Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, is due to meet with the leader of the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), Harold Lovell, on Monday as the government seeks a united position ahead of the November 6 referendum on whether or not the island should replace the London-based Privy Council as
Antigua and Barbuda wants to join Barbados, Dominica, Belize and Guyana that have all made the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that was established in 2001to replace the Privy Council.
“Our position was articulated many months ago when we said that we feel that the CCJ issue should be placed within the whole context of constitutional reform so that there is a better and clearer understanding of the issue of the CCJ,” Lovell said recently, adding that while he supports the CCJ, the members of the CCJ should vote their conscience.
But Benjamin, who earlier this month announced “a non-stop campaign” ahead of the referendum, described the statement by Lovell as irresponsible.
“A leader can’t sit back and make those type of statements. A leader must take the lead and make his followers follow. Convince them. That sort of statement…in my view …is made by a leader, who really requires a particular result. That is not leadership.”
Benjamin said he hopes that following the discussions with Lovell the leader of the opposition party would be encouraging his supporters to vote in support of replacing the Privy Council.
“Because this is an important matter which is apolitical and concerns the development of all Antigua and Barbuda with respect to our independence, because no country is truly independent except it controls all three pillars of democracy. That’s to say the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.
“This has nothing at all to do with partisan politics. It is a national issue which must be addressed in a national manner with the interest of all Antiguans and Barbudans,” Benjamin added.
Last week, former attorney general, Justin Simon, who served in the same government as Lovell, called on the electorate to put aside partisan politics, and view the referendum the collective interest of the country.
“This is what I will be pushing on the trail to promote the CCJ. I am not saying that people will not have their political difference, but let us sink them in respect to this particular cause,” Simon said during an interview on state media.
Simon has also disagreed with the idea that the referendum should take place in the context of constitutional reform.
“I am of the strong opinion and view that the CCJ should be dealt with on its own by itself. We look at the experience of Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines which placed other issues of constitutional reform on the table and that was rejected,” Simon said.
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