Sat | Jan 29, 2022

Think twice about referendum

Published:Monday | March 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM


Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced in his inaugural speech that he will put key constitutional and social issues to the public via a referendum. This was not the first time he has stated this position, and it is unfortunate that he did not get a chance to defend this intention during a debate. My view is simple: not everything will require a public vote. This is why leaders are elected to represent us and make decisions based on their intellect, experience and wisdom.

Many persons did not agree with the abolition of slavery and universal adult suffrage where all adults were given the right to vote, irrespective of race, sex or class. But leaders led the cause. They did what they felt was best, and right, without calling for a national vote and referendum on those issues.

Let's face it, the average Jamaican knows nothing about the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). People's lives could be seriously impacted by a referendum vote. The buggery law, which the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has often said should be put to a referendum, is a no-brainer. How do they think the average Jamaican would respond? Obviously, the response will be impulsive, driven by cultural norms, ignorance and fear. Is this the way to lead? The only way a referendum could work is if there, is a public relations effort behind the referendum to raise awareness of the issues.

I think it belittles us to have a sexual act between consenting adults be taken to a national referendum.

We know where the JLP stands with the CCJ. The party has strongly opposed Jamaica's departure from the United Kingdom-based Privy Council, and believes that Jamaicans should have a say in what will be the country's final appellate court. But where do they stand on the other social issues?

If there must be a referendum, there should also be a middle-ground option 'not sure' or 'don't care'. It also makes sense that referenda are tied to general elections. This would save time and money.

I hope the Government will think carefully about all of this, and remember that not everything requires a costly referendum.

Pete Delisser