One month ago the required signatures calling for an abrogative spring hunting referendum were submitted to the Electoral Commission. They were received by the Chief Electoral Commissioner himself on 28 March 2014 in the afternoon.
In normal circumstances, today we would be around 13 days into the three month objection period. But the Electoral Commission, hard pressed for lack of staff/resources asked for and obtained permission from Her Excellency the President such that the time allotted to signature vetting was increased by three months.
Whilst I would have preferred the Electoral Commission to deal with the signature vetting expeditiously it is in the interest of transparency that the Commission should have sufficient time to properly vet the signatures. I have no worries, should a proper exercise of signature vetting be carried out.
My worries are of another nature.
The Labour Party in Government, and the Nationalist Party before it, have clearly indicated that they prefer backroom deals when dealing with hunting issues. Now backroom deals are anything but democratic. In fact they are a negation of democracy itself. It is unfortunately the manner through which the hunting lobby has acquired influence over the Parliamentary parties such that over the years we have ended with the current hunting mess.
Yes it is a mess, there is no other word which describes the current state of affairs.
The procedures to call an abrogative referendum are, in the current state of affairs, the only democratic tool left to contest the spring hunting season.
The Labour Party has positioned itself clearly in favour of spring hunting and against the basic principles of biodiversity. The Nationalist Party is still trying to have a foot on each side of the fence. It is as spineless as ever.
Within this context the petition to curtail the referendum rules such that a referendum on spring hunting would be virtually impossible, assumes considerable significance. The proposal being championed by the hunters’ lobby is an affront to the democratic process. As such decisions should be taken in a democratic manner. A referendum in which all those entitled to vote can express themselves on one single issue ( whether they agree or not with the elimination of spring hunting) is the only democratic way in which this matter can be decided. There are no minority rights involved, as hunting is not a right.
Yes: hunting is not a right.
In the coming days, or maybe weeks, we will know whether the Labour Party in Government will give a reply to those who are enquiring about its democratic credentials. Its position on the proposal to curtail the referendum process will be such a reply.
The issue at stake is much more than spring hunting: its either the democratic process or backroom deals.
I will choose the democratic process any time. I am not so sure about the others.