News & Current Affairs, CARICOM Affairs - Thursday, November 26, 2009 10:04

Constitutional reform referendum defeated in St. Vincent & the Grenadines

By , News Desk

433pxElizabeth_II_greets_NASA_GSFC_e[1]The national referendum on constitutional reform in St. Vincent & The Grenadines has been defeated, with 43.13% (22, 493) of voters opting for the new charter and 55.64% (29, 019) voting against. The referendum required a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

The proposed constitution would have removed Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and installed a non-executive president in her stead, while simplifying the procedure to replace the British Privy Council as the nation’s highest court of appeal.

Speaking before the results were announced, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said that the seven year process which led up to the drafting of the new constitution should be viewed as lighting a beacon to “illuminate the pathways against the remnants of colonialism, in the interest of [Vincentians’] humanisation”.

Despite extensive campaigning in favour of the new constitution from the ruling United Labour Party, the new charter was heavily criticised by the opposition New Democratic Party who argued that it did nothing to reduce the power of the Prime Minister or to strengthen democracy in St. Vincent & the Grenadines. The Government was also heavily criticised for its arrogance and unwillingness to give way on differences with the opposition and citizens during the drafting stages of the constitution.

Political commentators in St. Vincent & the Grenadines have noted that while the referendum was largely billed as apolitical, the result is a damning one for the ruling ULP government, which will announce general elections in 2010. Had the referendum vote been a general election result, the opposition party would have won 13 of the island’s 15 constituencies.

Speaking to BBC Caribbean after the results were announced, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves commented that while he did not anticipate the result, it was clear that the people of St. Vincent & the Grenadines did not consider the new constitution to be deserving of their support.

“We were engaged in a noble enterprise, we did not succeed from the ‘yes’ campaign at the polls to persuade the majority of those who went to vote that the constitution was worthy of being changed, and that the [new constitution] was worthy of being supported”, Dr. Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves also conceded that the opposition ran a “spirited campaign” to mobilize Vincentians against the referendum, saying that there was a sense that the public had grievances against the government and its representatives.

Meanwhile, Opposition leader Arnhim Eustace said he was pleased with the result: “I’m happy with the decision taken because we felt that there are too many difficult issues that are outstanding and need resolution in the proposed constitution”, Mr. Eustace said.

The Vincentian referendum was the first of its kind in the Eastern Caribbean, where a number of states have proposed the idea of constitutional reform and republicanism, but are yet to take it to a national vote.

Antillean · Bridgetown, Barbados

The Antillean is a Caribbean media caucus that covers news, policies and insights within the region from a social and economic impact perspective. Our mission is to encourage thought and discussion on development issues within the region, with analyses that are often unreported in mainstream Caribbean media.

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United States The Queen gets to keep her job in St Vincent and the Grenadines « Repeating Islands from Texas, United States
Nov 26, 2009 1:45

Barbados Francis K. from Saint Michael, Barbados
Nov 26, 2009 2:26

God save The Queen! A ceremonial figurehead “from England” is better than a puppet despot from home.

United Kingdom John F from United Kingdom
Nov 26, 2009 2:45

Well said, Francis K! Vincey people don’t need a Chavez! The Queen any day!

Australia Royalist from Victoria, Australia
Nov 26, 2009 6:38

Great result! And I fully agree with Francis’ and John’s comment.

God save the Queen of St. Vincent & the Grenadines!!

United Kingdom F Jack from Lancashire, United Kingdom
Nov 26, 2009 8:58

You guys are joking, what is the British Monarchy doing for our Nation. The issue is not about having a ceremonial head or a president but the way the constitution reform was presented to the people.

Trinidad and Tobago Garnet Jessop from Arima, Trinidad and Tobago
Nov 26, 2009 11:16

Guys, the people have spoken! Full stop! The Vincentian people are not foolish, they saw no need to chang at this time and so it was. The voice of the people is the voice of God…….let it be. Untill we can have leaders who will be straight with us, who will tell us in clear distinct terms what are the benefits to us as a people, then i say the people have done well!

Sri Lanka Knowillza from Western, Sri Lanka
Nov 26, 2009 12:27

Long live the Queen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines! The People of SVG have decided!

United Kingdom svgpatriot from Southampton, United Kingdom
Nov 26, 2009 12:32

can the nation have its’ $4m (referendum education $$) back now please ralph?……or why don’t you resign and we’ll call it square (a small price to pay to get rid of a power hungry monster)

Antigua and Barbuda Kent from Antigua and Barbuda
Nov 26, 2009 12:56

This echoes the feelings of people all over the Caribbean.
No longer are we the illiterates we were at Independance.
The Politicians greed,tribalism and arrogance have let us down.
Leave the Crown right there!!
In fact give the Crown MORE power to deal with politicians who sell our lands (Let the Crown decide how CROWN LANDS are treated) and abuse their power,
The CCJ costs the Government money and the Privy Council doesn’t.
Why should my taxes pay for the CCJ Judges to drive 5 series BMWs just so the Government can politically interfere with decisions!

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines feedom from Charlotte, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Nov 26, 2009 13:18

God bless freedom of speach, the Queen and this nation. We need no dictatorship here thats why 55% of us voted no.

United Kingdom Malcolm from Coventry, United Kingdom
Nov 26, 2009 14:51

The generation from Ralph’s Education revolution will be more educated and thus will not be fooled by the opposition NDP who has managed to duped the illiterate 55% who voted no. so any future ref for change shouldn’t be a problem. The NDP has simply reaped the benefit of keeping the masses ignorant for so long. A previous comment said that “No longer are we the illiterates we were at Independance” well i beg to differ as you can see from the result we obviously still are. Garnet Jessop who also commented above i believe is not on this planet.

Canada Simon, Saint Lucia from British Columbia, Canada
Nov 26, 2009 15:08

I just want to congratulate our OECS cousins to the south for rejecting the path to dictatorship. This has been a huge blow to Ralph and Chavez so down with ALBA and long live the OECS . May God Bless our Queen, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the OECS family, we were very worried.

United Kingdom Pookie from London, United Kingdom
Nov 26, 2009 18:41

what you mean the queen is not doing anything for the county F.Jack, dont forget about our brothers and sisters in the british force in the uk,stop being so dum and see what Ralph wanted to do to us the nation has spoken NO Ralph need to get a life and resign give up Mr Primeminister

United Kingdom Pookie from London, United Kingdom
Nov 26, 2009 18:42

Long live the Queen

Barbados Vincy from Saint Lucy, Barbados
Nov 26, 2009 19:50

I’m sure if the PM had asked us to vote on ALBA we would have given him the same result.

Belarus CrazyRepublican from Minsk, Belarus
Nov 26, 2009 21:17

We will revenge in spite of all! LONG LIVE REPUBLIC!!!

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines WIll from Saint George, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Nov 26, 2009 22:41

Just because the referendum failed doesn’t mean the people don’t want reform. Perhaps we just want reform that is meaningful to us. Perhaps we want a reformation process that has not been hijacked by the political parties for their own ends. Voting no is a rejection of the document as it exists, not of what it could be.

Martinique Martinique from Martinique
Nov 26, 2009 22:52

Good referendum … Long live Democracy !!!!

Serbia Igor Windsor from Serbia
Nov 27, 2009 13:54

May I take this opportunity to congratulate all Vincentians for their wise choice.

Despite all the bribery and – well, why not say it openly – all the threats, Vincentians have voted with reason and with the future for their children in heart.

They have refused any notion of Chaves-like dictatorship and have overwhelmingly voted for democracy. The story is not over, however, and there is no place for resilience, or else the PM will try to snap another chance before you know it.

For now at least, however, it is time for joy and celebration.


United States Has decline and fall of British empire risen again in new climate-change Commonwealth summit at Trinidad and Tobago? - Counterweights from California, United States
Nov 30, 2009 15:58

[...] does not also explain that, the day before the Commonwealth summit began in Trinidad, a national referendum on constitutional reform in neighbouring St. Vincent & The Grenadines was defeated, with 43.13% (22,493) of voters opting for a new charter and 55.64% (29,019) voting against. Among [...]

United Kingdom caricom national from Surrey, United Kingdom
Jan 27, 2010 7:34

I wander if u all vote on party lines?

United States toni from New York, United States
Feb 19, 2010 13:58

Congratulations, Vincies, the old saying ” if it aint broke, don’t fix it” applies. You know what you have now, you don’t know what you’re going to get once this proposed constititution had gone into effect. It’s not good to have too much power in the hands of one man; you have seen what this does in governments all over the world, power corrupts and before you know it you have a dictator on your hands and there is nothing you can do because you voted to change the laws and put him there.

United States Mr. King from Texas, United States
Jul 6, 2010 1:58

Do we need a Referendum For A New Democracy?

Are you concerned about the future of democracy? Do you feel democracy is under attack by extreme greed in countries around the world? Are you sick and tired of: living in fear, corporate greed, growing police state, government for the rich, working more but having less?

Can we use both elections and random selection (in the way we select government officials) to rid democracy of undue influence by extreme wealth and wealth-dominated mass media campaigns?

The world’s first democracy (Athenian democracy, 600 B.C.) used both elections and random selection. Even Aristotle (the cofounder of Western thought) promoted the use random selection as the best way to protect democracy. The idea of randomly selecting (after screening) juries remains from Athenian democracy, but not randomly selecting (after screening) government officials. Why is it used only for individual justice and not also for social justice? Who wins from that? …the extremely wealthy?

What is the best way to combine elections and random selection to protect democracy in today’s world? Can we use elections as the way to screen candidates, and random selection as the way to do the final selection? Who wins from that? …the people?

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