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PM: ULP Government not afraid to seek referendum


Unlike some other Caribbean countries, St.Vincent and the Grenadines is not afraid of staging a referendum on its constitution.{{more}}

Speaking passionately on the issue last Sunday evening at a rally at Rabacca dubbed a “National Family Gathering”, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves noted Caribbean countries are afraid of holding referenda because they do not trust their citizens.

However, his administration, mindful that getting the necessary two-thirds majority to change the constitution is a challenge, remains positive that it can be achieved.

“I want to say to you that there is no country in the Caribbean that anyone has gone to the people with a referendum,” said Gonsalves.

“People are afraid. You know why they are afraid? They don’t trust their own people, even where the referendum is calling only for 50 per cent plus one,” he added.

According to Gonsalves, Grenada was the first Caribbean country where the British imposed a two third majority to alter the constitution.

“It’s the (Eric) Gairy regime. The violence of that regime and the bizarre autocracy that existed,” said Gonsalves as he gave an explanation for the high threshold the British imposed on Grenada and St.Vincent and the Grenadines to allow for changes to their constitutions.

The Prime Minister stated that some Caribbean countries, including Dominica, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Bahamas, and Guyana only needed 50 per cent plus one vote to amend their constitutions, while Barbados, Trinidad and Belize don’t require a referendum.

Gonsalves said the administration which he has been heading for the past eight years was not afraid to seek a referendum to alter the constitution.

“We are not afraid to come to the people and say give us 67 per cent, give yourself 67 per cent, give yourself a gift of the best constitution possible anywhere in the world to govern us,” he said.

Gonsalves said that the proposed constitution reflects five paramount constitutional doctrines, including extending and deepening parliamentary democracy “in a manner nowhere else, anywhere in the parliamentary system, anywhere in the world”.

It also represents “the most advanced framework of good governance available in any parliamentary system anywhere in the world,” the Prime Minister added.

The Government of St.Vincent and the Grenadines is campaigning for a “Yes” vote in the referendum to change the country’s constitution that has been in existence since independence in 1979. The New Democratic Party (NDP) opposes this move and is calling on Vincentians to vote “No”.

Prime Minister Gonsalves is of the view that because a two-thirds majority is required to alter the constitution, “you can have a recalcitrant minority to stop the good things from happening and that’s why, in the new constitution we say 60 percent”. (HN)