Categorized | National News

“Referendum Unconstitutional” PM Seeks Legal Advice

The government may be forced to make changes to the upcoming referendum on web shop gaming.

As is, the referendum is unconstitutional, according to Prime Minister Perry Christie.

“I’m waiting on a legal opinion now that says this vote is not a referendum. The referendum comes under the Constitutional Act and because it has nothing to do with amending the constitution, this is not a constitutional referendum,” the prime minister told reporters yesterday.

“I am advised that all of the prerequisites that go into organising a constitutional referendum do not apply. And so when I get the legal opinion, I will publish it, so people will see that all of this is a government seeking the indication of the opinion of people. It’s like my asking if the FNM is leading or if the PLP is leading.”

He continued, “And so it’s not even what I was describing it be and now that I am getting the fine details of the legal opinion.”

In the House of Assembly last week, the prime minister said the referendum will put to the Bahamian people the question as to whether they feel that web cafe or web shop gaming should be legalised and subject to strict licensing and regulatory supervision.

That’s the only question that will be asked.

At the time, Prime Minister Christie made it clear that the question will not involve a national lottery or casino gambling.

If Bahamians vote ‘yes’ the web shop operators would have to pay a tax of no less than $1 million in addition to other fees.

The revenue from these taxes will be used to fund educational, athletic and sporting development, the development of music and the arts including Junkanoo, a broad range of essential community, health, infrastructural, recreational and social outreach facilities and programmes for both public and private entities throughout The Bahamas.

Prime Minister Christie has also made it clear that only a few web shops will be granted licenses.

The Opposition has criticised the prime minister saying that he is hand picking those few web shops.

But the nation’s chief has staunchly denied this.

“They are hypocrites because I only picked the people who they were talking to,” Prime Minister Christie said.

“I knew nothing about what they were doing until I became prime minister. The financial secretary was meeting with an established group of web shop operators – advised meetings to the point where they were discussing in great detail just what I met in place. Hubert Ingraham was well on the way of implementing that and then as a result of recognising some church matters I think he held back. But they were negotiating and they actually drafted computer legislation and they were only dealing with established web shop owners.”

He said that he has not set a number of just how many web shops would be granted licenses.

“I have said that not every operator will be licensed. It’s impossible for that to happen because a lot of people are going into this business now to try and get in. But that will not work,” Prime Minister Christie said.

“The government will have to have the capacity to regulate and we will go into it once we know what we’re dealing with.”

Prime Minister Christie has said that the government will not sway the votes of Bahamians.

But he said that his government will inform Bahamians on the pros and cons of gambling.

“I assume the proponents of gambling would put it out. I don’t want to go beyond the point where I appear to be backing their side,” Prime Minister Christie said.

“What the people can expect from me is that I am going to give them sufficient information for them to know what they voting for, what they are voting against. The government will ensure that that takes place.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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