The government has conceded to shift the proposed 2016 date for the referendum to accede to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), to a date in early 2017, after rigorous debate in the Lower House of Parliament by the Leader of the Opposition, Baldwin Spencer.
Although the government had planned to have the referendum on October 27 2016, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has agreed that it will now be held “perhaps no later than March of 2017”.
The change in the dates came about after Spencer argued that for the two -thirds majority to be achieved in the referendum, the public needs more time to be persuaded to shift from the Privy Council.
“I would like to move to the CCJ tomorrow. But you have to have the people with you, and if you’re setting mechanisms in place, consulting, and getting the people on board, you need time,” Spencer said. He warned that if the public’s perception was that the government was “pushing the question down the throat of the people” that those opposed to the CCJ would only “harden their positions”.
“What we need to be doing is a massaging exercise. We still have a lot of work to do,” the leader of the Opposition added. His comments were made during Tuesday’s sitting of the Lower House, where the Constitution (Antigua & Barbuda) Referendum Bill 2016 was debated.
The Bill sought to lay out the procedure for the referendum to take place. While Spencer maintained that more time was necessary, Browne argued that the original October 27 date was envisioned strategically.
“It is well known that Grenada will be hosting their referendum [on the CCJ] on October 27. We had initially planned for October 20 before Grenada announced their date. We were advised that it would be good if both countries could have their referendum on the same day, so that the result of one country’s referendum would not impact the other.”
At the same time Browne called on the United Progressive Party (UPP) to use the extra time to bring more of its members and supporters on board with the move to the CCJ.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)