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(CMC) – Antigua and Barbuda Tuesday voted in favour of retaining the London-based Privy Council as its final court, according to the preliminary figures released here.
The Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC) said that of the 17,743 votes counted, the “No” vote secured 9, 234 as against 8,509 for the “Yes” vote.
Voters here had been casting ballots to decide whether to retain the Privy Council or instead move to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that was established in 2001 to be the region’s final court.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne had hoped that Antigua and Barbuda would have joined Barbados, Belize, Dominica and Guyana as the only Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to be full members of the CCJ that also serves as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty governing the 15-member CARICOM grouping.
“I have discharged my responsibility to make the option of transitioning from the Privy Council to the Caribbean Court of Justice available to the people of Antigua and Barbuda. I think it is a great opportunity for them.
“ I urge them to go out and vote “yes” …and in any event whatever the decision I will be guided accordingly, but as far as I am concerned I have delivered in the responsibility to make this very important option available to the people of Antigua and Barbuda,” Prime Minister Browne said, soon after casting his ballot on Tuesday.
But the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) has said it is not supportive of the move to replace the Privy Council and had urged supporters to vote their conscience.
ABEC said that 33.5 per cent of the electorate voted in the referendum and that the “No” vote had secured 52.04 per cent with the “Yes” vote gathering 47.96 per cent.
The chairman of the National Coordinating Committee on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Ambassador Dr. Clarence Henry, said while he is disappointed in the results “the people have spoken and we accept the verdict.
“The result is a result that demonstrates democracy. The people have spoken and certainly we will need to reflect on the loss. However, I am of the firm conviction that as we move towards consolidation of the regional integration movement, our people whether in St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada or Antigua, the greater appreciation of the institutions that we have created will become even more appreciated, celebrated in order for us to find our place in the global community.”
Henry said it is imperative for the region to “build our Caribbean institutions, no matter the struggles, no matter the challenges and no matter the defeats.
“We must redouble our efforts at deeper and fuller education of our institutions and ;place them within the curriculum of our schools in the region,” he told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
Head of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES), Peter Wickham, whose organisation had conducted an opinion poll and had predicted that the “yes” vote would have received the required support to take the island into the CCJ, expressed disappointment at the outcome.
“I am not Antiguan but I am disappointed for Antigua and the rest of the Caribbean. I think this is an unfortunate result equally so because the same thing was replicated in Grenada (today) and I really do hope that in the future we can get back on track.
“But the most I can say is that I am disappointed. I think this is an opportunity for Antigua and Barbuda to have created history and to set a course of a circle of development and ultimately the population said no,” he added.