Both Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda voted against the move to have the
Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as their highest appellate court in separate referendums.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne said he is extremely disappointed after a referendum failed to get the support needed to change the country’s final court of appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
In a two-minute statement shortly after the nation learned of the outcome, the country’s leader said he accepts the result and there’s nothing he could do about it.
President of the CCJ, Justice Adrian Saunders said, “while the news is not what we hoped for, we respect the people of both nations and their decision. The court will naturally continue ongoing initiatives with justice sector bodies in each of these countries, and the wider Caribbean, through the JURIST project and otherwise.”
In both Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda, the turnout of voters was low. In Grenada, of 21, 979 votes cast, some 9,846 persons voted to adopt the CCJ as the final Court of Appeal. In Antigua and Barbuda, the margin was a little closer. There were 9,234 votes against and 8,509 votes in favour of the adoption of the CCJ. The CCJ will still be serving both Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda.
The CCJ President emphasised that, “these results will not, of course, deter us from serving with distinction those nations that currently send their final appeals to us. As well, the Court will also continue to process and hear applications from all CARICOM States, and from CARICOM itself, in our Original Jurisdiction, and our justice reform work in the region will also continue”.
The Antigua and Barbuda prime minister is blaming the opposition for the failed effort, accusing them of allegedly backing out of a commitment to pursue a joint position.
“We knew that getting 67% of the votes was an extremely daunting task. Practically unachievable without the support of the main opposition,” he said.
The prime minister says the opposition succeeded in undermining his desire to move away from the Privy Council. He also accused them of telling lies and spreading fear which he said persuaded people to reject the move.
Browne says the result is that nobody won. “Even though disappointing, it was not surprising. It is unlikely that my government will persuade any further constitutional reform in the near future, “he added.
In a referendum, 52-point 4 percent of the voter turnout said no to a move to the CCJ while, 47 point nine six voted yes.
The referendum however, required a 67 percent support to succeed.
Meantime, the Leader of the United Progressive Party, Harold Lovell, says the people have spoken.
However, he said there was too much politics surrounding the referendum.
“This was a referendum about the prime minister and he was not able to bring out 8000 from his troops to vote, yes,” Lovell said.
“The politics should have been removed from the referendum “and maybe there would be a different outcome,” he added.