SYNOPSIS OF DECEPTIVE ARTICLE
"The fallout from a bad decision begins." This was the caption of an article appearing in the March 10, 2017 edition of The New Today newspaper. The article was addressing what the writer considered to be an "electoral gaffe" which "signaled a profound misstep by the voting public," at last November's Constitutional Reform Referendum, when all bills were rejected, by "the mere 30% of the electorate who bothered to show up to vote." However, the writer's focus was the Elections and Boundaries Commission Bill, whose rejection he claimed, has made it possible for the multiple dismissals of electoral officers. He went on to state the following:
"Ironically, one of the criticized and eventually rejected bills was one that was tabled for the establishment of a BROAD BASED ELECTIONS AND BOUNDARIES COMMISSION." The article continued: "But alas! The personnel sent home were removed by AN ACTION THAT OCCURRED UNDER THE ESTABLISHED REGULATIONS OF THE OLD CONSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM." It further stated: "A dated system that the avenue of Constitution reform afforded us an OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE. WE REFUSED TO DO SO, and as a result, the status quo we are now protesting remains."
The construct of this Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) was a five member entity. The bill read as follows: 54. (1) There shall be an Elections and Boundaries Commission for Grenada which shall consist of five members, as follows—
(a) a Chairman appointed by the Governor-General in his own deliberate judgment after consultation with such civil society organizations or interests as the Governor-General considers appropriate; and for this purpose, the expression "civil society organizations or interests" includes community-based organizations, faith-based bodies, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, trade unions, youth and women's organizations; (b) two members appointed by the Governor-General acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister; and (c) two members appointed by the Governor-General acting in accordance with the advice of the Leader of the Opposition. (My bold and italics).
Considering that we do not presently have an elected Parliamentary Opposition – thus no Opposition Leader – how would have the two members, whom the Governor General is supposed to appoint on the advise of Leader of the Opposition, been selected, so as to have avoided the recent mass dismissals?
Additionally, section 54 (11) of that bill states: "Three members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum." This therefore means that the member appointed by the – Prime Minister-appointed Governor General, "in her own deliberate judgment;" along with the two members appointed by the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister, not only forms a quorum, but an automatic majority. This setup therefore would have been capable of accomplishing the same outcome as with "THE ESTABLISHED REGULATIONS OF THE OLD CONSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM."
Incidentally, I made this same point to the writer on February 23, 2017, in a Facebook banter, and his response was: "RP the point of a commission is that reform is an attempt at improvement by change. No one is saying that everything would be better overnight. But there is an opportunity. The premise that we should vote NO and remain where we were 43 years ago is completely shortsighted and negative."
Ultimately, this is a concession, that the establishment of the EBC, was not a guarantee that the mass dismissals of electoral officers, would not, or could not, take place.
It is also disingenuous to give the impression that the seven bills presented were
a true representation of a genuine effort at constitutional reform by the ruling administration, and reflected the ultimate will of the people, when the following is taken into consideration: 1) the CRAC was selective as to which of the people's recommendations went to Cabinet – they had an internal vote; 2) Cabinet further depleted the number of the people's recommendations, that eventually formed the bills; 3) while seven bills were being broadcasted, the numerous amendments within those bills were hardly ever given a mention – except by the Civil Society Advocates; 4) after presenting seven bills, the trumpets of the administration were promoting three, and indifferent to the other four.
This was reflected as I'm writing this piece, by one of them calling in to the 'Beyond the Headlines' programme with Peter Wickham. The fact that even the President of the Senate is stating publicly, that he voted yes to three bills, and no to four, speaks for itself.
A genuine effort at constitutional reform would ensure that every bill and amendment that goes before the people is of consequence to their well being and their future. THE ENTIRE REFERENDUM WAS A FARCE.