The legal fraternity has reacted with elation to news of the imminent appointment of one of their own as the Queen’s chief representative here.
Several attorneys-at-law and at least one magistrate came out swiftly in support of 68-year-old Appeal Court Judge Madame Justice Sandra Prunella Mason’s elevation to the post of Governor General, with Queen’s Counsel and former president of the Barbados Bar Association Barry Gale noting that “it is the best news I have heard in a long time”.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart today issued an announcement through the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) that Mason would replace Sir Elliott Belgrave who retired on June 30, 2017 after five years as Head of State.
Mason, whose appointment becomes effective on January 8, 2018, will be this country’s eighth Governor General and only the second woman after Dame Nita Barrow to hold the post.
Senior attorney Hal Gollop, QC, said Mason was eminently qualified for the job, while Sir Richard Cheltenham, one of the region’s most prominent lawyers, extended his “warmest” congratulations and wished her success in her new role.
Also adding his voice in support of his fellow judicial officer was magistrate Graveney Bannister, who extended “sincere congratulations as you assume the office of Governor General of Barbados”.
However, it was Mia Mottley, the leader of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), who was most effusive in her praise.
Late last month the Opposition Leader had threatened that she would not be bound by any “inopportune or improper” decision made in the “dying days” of the Freundel Stuart administration should the BLP win the next general election.
Some of those decisions, she said, revolved around appointments of a new Governor General, Central Bank Governor and Director of Public Prosecutions, as well as the services commission.
“I can only say to you . . . we cannot seriously consider ourselves bound by any inopportune or improper decision made in the dying days of this administration that will extend its protection to people who ought not to be protected. I say no more,” Mottley had said in a wide-ranging presentation at a Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry luncheon.
She made no mention of such concerns today, instead describing Mason’s upcoming appointment as “a crowning achievement in a long and varied career” in the public service, while expressing confidence that the new head of state would bring to the office the impartiality which was the hallmark of the other office she held as a judicial officer.
“We look forward to her installation ceremony and to her tenure as Governor General of this great country of ours,” Mottley said, while adding that Mason’s family, as well as the people of St Philip, should be proud of her achievements as a daughter of the soil and the first person from that corridor of the island ever to be appointed to the highest office in the land.
“Well done, Ms Mason,” the BLP leader, also an attorney-at-law, said.
In announcing his choice for the position, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said in the BGIS release that it was never easy selecting a Governor General.
“The selection process must be guided by a range of factors, among them personal and professional attributes, record of service, commitment to country, integrity and dignity. There are many Barbadians at home and in the diaspora who could qualify,” Stuart said.
Justice Mason will be installed at a special ceremony in the Senate on the day her appointment takes effect, and nine days before her 69th birthday.
In keeping with tradition, she will be conferred with the title of Dame Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (GCMG) by the Queen, and under the Order of the Dame of Saint Andrew, will become the Chancellor and Principal Dame of Saint Andrew.