Referendum on Constitutional Reform in Grenada
A Positive Step Toward Meaningful Nationhood: Part 2
Dr Wendy Grenade
In Part 1 of this article I argued for a ‘Yes’ vote on certain of the Constitution Reform Bills to be submitted the Grenadian Referendum on the 27th coming up. In this Part 2 I argue similarly regarding the other Bills.
A “Yes” vote is also imperative to rectify the name of the state. Unlike citizens in Barbuda, Nevis, Tobago and the Grenadines, inhabitants of Carriacou and Petite Martinique have been made invisible by the glaring absence of ‘Carriacou and Petite Martinique’ in the name of the state. Their birth, marriage and death certificates, among other official documents, do not reflect their true citizenship. This is an injustice that must be corrected as we move toward meaningful nationhood. Let’s transcend debates about ‘the islands in between.’ It is an historic fact that Grenada is a tri-island state,which includes Carriacou and Petite Martinique, yet the name of the state solely reflects “Grenada.” The referendum seeks to remedy this omission.This is a welcome initiative that augurs well for inclusiveness and meaningful citizenship.
Additionally,independence and nationhood assume rights and freedoms. While Grenadians enjoy some rights and freedoms, the 27th October referendum affords us the opportunity to vote “Yes” to expand our menu of rights and freedoms. BALLOT PAPER NO. 6: CONSTITUTION OF GRENADA (RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS) (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2016 seeks to amend the Constitution to: (i) to expand the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals including rights of citizens under arrest;(ii) to protect intellectual property; (iii) to protect children generally, whether born in or out of wedlock;(iv) to guarantee public funded education to all children under the age of 16 years and those with disabilities under the age of 18 years;(v) to guarantee gender equality so that both men and women shall have equal rights and status in all spheres of life.
This Bill would establish directive principles regarding: (a) the protection of the environment; and (b) the establishment of an enabling environment for persons who are physically, visually, aurally and or mentally challenged.This is a progressive step that, in as far as possible, should enhance the quality of citizenship for all.
In addition, from my perspective, nationhood transcends the Grenadian nation to a larger Caribbean nation. In this regard, I fully endorse Grenada’s accession tothe CCJ as the final court of appeal for Grenada instead of the London-based Privy Council.To date, Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana are members of the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction.
It is necessary to note that Grenada and 12 other Caribbean countries are already members of the CCJ in its original jurisdiction).Those who express concerns about political interference in the judiciary are justified given the small size of the region and the political culture within member states of CARICOM. Yet despite this reality, there may not be any judicial system in the world that is fully immune from political interference. However, mechanisms can be put in place to minimise such interference and build trust in the system. The fact that Caribbean Heads of Government do not have the power to directly appoint judges nor directly fund the CCJ insulates the process, to some degree, from political interference.
I wish to advance three reasons why I support Grenada’s accession to the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction: (1) It is very costly for average Grenadian and Caribbean citizens to access justice from the Privy Council; (2) there is no guarantee that the Privy Council will continue to provide such services to Caribbean people in the future. In 20092009 BBC Caribbean, report then President of the Privy Council, Lord Nicholas Phillips, as saying that Law Lords on the Privy Council were spending “a ‘disproportionate’ amount of time on cases from former colonies, mostly in the Caribbean and that “in an ideal world” Commonwealth countries, including those in the Caribbean, would stop using the Privy Council and, instead, set up their own final courts of appeal;” (3) a“Yes” vote for the CCJ is an opportunity for Grenadians to complete our independence and strengthen Grenadian and Caribbean nationhood.
Finally, after four decades of independence, Grenadians have a responsibility to current and future generations to seek to expand democratic rights and freedoms in the quest for meaningful nationhood. To do otherwise is to miss an opportunity to contribute to such a significant development at a critical juncture in Grenada’s history.
Wendy C. Grenade, PhD, is a Grenadian who is a Lecturer in Political Science at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.