“Antiguans marginal on CCJ”

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ST JOHN’S – The majority of people in Antigua and Barbuda supports the country replacing the London-based Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court, but the figure “marginally achieves the margin necessary for this measure to pass,” according to the findings an opinion poll.

The poll conducted by the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES) in September and obtained by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) showed that 65 per cent of those questioned “will vote “For” the CCJ, while 35 per cent will vote “Against”.

Last week, Prime Minister Gaston Browne hinted at the possibility of “calling off” the national referendum to determine whether or not the island should replace the Privy Council with the Trinidad-based CCJ as its final court.

“We have always taken the position that we reserve the right to call off the referendum. So if per chance we do a poll later in the year and we are not up to the 67 per cent, we may just decide to call it off, I am not saying any such decision has been taken,” Prime Minister Browne said.

In August, Browne said he had agreed to an opposition request to extend the timeframe for public discussions on the issue indicating that a referendum on the matter would now take place by March next year for the latest.

Winding up debate on the Constitutional Referendum Bill 2016, which he piloted in Parliament Prime Minister Browne, said he hoped the extension is not being utilised to frustrate the process.

He said the referendum vote, which had originally been announced for October 27, would be extended “to early next year, January, February, perhaps no later than March of 2017”.

CADRES said that the poll was conducted as the ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) administration celebrated its second anniversary in June 2016.

“At this time the political environment seems to have been complicated by a looming referendum which both political parties support, along with well-publicised instability in the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP),” the pollsters said.

CADRES said the methodology used to conduct the survey is consistent with others it has conducted in Antigua and Barbuda, and would be expected to achieve a margin of error of minus or plus five per cent with respect to the mainland of Antigua.

It said that 800 people were questioned in all 16 constituencies across Antigua based on a standard interview schedule that sought information on major national and political issues. (CMC)