Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Letter of the Day | Jamaica, CARICOM should hold referendums

Published:Wednesday | July 20, 2016 | 7:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

A referendum is a very rare occurrence in the Caribbean. And Britain's holding of a referendum on breaking from the European Union should be a lesson for the globe, particularly Jamaica and the Anglophone Caribbean: Have a national vote on any major decision such as constitutional matters, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), local government reform, or a treaty. Politicians from both major parties in T&T seem to 'fraid' voters on how the nation should be governed.

In the United Kingdom, Parliament itself did not decide to hold a vote among its members to break from Europe as Caribbean countries tend to do on major decision making in the region. Instead, the British prime minister and his government decided to seek the voice of the entire nation on whether they should exit from the EU.

It is no accident that almost all of the democracies of the EU also held a vote (referendum) on whether they should join the EU or accept the euro as the national currency. And Britain held a referendum in 1975 on whether to join the union (European Community). Last June's vote reversed that earlier decision to join the union. Britain also held a vote on whether Scotland should secede from the UK, with voters narrowly rejecting a break-up. Where in the Caribbean has a similar Brexit vote been undertaken on any issue? Will T&T ever hold a referendum on constitutional reforms?

No vote was ever held on forming or joining CARICOM by any of its 15 members? No vote was ever held on breaking from the Privy Council or establishing or joining the CCJ? No vote was ever held on CARICOM members obtaining independence from Britain, and in other territories where such a vote was held, people rejected independence.

No vote was ever held in the region on constitutional reform (except the rigged referendum in Burnham's Guyana in 1978). St Vincent is about the only country that had a vote on constitutional reform and whether to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ; the voters said no.

 

NO CCJ VOTE

 

Governments in the region promised a vote on the CCJ, but none of them had one. That will never happen, as politicians fear the voice of the people - rejection. In Jamaica and Trinidad, the governments recognise that voters will reject the CCJ as a replacement for the Privy Council.

Even the chief justice of Guyana said constitutional changes must be done by referendum, but the government does not want to go down that road. Instead, the government wants the court to approve constitutional changes suggested by parliament. Barbados failed to hold a promised referendum on the CCJ. Ditto, Belize! Jamaica's Government does not want to take a risk in holding a vote on the CCJ because opinion polls reveal majority rejection.

VISHNU BISRAM (Dr)