Queen’s Counsel Parnell Campbell. (iWN file photo)

The constitutional expert who said last year that he felt “personally wronged” when Vincentians rejected proposed changes to the nation’s Constitution a decade ago says that in that vote, electors also “practically abolished emancipation”. 

Queen’s Counsel Parnell Campbell made the comments on Monday in his weekly television programme, “The Law and You” on SVGTV, while commenting on objections to the government’s decision to install a new governor general on Aug. 1, Emancipation Day.

Critics of the decision have noted that the day commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people of African descent and have pointed to the irony of the Queen’s representative being installed on that day.

The installation event included the playing of the British national anthem, “God Save The Queen.”

On Nov. 25, 2009, Vincentian electors overwhelmingly rejected proposed changes to the constitutionthat the British left when St. Vincent and the Grenadines gained independence on Oct. 27, 1979.

Campbell was chair of the Constitution Reform Commission which conducted a years-long review of the constitution, which included consultations with Vincentians at home and abroad.

However, with elections looming, the exercise descended into  partisan politics with the government refusing to budge on key proposals that citizens felt strongly about.

The parliamentary opposition withdrew its support for the exercise and campaigned against it.

The government went ahead with the referendum one year before a general election would be called, in which it saw its hold on the parliament reduced by one-third. 

The referendum needing 66.6% of the votes to carry but attained only 55.29% of the ballots in a vote that political observers said was a verdict on the Ralph Gonsalves government rather than on the proposed changes to the nation’s supreme law.

“The majority of the electorate of this country, on the 25th of November 2009 practically abolished emancipation when they rejected the attempt, among other things, to remove the monarchy from the headship of the state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and voted in no uncertain terms to keep her majesty The Queen,” Campbell, a former attorney general said.

“The choice was given, a new constitution was proposed, albeit repeating many of the clauses of the old constitution but bringing in a number of new institutions, particularly attempting to move us away from the queen to a republican form of government where we would have been headed, as head of state, by a  home-grown president. The people said we want to keep the queen and to me, that was a rejection of emancipation. The people refused to be liberated from colonialism,” Campbell said.

“And when they voted to keep the existing constitution instead of the new one we were proposing, then, to me, the people signalled by their majority that they like it so, in the words of King Nelson.”

He said the present constitution makes it clear where the nation stands in regard to the monarch.

Campbell said he was surprised that “distinguished persons could write in the newspaper doubting that Queen Elizabeth the Second is Queen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.

A few weeks ago on radio, Lanceford Weekes, a retired permanent secretary, maintained, during an exchange with a caller to his programme on WE FM, that while she is the same person, Queen Elizabeth II, sovereign of the United Kingdom, is different from Queen Elizabeth II, sovereign of SVG. 

Campbell said that is not the case, noting that the constitution says in section 19: “There shall be a Governor-General of Saint Vincent who shall be appointed by Her Majesty and shall hold office during Her Majesty’s pleasure and who shall be Her Majesty’s representative in Saint Vincent.”

Campbell further quoted section 23, which says, “There shall be a Parliament of Saint Vincent which shall consist of Her Majesty and a House of Assembly.”

He noted that each session of parliament begins with the sergeant-at-arms bringing in the mace, signifying the presence of the Queen in the chamber

He further cited section 50, which says, “The executive authority of Saint Vincent is vested in Her Majesty.”

Campbell commented:

“So that it is idle to pretend that we are not part of Her Majesty’s dominion. She is queen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Queen Elizabeth II of Windsor, the House of Windsor, and of the United Kingdom is also Queen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I don’t know how anyone who has access to our constitution could say otherwise.”

He pointed out that the proposed constitution would have replaced the queen as the nation’s head of state.

Section 49 of the rejected constitution says: “There shall be an office of president of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The president shall be the head of state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

He said that in section 102(1) of the proposed constitution said, “The executive authority of St. Vincent and the Grenadines shall be vested in the president, who, by section 49 of this constitution, shall be the head of State of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Campbell reiterated that when given a chance to remove the monarch, Vincentians refused. 

“We said we like it so. We want to keep Queen Elizabeth II. So what are we fretting that her representative was sworn in on Emancipation Day. What is so sacred about emancipation day after we reject the concept of getting rid of colonialism in November 2009?”

Campbell noted the results of the referendum in which there were 29,167 “no” votes compared to 22,646 “yes” ballots.

 “And it wasn’t a close decision,” Campbell said, adding that he had the figures with him.

“And those of us who fought for the new constitution had to accept that that was the will of the majority. The people want to keep Queen Elizabeth; the people didn’t want to leave colonialism alone. So what are people telling me now? What is the fretting about emancipation?

“…We have a queen. We voted to keep the queen. So it doesn’t matter what day the Queen’s representative is sworn in. what is important is that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second is our Queen because that is what the people said they wanted,” he said.

In July 2018, during a ceremonial sitting of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Campbell spoke about the personal impact of the referendum vote.

I felt it deeply. I felt personally wronged because I had been the chairman of the Constitutional Reform Commission,” he said.

 “I have been a member of the New Democratic Party; I served as Attorney General and Minister of Justice for eight and a half years. And because of the role that the party played in the rejection of the referendum proposals, I became estranged from my party. Over the years, like a good Christian, I came to forgive them, he said to laughter, adding, Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.”

A “yes” vote would have also replaced the London-based Privy Council with CCJ as SVG’s highest court.

13 replies on “Referendum vote ‘was a rejection of emancipation’ — Campbell”

  1. Campbell is certainly a very arrogant man as are many in government and sure, there are some in the Opposition as well. Many of these people care little about the country or its people. THEY CARE ABOUT POWER. At the same time it should be obvious that the position of Governor General is, in the recent past and will continue to be in the future, just a ULP power position. In other words, it has been and will be heavily ULP biased and controlled. Anything the few that are virtually in total control of the country want, will always get the approval from the Governor General. The new GG is a great woman but will rubber stamp anything the present Government wants, even if the Queen desires otherwise. That is much closer to dictatorship than any other form of government I can think of. We all see that a certain few are virtually in control of the most important Court Decisions as well. A higher court in the Caribbean has determined that a particular judge is politically biased but yet he continues unhindered in his position, with no restrictions. I am amazed that such a thing can exist in any country that calls itself democratic.
    If we ever achieve total independence and especially are without the Privy Council I literally shudder at the thought of what we would become! Imagine the country totally run by men like Ralph Gonsalves and Mr. Campbell! Isn’t it bad enough already!

    1. Rawlston Pompey says:

      EMANCIPATION FROM THE QUEEN

      That is what intellectuals do, berate the citizenry and insult their intelligence.

      Is one to believe the distinguished legal luminary that the ‘Queen’ had, and still has a vice-like grip on the people and nation?

      Yes, the monarchy remains a vestige of colonialism.

      Seemed more like the majority of the people, following the dictate of their individual and collective consciences, guided by democratic principles, took the ultimate decision to retain her as the titular Head of State, albeit, with a ‘…ceremonial role.’

      It begs the questions;

      (i) …In the failed Referendum, was it the ‘Queen’ that had influenced the results?

      (ii) …Then why denigrate the will of the people as rejectionists?

      Not sure how it can be said that the ‘Queen’ continues to colonize and/or enslave the mind of the people, when they are in fact, not Her subjects.

  2. I personally believe that the rejection of the Constitution want a personal referendum on Ralph and not a vote for on the queen. Do you trust Adrian Saunders etc al? You be the decider.

  3. This only proved again the word of God Jehovah is true how have the people the Christian nations or island has forgotten who they are and where they came from the 10 ten tribes of isreal or isreal was scattered by Almighty God Jehovah these people no longer call themselves Israel. but Christian where ever they are it was by great Britain then largest of the ten tribes. that God Jehovah will use to establish. The other tribes known as the Commonwealth countries of today however all of the English speaking island or people are of the same tribe. This is why our laws , education system, religion, and way of life. Came from the word of God we and the British are of the same tribe remember what happened at the tower of Babel the confusing of the languages the right to rule and to set the laws over. or in these ten tribes was given to Judah the throne is set in England but they that sit on it and rule is of the tribe of judah the scepter shall not depart form thee being black does not mean we are all from Africa. or African descendant. we also are born of the different races of indigenous or Native people were frist put here by Jehovah God so we are not all African descendant God will call his people out in every generation that is born in time. we are call the Christian body of Christ to separate and to divide God people is only going against Jehovah God and his words.

  4. As one gets older one tends to talk utter rubbish and so it is here with this old man Parnell. Question; would that have been “a more home-grown President” with no checks or balances like that of Venezuela Parnell? No thanks!

    Power grab, is the name of the game, with these guys like Ralph Gonsalves and Parnell Campbell. Their true desires are not “emancipation” or “personal freedom” for us, but domination by them, as the elite. Their planned Democracy for us is the Democracy of North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela.

    In short they are nothing but a collection of truly nepotistic fascist hiding in our midst. Some pretending to be on Socialist or Liberals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_2FZ-V_4zs

  5. That rejection really “bunning” this guy. He needs to let it go. They had an opportunity to present each element of change as a separate item to be voted upon and maybe some of it would have been passed; but they wanted to bamboozle the people by wrapping everything up into one package. Release it from your Craw Mr. Campbell. All you wanted was to be able to be recorded as the architect of it.

  6. Mr Campbell Wat the hell is your problem.you forgive the NDP. you forget what shame you cause the party and it’s members.the same people you supported for a yes vote you forget what they say about you and what you say about them. IT is better to have the Queen than a president and prime Minister who was going to be immune from corruption that was what Vincentsion voted against.but in doing so we retain the the queen. But that doesn’t mean that the nation should be installed.the Governor general is a very intelligent woman.and should of object to that and not having her opposition members presiant.I said before about the former GG he never mentioned his opposition only his government Mr Campbell your sentiments song les than intelligent it was more personal. you know that if this country was to vote yes.it would of been Yes to full legal dictatorship.So l think you are to old for these comments . those things are for Yong fools like me.No disrespect l have to tell you as it is.

  7. The rejection of the yes vote by Vincentians was in fact a rejection of what was presented in that document and also a rejection of how it was presented by people like you.

    A rejection of what you wrote and uttered pre and post-referendum. It was a sign that what you had recommended was rejected and your word on the matter mistrusted.

    All this rubbish that you continually write is only your opinion, a presentation from your twisted mind on such matters.

    The people of SVG have rejected you and your opinions, so get on with your legal practice and leave us alone and without your opinions, which are unwanted and unwarranted.

    The Vincentian people actually love the Queen and do not want any part of a communist society based on a president and a country following closely behind Cuba and Venezuela. We love our freedom and perhaps if you want to live under the communist system, go and live in Venezuela or Cuba, you wouldn’t last a week.

    That is the same reason people want to retain the House of Lords and reject your efforts into trying to make the Caribbean Court of Appeal the only final place of appeal.

    The people are fast getting annoyed with the stuff you write and your obvious undying support of the dynasty.

  8. That white woman Queen of England doesn’t care one bit about black people in Britain much less SVG. Some people think white people are better than black people. That so-called White queen of England has never visited SVG nor care about the black people of SVG. She is of no use to SVG. It’s time to get rid of her and her entitled family. It’s time for colonial Britain to cut SVG a check for slavery. SVG 1979 Independence isn’t independent. White people always find a way how to hold on to power.

  9. The rejection of the yes vote was a clear indication that it was also a rejection of Mr Campbell and all his attempts to big up the contents of the new constitution.

    So stop trying to make us feel bad for rejecting it and carry on feeling hurt and rejected yourself, because you have been rejected, then, and we also reject now your silly analysis.

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