Grenada PM defends referendum on CCJ two years after defeat

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Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell Tuesday defended the decision to hold a referendum on whether or not Grenada should adopt the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court, two years after they voted down a similar proposal.
In November 2016 Grenadians voted against the CCJ replacing the London-based Privy Council by a margin of 12,434 to 9,492 in a referendum where they also had to vote on six other bills.
Mitchell, addressing students from the TA Marryshow Community College, who were attending a discussion with the former CCJ president Sir Dennis Byron, said there may be persons here who are concerned at the speed at which his government brought back the CCJ issue.
‘Some are stating what is the urgency. I want to say this, this is as urgent as you could find it. We have independence yes, but we are independent to a point. Our final Appellate Court is not in our hands and you know sisters and brothers, to me, this is not a political issue.
“It is unfortunate when issues of national importance are before us sometimes petty political interests come to play,” said Mitchell, who unlike the previous occasion in 2016, has indicated he will be campaigning for a “Yes” vote in the referendum on November 6.
The Grenada Constitution mandates that a referendum be held in order for changes to be made regarding the replacement of the Privy Council as the final court in addition to the Parliament approving the necessary legislation by a two-thirds majority.
Mitchell told the students that the CCJ matter should not be seen as an issue for any one political party here insisting “this is a national issue.
“Let nobody from whatever label we come from tell you anything else. It is your future,” he said, recalling that when the island was seeking political independence from Britain in 1974 the debate became a partisan issue “to the point that decisions were made in our Constitution…based on who was in office at the particular time.
“And long after that person has left us we are left with a Constitution which is certainly not suited in many respects for our present time,” Mitchell told the students.
“In other words, the CCJ is not just a discussion of this time, it is about the future of this country and that’s why I believe it is so necessary for you to be actively involved in what it means and how it affects your future.
“I am convinced that we are mature enough, we are capable enough and we are clear about what is best for us. And I am clear that we have the quality of jurists and personnel within our region that we should in fact as Caribbean people have our own final court,” he said.
Mitchell said Grenada has been paying its financial contributions to the court since its inception “so the question of costs does not arise.
“We are already paying for it, let’s us it,” he added.
The CCJ was established in 2001 after Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders agreed on the need for the region to have its own final court. But while most of the countries are signatories to the Original jurisdiction of the Court, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have signed on to the Appellate jurisdiction of the Court that also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement.

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