Yesterday's referendum seeking the permission of the electorate to move to the Caribbean Court of Justice as Antigua and Barbuda’s final appellate court, fell short of the 67 percent two thirds majority required by the constitution .
Of the 52, 999 registered electors in Antigua and Barbuda, 17,743 voted, with 9,234 (or 52.04%) rejecting the proposal to adopt the CCJ as the twin island state's final appellate court and 8,509 or (47.96%) voters giving approval of the Bill that would have allowed a constitutional change.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne had hoped that his country would have joined Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana as the only Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to be full members of the CCJ that also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty governing the 15-member CARICOM grouping.
Browne, the first leader in Antigua and Barbuda to take the country to a referendum told the Antigua Observer: “I accept the result of the referendum. The voice of the people is the voice of God. We knew that getting 67 percent of the votes was an extremely daunting task, practically unachievable without the support of the main opposition party.”
He said he believed the support of the opposition was very important to mitigate against the “natural inclination” of electors to vote no in a referendum and he said it is a point he had raised earlier during one of the consultation exercises with the people.
“Unfortunately, despite our commitment to pursue a joint initiative with the opposition, the efforts failed. Instead, members of the opposition were successful with their propaganda which was predicated on lies, half-truths and innuendos,” he said.
Browne said those naysayers, as he referred to them in earlier interviews, “created sufficient fear among electors which undermined the yes vote”: hence, “the outcome, even though disappointing, was not surprising.”
Over in Grenada, In a national referendum on Tuesday, the preliminary figures released by the Parliamentary Elections Office (PEO) show that 12,133 voted “No’ as compared to 9,846 for those supporting the CCJ that was established in 2001.
Supervisor of Elections, Alex Phillip, said that 22,098 or 28 per cent of registered voters participated in the referendum. Of that number there were 119 rejected ballots, 9846 for the approval and 12133 voted against the approval. In terms of percentage, he explained that 45.05 per cent for the change and 54.39 per cent against the change.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell Tuesday said he was disappointed at the results of a referendum that would allowed Grenada to join the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the island’s final court.
“The people have voted based on what they wished to see. As a serious Democrat it (result) has been accepted. I am not happy with it but that has always been my position when results of electiopns are given,” Mitchell said.
He said he would not as prime minister be initiating a third referendum on the CCJ. In 2016, Grenadians voted overwhelmingly to reject seven pieces of legislation, including that of the CCJ, which would have reformed the constitution the island received when it attained political independence from Britain 42 years ago.
As it relates to his government’s next move, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he was satisfied that the labour party administration had done enough to bring justice to all at this time and since the effort was rejected, it is time to move on.
Browne said his “biggest disappointment” was not just that the desired move to the CCJ failed, but it is “the impact of this failure on future constitutional reform.”
Therefore, he added, “It is unlikely that my government will, in the circumstances and in the absence of political maturity and magnanimity, pursue any further constitutional reform in the near future. My government has decided to move on. We will put this unfortunate development behind us and press on with the people’s business.”
The chairman of the National Coordinating Committee on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Ambassador Dr. Clarence Henry, said while he is disappointed in the results “the people have spoken and we accept the verdict.
“The result is a result that demonstrates democracy. The people have spoken and certainly we will need to reflect on the loss. However, I am of the firm conviction that as we move towards consolidation of the regional integration movement, our people whether in St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada or Antigua, the greater appreciation of the institutions that we have created will become even more appreciated, celebrated in order for us to find our place in the global community.”
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