations of certain sections of the bill, that should have been sufficient to cause the government to go back to the drawing board and correct the flaws, omission, and inconsistencies within the bill. Instead that was superseded; with mature political posturing disregarding the fact taxpayers’ money that would have been spent on the exercise.”
Candidate for the Town of St George, Claudette Joseph said like in 2016, the referendum was bent on failure due to the direction that was taken by the government from the beginning. “When you have the people of Grenada saying to you that we do not approve the alterations that you proposed, and you ignore them it is almost as though you are intentionally sabotaging the effort to become part of the CCJ and that is unfortunately what happened here in Grenada.”
Joseph lamented that the failure of the referendum hinged upon the many flaws in the CCJ bill. “We fully support the CCJ and we really want it to be our final court of appeal. We are very saddened and depressed that today it is not, but at the same time as a responsible citizen 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. 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.”
She stated that her decision to vote No on Tuesday was best upon the omission of not entrenching the parts of the CCJ agreement that gave protection of the judges from political manipulation. “Our constitution protects our junior judges from political manipulation because of certain provision entrenched in the constitution… so our Justice of the Court of appeal, for example, 20th of September 2016 in a speech televised across the region accused them of political interference, she was able to do this fearlessly knowing that she was protected by the constitution of all the OECS Countries but the bill failed to do the same for the CCJ judges.”
The attorney highlighted other factors that resulted in the slow voter turnout on Tuesday. “Several matters relating to the climate of Grenada compounded the situation, including the current relationship between government and health workers, teachers and the unions in general and also very damaging to the efforts was the fact that our judicial system as it relates to the lower courts is in crisis, and all of these matters didn’t help the cause and this falls squarely at the feet of the government.”
Reflecting on the 2016 referendum, Joseph attributed the failure to the watering down of the many of the recommendations from the people. “For example, proportional representation was watered down to a leader of the opposition at all times and that bill in my mind was the worst of the 7 and the fixed date was watered down in an attempt to trick people. So we need our leaders to understand that it’s not about them but it’s about putting the people first, so you don’t take it personally when the people vote in a particular way because you didn’t listen to them and you don’t get upset and curse our constitution. I was shocked to hear the Prime Minister say that if our constitution was like Dominica we would have gone to the CCJ long. Well, excuse me our constitution is not like Dominica and unlike Dominica, we must get the approval of the people.”
Meanwhile, the NDC is of the view that the process and method used to educate the electorate prior to the referendum must be reviewed since it failed to reach a crucial section of the populace. Joseph is of the fervent view that the process should not be rushed and must first start with the introduction of civic education at the primary level. She believes that 24 months of rigorous education on the constitution can serve as a good start to any process leading up to a referendum.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) maintains that they were never a part of any Yes Vote campaign despite being asked to serve on the CCJ advisory committee.