A revelation last night by Queen’s Counsel Hal Gollop that he was part of a four-member panel set up by the former Barbados Labour Party administration to draft a new republican constitution for Barbados in the 1990s, has caught at least one political scientist by surprise.
Gollop’s admission came during an Ellerslie Secondary School-organized discussion on the topic, Should Barbados become a Republic – A Cross to Bear or Crown to Wear?
Declaring his support for the idea of Barbados moving to republican status, Gollop said: “I was one of four persons who were selected . . . to prepare a draft constitution for the last Government.”
“The other persons were Professor Paget Henry, one of the original drafters of Barbados’ Independence Order; Sir Roy Marshall; and Professor Simeon McIntosh – all deceased.
“I am the one left to tell the tale of that effort of the draft constitution.”
“That’s news to me,” said fellow panellist Cynthia Barrow-Giles, political scientist and UWI, Cave Hill lecturer. “I am a little shocked by that.”
Barrow-Giles said she was not questioning the calibre of the persons involved.
“These are good people, but the fact is that we don’t know . . . that that kind of development is actually taking place in private.
“And for somebody who believes in direct democracy and the participation and the right of people to participate in the process, I’m concerned about what appears to be a sort of a backdoor sort of thing,” she added.
Barrow-Giles expressed fear that what she said happened prior to Independence had been repeated.
“That’s a problem for me in relation to Barbados, because the Barbados Constitution, the 1966 constitution, was also drafted in private.
“So the constitution again is being drafted in silence in private by a few persons. Skilled as they were,” she added.
Moderator David Ellis chipped in, “That was then. We don’t know what is happening now”.
He added: “While it is true that you have to have a group of people working behind the scenes, the nation itself, the country, should at least be aware that that kind of work was being done”.
Ellis went on: “What is significant to this discussion is this, is the degree to which the work that was done then may well inform the decision that has been put on the table already, or the move towards republican status now”.
He mused: “It would be interesting to find out whether in the judgement of the Government, it is necessary to have a completely new group of lawyers sit down and look at the constitution, or whether they would go back to the work which had been done by you [Gollop] and the others to achieve that objective”.
Gollop responded: “I don’t quite support the view that the drafting of any constitution took place in secrecy, because the drafting of a constitution is an academic exercise”.
He contended, however, that despite a few persons being selected to draft the
document, there was input from Barbadians far and wide.
“One has to consider what preceded that exercise, and there was a prolonged Constitution Review Commission that went the length, the breadth of Barbados, went to England, all sorts of places to get the views of Barbadians about what they would like to put in a constitution.
“So that the drafting of the constitution by however many people in a private place is not something that one should look at in exclusio from what took place before that attempt at drafting,” he said.
The attorney went on: “I do not agree that nobody knew what was going on because there was a raging debate across the length and breadth of Barbados about moving towards a republican state.”