Antigua launches public education campaign ahead of referendum on CCJ
ST JOHN'S, Antigua, CMC :
Antigua and Barbuda yesterday launched a three-month non-partisan public education campaign ahead of a planned referendum on whether or not the country should retain the London-based Privy Council or turn to Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne and opposition Leader Baldwin Spencer put aside their political rivalry in urging citizens to support the referendum and ensure that they are fully made aware of the pros and cons of leaving the British judicial system that has served the country for decades.
But at the same time both men underscored the need for the island to be "truly independent" and move towards the CCJ, which was established in 2001 by regional governments and also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement.
"Whereas, our government enjoys in excess of a two-thirds majority in the Parliament and is assured of the passage of the necessary legislation to give effect to the operationalisation of the CCJ, our Constitution mandates, that we obtain the fiat of the people by way of referendum," Prime Minister Browne told the launch that was attended also by the CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron, the former Barbados Chief Justice Sir David Symmons and other regional and international dignitaries.
PEOPLE'S INPUT REQUIRED
"Any provision of the Constitution that is entrenched, requires the vote of the people. In other words, a referendum is required to change certain Constitutional provisions, including the proposed change to the CCJ," he added.
Spencer said the public education campaign would provide the citizenry with the opportunity "to fully decide we will no longer loiter at the doorsteps of colonialism".