by Linda Straker
Dr Francis Alexis, Chairman of the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee has indicated that the referendum voting day could be sometime in October, but the final decision lies with the Government administration.
Recently, the Upper House of Parliament debated and approved the 8 Bills that will bring changes to the Constitution once two-thirds of the voting population approves the measures. “The Supervisor of Elections has said that he will be ready to conduct a referendum sometime in October, but he will have to consult with relevant Government agencies such as the Office of the Attorney General to set the date,” Dr Alexis told the media.
Calling on the general public especially the voting population to embrace the continuous education sessions that will be undertaken by various community groups, Alexis said these sessions will give voters further clarity on the aims and objectives of each bill.
“We want people to understand that the entire process is about making a decision based on conscience, and not on political belief and support. In the end we don’t want people to call for a new vote as we see happening somewhere else,” said Dr Alexis, who described 2016 as a referendum year for many nations. Besides the Brexit Referendum which will see the UK leaving the European Union, there were also referendums in the Bahamas, the Netherlands, Bermuda, and soon in Antigua & Barbuda.
Robert Branch, Senior Counsel in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, who is focal point for the Committee in the Ministry, said that the discussion around the month of October is based on two reasons: “Firstly, international best practice recommends 2 months of education for such an exercise, because after that the people become wary; and secondly, the Office of the Supervisor of Election also said that they will be ready by October.”
Branch said that the required budget for the referendum vote will be close to EC$2 million. The UNDP is providing EC$500,000 for the public awareness through grants for community based organisations such as churches and civil society groups, while the Government of Grenada is providing an additional EC$500,000.
He explained that the other EC$1 Million will be for the operating expenditure at the Electoral Office. For the last general elections, the cost was about EC$600,000 — but the the referendum requires more education and involves multiple bills, so a larger budget is required.
Dr Alexis said that with the Parliament giving approval to the Bills, he believes that other international donors will give support to the referendum which will require Grenadians to vote yes or no on the ballot paper.