By Caribbean News Now contributor
ST GEORGE'S, Grenada -- The electoral delegation of the Organization of American States (OAS) observing Thursday's referendum on constitutional reform in Grenada noted that, while preliminary results indicated that none of the proposed reforms were approved, voter participation and interest remained low, with barely 30 percent of the 71,241 registered voters casting a ballot, according to the Parliamentary Electoral Office.
Meanwhile, reacting to the outcome of the referendum in Grenada, Ambassador Dr Clarence Henry, head of the corresponding National Coordinating Committee in Antigua and Barbuda, which is due to hold its own referendum on replacing the Privy Council with the CCJ, said that Antigua and Barbuda is taking a totally different approach in terms of the question asked.
The OAS delegation, led by senior advisor at the OAS Secretariat for the strengthening of democracy, Paul Spencer, acknowledged the efforts of the authorities and various stakeholders in advancing the process of constitutional reform and commended the Parliamentary Electoral Office for the professional conduct of the poll and welcomed the peaceful manner in which the people of Grenada exercised their right.
The people of Grenada were presented with seven bills from which to make their choices, either separately or collectively. The referendum exercise gave them the option to either vote for or against one of the seven bills, some of the seven bills, none of the seven bills or all of the seven bills.
The Bills called on Grenadians to:
1. Amend the composition of the Elections and Boundaries Commission;
2. Amend the Constitution to ensure that a Leader of the Opposition is appointed in a situation where the governing party won all the seats in the House of Parliament;
3. Amend the Constitution to empower Parliament to establish a fixed date for general elections;
4. Amend the Constitution to ensure that Rights and Freedoms are accorded to all Grenadians. This Bill was considered controversial and ambiguous by many Grenadians who interpreted the phrase gender equality in one of the clauses, as providing an avenue for same sex marriages to be encouraged in Grenada. It is reported that the controversy that was caused by this particular Bill angered many Grenadians and prejudiced their minds against voting for other Bills;
5. Amend the Constitution to prohibit anyone from serving more than three consecutive terms as prime minster of Grenada;
6. Amend the Constitution to change the name Grenada to include the names of the other islands that form part of that territory and lastly, and
7. Amend the Constitution to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ.
Ambassador Henry said what was noteworthy about Grenada's CCJ Bill was that it contained other clauses in addition to the clause that provided for the replacement of the Privy Council.
The Bill also provided for the changing of the name of the Supreme Court in Grenada, it also sought to entrench a Code of Conduct in the Constitution to minimise corruption among public officials. It also made provision for public officials on taking office, to swear allegiance to Grenada and not to the Queen.
"What is further interesting about the CCJ Bill is that the electors were not given a choice or the option to vote for the CCJ and not for the other clauses or vice versa. The elector was either required to vote for the Bill in its entirety or don’t vote for it at all.
What this meant was that if the elector did not want to vote for the entrenchment of the Code of Conduct or for the change of the name of the Supreme Court of Grenada or for public officers swearing allegiance to the State of Grenada but wanted to vote for the CCJ he or she was not given that option. It was either all or nothing.
In that way, it is extremely difficult to conclude that the electors in Grenada voted against the CCJ. They could have wanted the CCJ, but did not want the contents of any or all of the other clauses to be included in the Constitution," Henry said.
"The people of Antigua and Barbuda will be asked one question in the simplest of ways -- should we replace the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice? There will not be any other Bills or other clauses in the Bill that will confuse or burden the electorate in Antigua and Barbuda. We intend to continue our educational drive in every nook and cranny in this country. By the time that the date for the referendum is announced every boy and girl, man and woman, irrespective of the age, class, colour, religion or creed, will hear about and understand what is meant by the words Referendum, Privy Council and the Caribbean Court of Justice," he explained.