The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is calling on Governor General Dame Sandra Mason to step in and name an election date in order to avert a potential constitutional crisis.
BLP Chairman George Payne is contending that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is prone to inaction, therefore it was unlikely that he would ring the bell anytime soon.
Therefore, Payne said, it was up to Dame Sandra to act in order to protect the country’s integrity.
“You are dealing with a man who does not make any decisions. [Therefore] the Governor General also has a responsibility, taking into consideration the state of affairs of this country at this particular point in time,” he told the formal opening of a constituency office for fellow BLP candidate Kirk Humphrey, who is challenging Stuart for the St Michael South seat.
“The Governor General has a responsibility at this time as I speak to issue the writ for the elections. If she fails to do that she would be failing in her duty,” Payne stressed.
For the first time in Barbados’ parliamentary history, the House was allowed to dissolve automatically on March 6, five years after it first met following the February 21, 2013 general election, which the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), led by Stuart, won by 16 seats to 14, guaranteeing the DLP a second straight term.
The Constitution allows an additional 90 days before an election is called, and Stuart, who continues to hold the election date close to his chest, has indicated his intention to go down to the wire.
However, Payne made it clear he did not trust the Prime Minister, and he suggested that Stuart might allow the time to lapse, placing the Governor General in a difficult situation.
“If he had dissolved Parliament when he had the right to do so he could have told her when to issue the writ. But this is [now] strictly in the domain of the Governor General. The GG has a responsibility at this point in time to step in. Enough is enough,” Payne insisted.
“The Governor General has the absolute discretion of issuing the writs for election. At this particular point in time [Stuart] could scotch back and say, ‘it is not my fault, it is the Governor General. The Governor General is the person who is supposed to call the election and the Governor General has refused,’” the BLP chairman said.
Payne said he based his concerns on the fact that “Freundel Stuart has already created history by not calling elections when it was due”.
“He is taunting the people of Barbados to a constitutional crisis. He is also creating problems for the Governor General who he has just appointed,” he said.
Noting that BLP leader Mia Mottley had said earlier that Barbados would have a new Government by June 3, Payne said: “This Prime Minister does nothing and you got to hold your horses because you don’t know what this Prime Minister is up to. I would not put it past Freundel Stuart to do nothing up to the 6th of June . . . . The man’s legacy is do nothing. There is nothing in the Constitution, according to him, that he should do something by the 6th of June.”
Stuart has assured that he broke no laws in allowing Parliament to dissolve automatically, nor did he intend to break any by the time he calls the election.
Addressing a recent DLP meeting at The Lester Vaughan School in Cane Garden, St Michael, the Prime Minister said the poll would be held within the constitutionally prescribed period.
“I did not dissolve it deliberately. And of course the experts have been giving expressions to their surprise . . . . We have 90 days in which to have a general election in this country. According to Section 36 of the Representation Of The People Act, there has to be an accommodation date and not fewer than 14 or not more than 21 days there has to be a polling date. I can assure you that all of that is going to happen.
“I am a lawyer of 34 years’ experience, I am one of Her Majesty’s counsel, I sit on her Majesty’s Privy Council in London and therefore I have no vested interest to not subscribing to the rule of law . . . .
“But the fortune tellers, the obeah men, practitioners of political witchcraft have all been having a field day trying to say when election can be and cannot be, and so on. Let me assure you, members of the Democratic Labour Party and people of this country, we are going to have an election in Barbados in accordance with the Constitution of Barbados within the 90-day period prescribed by the Constitution,” he insisted then.
According to the Constitution, “after every dissolution of Parliament the Governor General shall issue writs for a general election” within 90 days from that dissolution. However, it does not give a timeline by which to call the election within the 90 days.
The BLP had said in the past it was prepared to wait patiently and prepare for the poll whenever it is called, even as Mottley had described Stuart’s decision to go down to the wire as absurd, considering the tough economic situation some Barbadians were enduring.
“The notion that Freundel is going to the end has set people quaking because Bajans cannot believe that there is that much more sufferation ahead of them,” Mottley had told supporters last December after Stuart had said there would be no early poll.
“The campaign has started even if the election has not been called. Election is the right of the Prime Minister to choose a date and it does not matter to me now whether he calls it early or late, January, February, March, April or May because we know it has to be called,” she had stressed, while adding that it appeared as though Stuart was more concerned with the time his party had left in power rather than trying to make the best use of the time in addressing issues such as the sewage overflows affecting the south coast of the island and the constant decline of the reserves.