By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
CONSTITUTIONAL Commission Chairman Sean McWeeney said he has not been given any indication of when the proposed referendum on gender equality might be held despite the committee being “just about finished” with its public education campaign and Family Island consultations.
According to Mr McWeeney, there is “next to nothing” remaining on the commission’s calendar, indicating that the group had “almost” finished its Family Island consultations, visiting every island with return visits scheduled for a few settlements.
“We have been to all the islands, we have completed all the necessary visits, there are a couple of places we plan to double back to, but we have done all the necessary stops,” he said.
“Originally we were met with some apprehension, there was some issues but after communicating with residents we got things cleared up and are moving forward in a positive direction.”
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Perry Christie had indicated he did not want to delay the vote any further and hoped to hold it by June.
In March, Mr McWeeney said a June referendum was “highly unlikely” as there had been no recent announcement from the government on the issue.
The repeated delays in the referendum have led many to question the government’s commitment to gender equality.
Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner has said that with every passing day, it becomes more uncertain if the referendum will ever take place.
“This delay has little to do with the questions and everything to do with the rushed and botched process,” Mrs Butler-Turner said in an earlier interview.
“The government destroyed this matter with the way they went about it. The PLP forced aspects of this referendum on the public without clarification or explanation.”
Recently, action group Citizens for Constitutional Equality (CCE) reignited its pleas to the government to make a decision on the referendum and remove all uncertainty over the country’s position on gender equality.
The referendum has been delayed several times. It was first expected in June 2013, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of independence.
Subsequently the vote was pushed to November 2013 and then to June 2014.
The vote was later delayed to November 2014, and the relevant bills were tabled in the House of Assembly. After significant push back – even from some Progressive Liberal Party MPs – over the wording of some of the bills, the government again delayed the vote.
There is concern in some quarters that Bill four in particular, which seeks to end discrimination based on sex could pave the way for gay marriage. The government has repeatedly said this concern is unwarranted.
Dr Bernard Nottage, Minister responsible for elections and referenda, could not be reached for comment up to press time.