Outspoken Government minister Donville Inniss is strongly advocating for change to the Westminster style of Government, while complaining that way too much power is currently vested in the Office of the Prime Minister and that the Senate is engaged mainly in “rubber stamping”.
Saying that he did not want to leave politics with any regrets, Inniss, who is the current Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development in the Freundel Stuart Cabinet, told the monthly meeting of his constituency branch in West Terrace, St James last night he felt duty-bound to identify “any deficiencies in our system now that I am where I am, [and] . . . to help make some changes to them”.
In this regard, Inniss said there was need to make both Houses of Parliament – the Lower and Upper House – more relevant to the society.
“I am not talking about the electoral process. When you look at the Senate today, you ask yourself, ‘is it as meaningful in contemporary Barbados as it ought to be?’ And my view is, no, it is not. The structure of the Senate is that the party that wins the most seats puts the most people in the Senate, the Opposition puts two people and the Governor General puts some independents. And we all know how the Independents get there anyhow. So there really is not that strength in the independents per say. So there really must be a better mechanism based on the composition of the Senate that really allows it to provide checks and balance on us in the Lower House, instead of primarily rubber stamping,” he explained.
In further bemoaning the absence of checks and balances under the current political system, Inniss went a step further to highlight the powers of the Prime Minister in Westminster style democracies. It is an issue which he said he plans to write about soon.
However, Inniss made it clear that his desire to see this aspect of the constitution changed “must not be construed as any criticism of my dear friend and leader Freundel Stuart.
“He just happens to be Prime Minister at this point in time. But a Prime Minister in our system of Government is more powerful than the president of the USA,” he told the meeting.
Inniss also described as “a fallacy” the current separation of powers in terms of the legislative, executive and judicial arms of Government, arguing that “the executive arm of Government comes from the legislature and we who sit in the executive arm determine what goes in Parliament to be debated and we have the majority of seats anyhow.
“Under these circumstances there is not that level of openness and independence of thought in there. We have to ask ourselves if that is in our best interest in the 21st century,” Inniss added.
Taking a critical look at the appointment of members of the local judiciary, Inniss lamented the fact that under the 1974 constitutional amendments the Prime Minister has the power to appoint all members of the Judiciary after consulting the Leader of the Opposition.
“And I really do not know if that is the kind of transparency that you really ought to have in the 21st century. Under the system the Prime Minister simply has to say I propose to appoint someone to the bench and whatever he or she as the Opposition Leader thinks, the Prime Minister can do whatever he wants to do under the present law. But I do not know that under the system you get a “pretty” independent judiciary,” he said, even though he expressed the view that “we currently have some fine judges sitting on the bench based on the crop of attorneys from which they are drawn”.