What could be better than contemplating a New Year?
Not only the events scheduled to happen and the unknown that can be imagined, but the certain knowledge that important changes will make their mark on the calendar.
One such notable event is scheduled to take place on January 8, 2018. Barbados will welcome its second female Governor General.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced that Madame Justice Sandra Mason will replace the well respected and loved Sir Elliott Belgrave, who redefined the nation’s highest public office by connecting with Barbadians, young and old, from all walks of life, during his service over the last five years.
Striking are the similarities between Sir Elliott and his fair successor Justice Mason.
Sir Elliott was always quick to share that he is a country boy from the humble beginnings in Boscobel, St Peter, while Mason is the pride and joy of the rural communities of Bayfield and East Point, St Philip.
Neither was born with the proverbial silver spoon, but a disciplined upbringing, which emphasized hard work, respect, good manners and integrity, inspired them both to emerge as outstanding Barbadians.
Most obvious of course is their significant contribution to the legal and judicial professions here.
Sir Elliott has served as Deputy Registrar of the Supreme Court, a Magistrate, Principal Crown Counsel and Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions.
He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1980, and Judge of the High Court in 1987, and has acted as a Justice of Appeal and as Chief Justice of Barbados on several occasions.
Justice Mason’s achievements are no less admirable.
She holds the distinction of being the first woman to be admitted to the Barbados Bar and is the first female Appeal Court Judge in this country.
Throughout her legal career of more than 30 years, Justice Mason has served as Chief Magistrate, Registrar of the Supreme Court, High Court Judge in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and on several international tribunals, including the London-based Commonwealth Secretarial Arbitral Tribunal and CSAT and the United Nations Committee on the Right of the Child.
Ironically, she served as Acting Governor General back in May 2012 just before the formal appointment of Sir Elliott as Head of State.
More important than her achievements and qualifications though, were the sentiments expressed by her long time colleagues and friends who all agreed that she was the right pick for the top post.
Said Opposition Leader Mia Mottley: “This is a crowning achievement in a long and varied career in public service in Barbados, the region and internationally. We are confident that she will bring to her office of Governor General the impartiality which is the hallmark of the other office which she held as a judicial officer in this country.”
In making the announcement, Prime Minister Stuart said: “The selection of a Governor General is never an easy task. The selection process must be guided by a range of factors, among them being personal and professional attributes, record of service, commitment to country, integrity and dignity.”
Is it any wonder then that the revelation of Justice Mason’s promotion has not been marred by any negative rumblings, but rather by praise and celebration?
However, among us there are those who reckon the entire position, which is largely a ceremonial role, should be abolished by now.
The argument should not be allowed to cloud this historic moment and is, in any case, null and void since Barbados has not made any moves to overhaul its Westminster system of government.
The fact is, Justice Mason’s appointment is a significant recognition of the achievements of the many outstanding women in Barbados.
She follows behind the eminent Dame Nita Barrow who served with distinction as the island’s first female Governor General from June 1990 until her death in December 1995.
We have no reason to doubt that Justice Mason will equally bring the poise, grace, and professionalism befitting the highest office in the land.
However, more important is the powerful message that lies behind the elevation of this local daughter of the soil to every girl across Barbados.
The circumstances of our birth, whatever they are, cannot hold us back from the halls of success. Determination, hard work, perseverance, humility and a deep faith in God can catapult us to greatness beyond our imagination if only we believe.
Our heartiest congratulations and full support to our new Governor General Madame Justice Sandra Mason.