This has been quite a week of lows in Barbados and I’m hoping that we can’t go any lower. From the low scores that our Central Bank received for independence and transparency to the emergence of the latest political party. I believe I have seen it all now! Certainly, we can’t say that we do not have our choice of candidates, but I only hope that we are not paralyzed by “too much choice dilemma” or lose or common sense to try to prove a point.
There has been much debate about who is eligible to be a candidate and to be a Member of Parliament, so I went to the Barbados Constitution to see what it said. The Constitution states that subject to the provisions of Section 44 (which I shall outline) a person who is a citizen of Barbados and is at least 21 years old or has “such connection with Barbados by residence therein as may be prescribed by Parliament” is eligible to be elected as a member of the House of Assembly.
Section 44 then states:
44. (1) No person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of the House of Assembly who
(a) is, by virtue of his own act, under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state;
(b) holds or is acting in the office of a judge, the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Auditor General;
(c) repealed by 1981-24;
(d) is under sentence of death imposed by a court in any part of the Commonwealth or is serving a sentence of imprisonment (by whatever name called) exceeding six months imposed on him by such a court or substituted by competent authority for some other sentence imposed on him by such a court, or is under such a sentence of imprisonment the execution of which has been suspended;
(e) is a person certified to be insane or otherwise adjudged to be of unsound mind under any law in force in Barbados;
(f) has been adjudged or otherwise declared bankrupt under any law in force in Barbados and has not been discharged;
(g) is disqualified for membership of the House of Assembly by or under any law in force in Barbados by reason of his having been convicted or reported guilty of any corrupt or illegal practice at elections;
(h) is disqualified for such membership by or under any such law by reason of his having been convicted of making a false declaration of qualification for election;
(i) is disqualified for such membership by or under any such law on any ground not mentioned in the foregoing provisions of this subsection, being a ground for disqualification for membership of the House of Assembly by or under any law, other than the Representation of the People Act 1957 in force in Barbados immediately before 30th November 1966.
So there we have it. There is no list of any kind of office, career or activity (except those mentioned in 44(b)) which prohibit anyone from running in the elections or being elected as a member of the House of Assembly. There is, however, mention of being convicted of corrupt or illegal practice at elections being a disqualifier. That tells me that once you are not convicted of corrupt or illegal practices (whether or not there is evidence of you being involved) you can be a member of the House.
I think our Constitution is desperately in need of amendment, not only concerning the number of senators, which should be zero, but to the qualifications to be a member of the House of Assembly. Rather than listing what disqualifies a person, it should outline some required qualifications.
These should include things like proven expertise and success in particular areas (e.g. business, finance, economics, education, family and society, agriculture, tourism, law, medicine etc.); being solution oriented; having vision; possessing integrity and honesty; not involved in illegal activities; willingness to listen and to follow advice; abiding by the rules and procedures; being voluntarily involved in community and nation building activities beyond politicking; willingness to be transparent and accountable; ability to communicate well; not given to heavy drinking or use of illegal drugs; having good deportment and being articulate.
This is not an exhaustive list, but I trust you get my point. We have to “up” the requirements not lower them, especially now. Anyone that we elect to represent us in the House of Assembly, especially for this election where Barbados is at an inflection point, needs to be able to bring solutions to the table and must have the political will to do what is necessary and not what is expedient.
While we need all people to be represented, we also need more than talk, no matter how passionate it is. We desperately need people who are visionary, solution oriented and are known for implementing their solutions. It is imperative that we use those characteristics as we decide how to place our votes this election. And we must vote rather than abstain. For in the words of the Irish philosopher, orator and politician, Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Donna Every is an author, international speaker and business trainer. She is the Barbados Facilitator for the InfoDev WINC Acceleration Program and was the Barbados Ambassador for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (2014 – 2016).
Contact her at [email protected]