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Grenada PM disappointed with 'No' vote against CCJ

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

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ST GEORGE'S, Grenada (CMC) — Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell said last night that he was disappointed at the results of a referendum that will not allow Grenada to join the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the island's final court.

Grenadians voted, for a second time within a two-year period, to reject efforts to replace the London-based Privy Council as the island's highest court.

In a national referendum yesterday, the preliminary figures released by the Parliamentary Elections Office (PEO) show that the “No” vote secured 12,133 as compared to 9,846 for those supporting the CCJ that was established in 2001.

The CCJ also functions as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement, Caricom.

“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 elections are given,” Mitchell said.

“I am disappointed but I am in total acceptance of the results,” he added.

After casting his ballot, an optimistic Mitchell had said he was confident of receiving the necessary two-thirds majority of the votes cast in getting Grenada to join Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana as the Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries that are full members of the CCJ.

But 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.

They voted by a margin of 9,492 in favour with 12,434 against.

“I have said before…if this thing does not work then the Opposition doesn't have anything to celebrate. They may have a lot of questions to answer. That is my own personal position.

“History will also record who took what position when something absolutely crucial to the life of the people of the country was in fact initiated and who did what.

“I am very clear in my conscience that I did the right thing that I firmly believe the CCJ is in fact the court that should be dealing with our final judicial system in the region and I have no doubt that history will prove me right,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell, who led his New National Party (NNP) to a complete sweep of the 15 seats in the March 13 General Election this year, said the Opposition had engaged in “cheap propaganda” and had been able to confuse the voters ahead of the poll.

The main Opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), which initially had supported the move to replace the Privy Council, had urged the population to vote “No” yesterday with the party's interim leader, Joseph Andall, saying that the new position was taken because members were not satisfied with the process.

“For example, two of the persons who were involved in drafting the Bill are members of the Advisory Committee, therefore they have a vested interest in defending and protecting the Bill, it means there is no objectivity when it comes to a discussion regarding discrepancies, flaws or omission,” he said.

But Mitchell said everyone has a conscience and lamented the “hypocrisy” of some Grenadians on the whole issue.

“I am saying it again that I will not initiate another attempt at this issue as prime minister of the country. I hold very dearly to this particular position,” Mitchell said, adding that the future of the next generation is at stake.

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