The electorate in Grenada has rejected a referendum to amend the constitution to abolish appeals to the Privy Council and accept the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court, among six other constitutional amendments. The rejection came despite a call by Prime Minister Keith Mitchell for the amendment. What is noteworthy is that a little over 30 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise. It seems as if the majority have no interest or have flatly rejected the proposed changes.
This is the second OECS state that has rejected a referendum for a constitutional amendment.
The first was St Vincent and the Grenadines a little over six years ago. Among the other changes sought were a proposal to change the country’s name to Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique; to bar anyone from serving more than three consecutive terms as prime minister; to establish an Elections and Boundaries Commission; to authorize the Governor General to appoint a leader of the opposition from the party getting the second highest number of votes; to establish a fixed date for elections which must not exceed five years; and to expand the fundamental rights of citizens in several areas.
It is unfortunate that the electorates have rejected the referendum and one wonders if the amendment had only been for the CCJ whether it would have been approved by the electorate. It should be noted that Prime Minister Keith Mitchell campaigned vigorously for the proposed changes.
Meanwhile Antigua and Barbuda has shifted its referendum on the issue to early next year ‒ not later than March ‒ following rigorous debate in the Lower House of Parliament. The original date was October 27, but Opposition Leader Baldwin Spencer wants more time to educate Antiguans on the importance of the change. Prime Minister Gaston Browne said 67% of the vote is required, and the polls seem to indicate that although more than 50% are in favour of the change, they have not yet reached the target.
Although the regional court was established in 2001 so far only four countries: Guyana, Barbados, Belize and Dominica have abolished appeals to the Privy Council and accepted the CCJ as their final court.