The chairman of the National Coordinating Committee (NCC) spearheading the public education and sensitization programme on the Privy Council and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Dr. Clarence Henry, Wednesday dismissed suggestions that the campaign leading up to next month’s referendum is “one–sided” and appealed to nationals to get as much information on the issue ahead of the vote.
Antigua and Barbuda will vote on November 6 on whether or not to replace the London-based Privy Council with the CCJ as the island’s highest and final court.
Speaking at a breakfast meeting organised by the Antigua and Barbuda Chamber of Commerce and the NCC, Henry urged nationals to ensure they are well informed on the issue before casting their ballots next month.
“Let your voices be heard. Please be an arm chair pundit utilizing the safety of your chair or bedroom to speak to the issues,” he said, noting “every time we approach persons who support the Privy Council to engage as a panelist, only a few answer the call.
“Yet I hear the untrue accusation of one-sided campaign. That is far from the truth or reality,” he said, insisting that the question in the education drive is whether Antigua and Barbuda should migrate from the Privy Council to the Trinidad-based CCJ.
“The voting public will determine that question in a referendum on November 6…, much like general elections, where you are required to go visit the prescribed voting station, and in the booth answer “yes” or “no”. It is your decision that will determine Antigua and Barbuda’s fate.”
He acknowledged the results of the referendum will have “wide ranging implications for the country’s future,” saying that the mandate of the NCC is to help in that determination by providing the requisite information and facts so that voters could make an informed choice.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, brother and sisters, comrades: please take these matters seriously. Please do not ignore the discussions, but take the time to obtain the unadulterated truth. Do not go down the wrong path believing that the decision on referendum day will not affect you. It will.”
He said he was challenging voters not to be overwhelmed by the avalanche of information, but carefully sift through to determine what fake or genuine.
“Only you, can determine that through research. There are a large volume of primary and secondary materials to assist in your discovery of the facts.
“Moreover, I urge you to critically analyze what the purveyors of gloom and doom, those arm-chair pundits that meddle in every discussion, who pretend to be the bastions of wisdom and the paragons of virtue on every conceivable subject, who never seem to see the greater good in developmental matters, only to espouse negative traits of discouragement ignoring the essence of a pragmatic vision surrounding the development of our countries. “
Henry said the time has come for Antigua and Barbuda to seriously discuss the ramifications of staying with the Privy Council or going with the CCJ saying pivotal to the discussions is the macro-economic, political and legislative underpinning of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) “ the platform for growth and sustainable development of our countries”.
The CCJ was established in 2001 and while many of the Caribbean countries are signatories to its Original jurisdiction, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana have signed on to the court’s Appellate jurisdiction. The CCJ also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement.