by Linda Straker
Finance Minister, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell has confirmed that the 2017 Budget will no longer be presented on 25 November 2016, and instead will be postponed to sometime in December.
The change is due to the Referendum vote which will now be taking place on 24 November. “With a change in the Referendum it has definitely affected the date for the budget, because if we go ahead it means that we will have to prorogue parliament, and then everything will be null and void. So we have no choice but to wait,” said Dr Mitchell on Tuesday morning.
The Referendum was originally schedule for 27 October 2016, but last week Tuesday, Government, through Attorney-General Cajeton Hood and Chairman of the Constitutional Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC) Dr Francis Alexis, announced that there is an extension of approximately 1 month, so that persons can become more acquainted, and at the same time have a better understand of the 7 bills that are up for vote on Referendum Day:
- Constitution of Grenada (Caribbean Court of Justice and Other Justice-Related Matters (Amendment) Bill, 2016
- Constitution of Grenada (Elections and Boundaries Commission) (Amendment) Bill, 2016
- Constitution of Grenada (Ensuring the Appointment of Leader of the Opposition) (Amendment) Bill, 2016
- Constitution of Grenada (Fixed Date for Elections) (Amendment) Bill, 2016
- Constitution of Grenada (Name of State) (Amendment) Bill, 2016
- Constitution of Grenada (Rights and Freedoms) (Amendment) Bill, 2016
- Constitution of Grenada (Term of Office of Prime Minister) (Amendment) Bill, 2016
“We have sensed a genuine increase in national interest — and at the same time, people are asking for more time to become more familiar with what is being proposed,” Hood said at the time of making the announcement.
Explaining that while there cannot be an open-ended process despite the magnitude and historic significance of the Bills, Hood said that one clause in the Rights and Freedoms Bill has caused growing concerns in some circles.
“After extensive general discussion, including with the chairman and other members of CRAC, the Government believes that this, and any other lingering issues of clarity, must be addressed. All the contributions of the various stakeholders on this matter have been considered and against this background, the Cabinet has decided that it would serve the public good if approximately another month be given for the education process to be completed,” he said.
“We believe that this decision is in the broader national interest, and is consistent with the consultative posture of the Government, as well the Constitutional Review Commission from the very onset,” he said.
While admitting that there are varying views on the clause which focuses on Gender Equality, he said that the more it is explained to the people, the more comfortable they are with the clause.
A group of religious leaders under the umbrella of the Alliance of Evangelical Churches Inc. Grenada, is claiming that the clause on gender equality will provide a loophole for gay marriage. Grenada’s marriage law provides for marriage between male and female only.
However, Government, the Advisory Committee, a number of lawyers, and social advocates including GrenCHAP — a non-governmental organization whose work focuses on marginalized and vulnerable groups such as gay persons, say that the clause in the bill is of no benefit to the LGBTI population.
Since the announcement of the change in date, there has been more in-depth discussion at various locations throughout the country.
Alex Phillip, Supervisor of Elections said in a news conference last week Thursday, that although the date is changed it has not affected the ballot papers because the papers are not dated. He said that because registration date is reopened, it is expected that there will be more names added to the list, and this will result in more ballot papers having to be printed.
“For the October 27th referendum we had 70,714 persons registered, but we do expect an increase because registration in now re-opened and it will end on November 1st. We want to assure every voter that there is a ballot printed for all who are registered, and that there will be for all who are on the voters list as of November 1st 2016,” he said.
According to the writ for the constitutional referendum, the Supervisor of Elections has to return the writ to Governor-General Dame Cécile La Grenade, on or before Tuesday, 13 December 2016.
After the writ is returned with the result of the referendum, Parliament will immediately be prorogued, followed by the ceremonial opening of Parliament, and then the presentation of the 2017 budget.