Prime Minister Browne may look to party supporters to win Antigua-Barbuda’s referendum on CCJ

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne says he may be forced to mobilise the base of the ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) to ensure that the “yes” vote succeeds in next month’s referendum on whether or not the island should replace the London-based Privy Council as its final court.

Browne, speaking on a programme on his radio station over the last weekend, said that he was disappointed that the move to replace the Privy Council with the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had become very political and not the non-partisan approach he had envisaged for such a serious matter.

Voters will go to the polls on November 6 to decide on whether or not to retain the Privy Council as the island’s highest court and the National Coordinating Committee (NCC) is undertaking a public education programme ahead of the poll.

The government needs a 67 per cent vote in the referendum coupled with a two-thirds majority in the Parliament to move to the CCJ, which was established in 2001 by regional governments to replace the Privy Council.

“I am of the view that the Labour Party has to take a frontal role in this now based on what’s happening. This thing has taken a totally different direction and to appeal to our based, we expect every single Labour Party supporter to support this transition and I believe that there are plenty sensible UPP (United Progressive Party) supporters and undecided people, let us go out there and get our 67 per cent and forget about the likes…of all those who think they smart,” he told radio listeners.

Browne said that those in opposition to the vote had used several excuses in a bid to get support for their positions.

“You know on the one hand they saying they are not against the transition to the CCJ, that is to have the CCJ as our Apex Court, but on the other hand they are trying to argue and without any convincing argument or arguments that we need to wait.

“Now if it is that these individuals are so serious and really wanted to see this transition…they would have maybe ask for a transition period,” he added.

Apart from Antigua and Barbuda, the voters in Grenada will also cast their ballots in a referendum on the same day to decide whether to join the CCJ, which also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement, CARICOM.

Only Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana among CARICOM countries are full members of the CCJ.


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