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Campaign begins for proposed Constitution nod

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A bill making the way for the referendum to take place here on November 25th is expected to be passed in the House of Assembly next Wednesday. This, as the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) prepares to launch a vigorous YES campaign.{{more}}

The motion for a referendum bill will be tabled in parliament by Minister of Electoral Affairs René Baptiste, who indicated that the government’s push to have the proposed constitution accepted by 66.67 percent or more of Vincentians will be vigorous, far reaching and widespread.

According to Baptiste, the referendum bill has to pass in the House first, before the campaigning and subsequently the referendum vote can take place according to the provisions of that bill.

“The campaign is to publicize, inform and gain support for the YES vote which is scheduled to be held.”

“This is not a party campaign; it is a national campaign of the government continuing the process to ensure that we have a new constitution.”

A committee headed by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has been set up by Cabinet to lead the campaign, which will begin in earnest soon after the Referendum bill is passed.

The committee also includes Deputy Prime Minister Sir Louis Straker, Minister Baptiste, Ministers Girlyn Miguel, Jerrol Thompson, Clayton Burgin, Julian Francis, and Saboto Caesar.

Other members are: Head of the Agency for Public Information (API) Jimmy Prince, the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Hans King, Communications Consultant Elson Crick, Director of Finance Maurice Edwards, Cabinet Secretary Bernard Morgan and Constitution Reform Steering Committee (CRSC) Chairman Parnell Campbell QC.

Sub committees have also been established, whose functions Baptiste says include, among other things, to continue the education process towards the constitution.

“There will be an ongoing education of the Provision of the Constitution Act and a civic education program which will be instituted by the Electoral Division in conjunction with the CRSC.” Baptiste added.

The referendum vote will take the form of an election, except that the general public will not see symbols on the ballot paper, only a question which is to be answered with either a YES or a NO.

A VOTE NO campaign is also expected to be launched by the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) at a press conference scheduled to be held on Tuesday, September 15th, at NDP Headquarters.

The NDP has cited a number of concerns, including the process for the election of the president, property value determination, and the excessive powers of the Prime Minister, as reasons for their opposition to the proposed constitution.

Baptiste on the other hand, defended the new constitution, saying that it is a vast improvement on the current constitution. She said that it has not in any way taken away rights from the old one.

“The four major pillars that have been improved on… are the freedom of expression, the freedom of association, civil liberties and the right to life.”

Baptiste said that although she is confident that the government will get the required numbers for the referendum to pass, she is not “counting her chickens before they hatch”.

She said in the event that the proposed constitution does not pass, then it is just ‘part of the process of life’.

Baptiste said the referendum vote is the first of its kind to take place in the Organization of East Caribbean States(OECS).

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