Former sex worker Natalie Harewood’s decision to contest the City of Bridgetown seat in the imminent general election has been the subject of island-wide debate since she made the announcement more than a month ago.
On Wednesday, trainees at the Barbados Youth Service, Warrens, St Michael, joined the discourse when they debated the subject: Should a woman of Natalie Harewood’s repute – a self-confessed lawbreaker – be allowed to contest for a place in Barbados’ Parliament – the principal law-making chamber in the island?
The debate was held under the auspices of the academic department which is headed by senior tutor Neil Edwards and judges were drawn from senior staff across the Barbados Youth Service with trainee Shanique Haynes sitting in with the panel of judges.
The debaters and researchers, all between the ages of 16 and 18, consisted of team A led by Jaliel Daniel and including Chavon Patrick, Ishon Hurley and Ramon Johnson, and team B, led by Jesse Whittington and including Kaviah Berrie-Smith and Tanisha Gaskin. Team B’s researcher Justin Parris was absent due to a family tragedy.
Supporting Harewood’s intention to contest the seat, Daniel quoted from the second schedule of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 12, under the heading Rules For Conduct Of Assembly Elections, and also from the Election Offences Act. Daniel told the gathering that Harewood met all the legal requirements to contest the seat. He said she had never been convicted of a felony and had never been incarcerated. Daniel also stressed that Harewood had never been found or declared to be of unsound mind and had never been a patient in an establishment maintained for persons suffering from mental illness or mental defect.
“Under section 6, Subsection 1 of the Act, a candidate is required to deposit $250 to the Accountant General. That is all that is required. And if Miss Harewood is a citizen, is nominated, seconded, and pays in her deposit to the Treasury, she is entitled to contest the seat,” he argued.
Daniel suggested that Harewood should be praised by the public for seeking to change her lifestyle and to serve her country.
“She is a self-confessed prostitute but what she says about herself, within the law, is irrelevant, and cannot be legally held against her. She has never been convicted of prostitution thus her confession means nothing. She has been criticized for her life as a prostitute and now that she has given up that life and is seeking political office she is still being criticized when she should instead be praised,” he said.
Daniel also took the opportunity to make reference to late Speaker of the House of Assembly, Burton Hinds.
“One should note that the late Speaker of the House of Assembly Burton Hinds, who was the Member of Parliament for St Peter in a Barbados Labour Party administration from 1976 to 1984, was previously imprisoned prior to being elected to Parliament. His late political opponent of the Democratic Labour Party, Sir Frederick “Sleepy” Smith, once objected to him being the Speaker of the House, stating he had been a ‘guest of her Majesty’. If Mr Hinds can be the Speaker having done jail time, then why can’t Miss Harewood contest a seat for Parliament when she has never done jail time,” Daniel said.
Leading the objections to Harewood’s candidature, Whittington questioned her stability based on her social media postings, provocative public behaviour and previous professional lifestyle.
“The Parliament of Barbados is the highest law-making agency in the island and ought to be manned by persons of good repute. Citizens of Barbados must be able to feel comfortable and assured that the persons they elect to Parliament are of the quality that will function to a degree where they will not be tempted to act contrary to their responsibilities for monetary bribes or other inducements.
“Natalie has already proven that money is her main motivator as she recalled her first time prostituting herself, stating that the money was so substantial that it kept her doing it for over 10 years,” he said.
Whittington suggested that parliamentarians were often privy to sensitive government information and Harewood’s past public conduct suggested confidentiality was not one of her strong points. Whittington also made reference to pictures of Harewood on social media with what appeared to be firearms.
“Natalie has also displayed that she lacks self-control and is in need of anger management based on her infamous videos where she calls out her critics and spills their dirty laundry. If Miss Harewood lacks the basic decency to keep her own affairs out of the public’s eye when she comes under scrutiny, how will she be able to handle the responsibility of a greater magnitude where confidentiality and decorum are not only required but of the utmost importance ”
But the clincher perhaps came from Patrick in his rebuttal to team B’s objections. He first dismissed the pictures mentioned, suggesting that what had been introduced was mere conjecture while noting the images on social media could have been toys.
Patrick said there had been previous instances where former Member of Parliament Dr William Duguid had made disparaging remarks directed towards the mother of fellow MP Donville Inniss. He also referenced reports of MP David Estwick allegedly pulling a firearm on fellow parliamentarian Dale Marshall within the precincts of Parliament. “And we consider these honourable men. Yet we would seek to condemn Miss Harewood for her occasional social media rants and her past conduct,” he said.
Patrick said according to the scriptures, Jesus once drew a line in the sand and challenged anyone without sin to cast the first stone at a reputed prostitute. No one was without sin and no one threw a stone, Patrick added.
“We cannot cast stones at Miss Harewood as we have all fallen short of the glory of God. And like Jesus Christ, we must be able to tell Miss Harewood to continue on her quest for redemption, seek election to the House of Assembly and go and sin no more,” Patrick concluded to rapturous applause from those gathered.
Team B also gave a rebuttal but in the end, those providing arguments to support Miss Harewood won the debate. (WG)