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Gender Equality Billls 'Could Be Altered' For Referendum

By NICO SCAVELLA

FORMER Supreme Court Justice Rubie Nottage yesterday could not confirm whether the Constitutional Commission would delay the upcoming gender equality referendum but said “there’s still a possibility” that the four Constitutional amendment bills could undergo alterations before the government’s proposed November 6 date.

After speaking at the Rotary Club of East Nassau yesterday afternoon, Mrs Nottage did not indicate whether a delay in the referendum is imminent but said that as the bills have not been finalised at this particular moment and politicians can “consider some new proposition or amendment that may apply”.

Mrs Nottage’s comments come after National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage, the minister responsible for elections, said the Constitutional Commission was considering a possible delay of the proposed referendum.

Dr Nottage, who spearheads the Constitutional Commission’s education intiative, said the government would make an announcement on a possible date change for the referendum by last Monday, but it has not happened to date.

“I don’t know what the politicians will decide; at this time I’m following the fact that the referendum has been announced as November 6,” Mrs Nottage said. “I know that the bills, however, have not been brought back to the House, so that gives one the feeling that there is some question being discussed as to what to do.

“There’s still possibility for amendments to be entered so that if the public or any particular wise amendment arises. There may well be some group that may come up with something that the politicians say is a better way than saying something than what we have.”

In late July, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced that a referendum on gender equality would be held on November 6, an announcement that generated significant resistance from members of Free National Movement, Progressive Liberal Party backbenchers and others in the public that queried the Constitutional Amendment bills.

When asked last week if he thought the vote should be postponed, Dr Nottage said it made sense to delay the referendum “only if we are satisfied that the public does not yet understand what we are seeking to achieve.”

Mrs Nottage yesterday echoed Dr Nottage’s sentiments and said that if she was to approve a delay in the referendum date, it would be “on the grounds that education of what the bills are must be intensified.”

“I think that there is a bit of wisdom in delaying for a period,” she said. “I did not say delaying ad infinitum. Perhaps for a period where further education can be obtained and time to talk to others as to where they are uncomfortable. We should never go to any vote where people are not clear on what they are voting for so that if a delay is occasioned - if that’s what the politicians do - I think that’s wise as long as the education follows, as well as the ability to increase the awareness of our public as to what these bills are saying and what they are not saying.

“We’re always open to that and that’s why at this time this is a very appropriate moment to just pause and allow the public, and if we have something to say put it in now because the bills have not yet been finalised. I think the politicians will look at that, but at this particular moment the politicians can consider some new proposition or amendment that may apply.”

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