Antigua, Grenada vote in CCJ referendum
ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, CMC – Grenadians and Antiguans are casting their ballot today on whether or not to replace the London-based Privy Council as the island’s final court.
Two years ago, they narrowly rejected the bill that would have allowed the island to join Barbados, Dominica, Belize and Guyana as the only Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries that have signed on to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that was established in 2001 to replace the Privy Council as the region’s highest court.
While Grenada's main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is urging supporters to vote against the measure, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell in a radio and television broadcast said that support for the CCJ would cement Grenada’s political independence from Britain, which it attained in 1979.
Nearly 1,000 police officers were eligible to cast their ballots last Friday and reports indicate that early voter turnout today was slow.
The 1974 Grenada Constitution states that while the final appellate court is the Privy Council any change or amendment would require a two-thirds of the voting population in a national referendum.
The polling stations close at 5.00 pm (local time)
Meanwhile, Antigua's Prime Minister Gaston Browne has urged citizens to exercise their franchise and said he was pleased he had done all he could to ensure that nationals were in a position to make a reasonable judgement on the issue.
Antigua and Barbuda would need a two-thirds majority of those casting ballots to ensure that the Privy Council is replaced by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement, CARICOM.
“I have discharged my responsibility to make the option of transitioning from the Privy Council to the Caribbean Court of Justice available to the people of Antigua and Barbuda. I think it is a great opportunity for them.
“ I urge them to go out and vote “yes” …and in any event whatever the decision I will be guided accordingly, but as far as I am concerned I have delivered in the responsibility to make this very important option available to the people of Antigua and Barbuda,” Browne said.
The Antigua and Barbuda's opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) has said it was not supportive of the move to replace the Privy Council and has urged supporters to vote their conscience.
Electoral officials warn that the rules which apply to the holding general elections would be enforced and that anyone contravening the laws could face up to six months in jail and or a fine of EC$500.