Just a few hours after the official opening of Parliament, the Mia Mottley-led Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration got right down to business in the House of Assembly this evening, passing the constitutional amendments required to facilitate some issues that have arisen since they assumed office nearly two weeks ago.
The first order of business was to amend Section 37 of the Constitution, which precludes Barbadians from assuming political office if they have lived outside the jurisdiction for 12 months, a provision which has so far prevented former Consul General to Canada Kay McConney and Rawdon Adams, the son of late Prime Minister Tom Adams, from taking up senatorial posts.
Prime Minister Mottley referred to this provision as “anachronistic” and said it should have been updated “as far back as 1974 when [then Prime Minister, now the Right Excellent] Errol Barrow changed Section 43, which spoke of ‘citizens of the Commonwealth Caribbean” to “citizens of Barbados”.
“Two of our Governors General, [the Right Excellent] Sir Hugh Springer and Dame Nita Barrow, would have served with distinction overseas for many years, and it is important for us to draw on our Barbadian talent no matter where they reside,” Mottley added in defence of her appointment of Adams and McConney.
However Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley, while supporting the amendment, questioned why two people resident in the diaspora were chosen for the posts, saying “because they live in other countries, they have not shared the pain ordinary Barbadians have experienced over the last ten years [and] there are 200,000 people in Barbados the Government could have chosen from”.
He also warned Government “to resist the temptation to abuse its power” given its overwhelming majority in Parliament.
However, Member of Parliament for Christ Church West, Dr William Duguid, who recently returned home from Canada, countered Atherley’s statements, arguing that “while these people may not live here, they have relatives on the island and can empathize with the pain Barbadians are going through.
“And when people travel, they see things in a different light and if they have an opportunity to use their overseas experiences to benefit Barbados, they should not be excluded because they are citizens of another country.”
The House also passed an amendment to facilitate the appointment of a Leader of the Opposition following Atherley’s defection from her Government a week after the May 24 general election in which the Mottley led BLP made a clean sweep of the polls.
In her first public statement on the development, the Prime Minister said: “I did not envisage this would be the first thing to come before this Chamber, but I want this to be an example to all Barbadians. Sometimes when we embark on a path, we do not always know what we will find.”
Mottley said she had also made a recommendation to the Governor General to appoint two Senators on a temporary basis, namely BLP stalwarts John Williams and Delisle Bradshaw, “then I will ask them to resign to make way for the appointments of the two people that will be more permanent”.
The Prime Minister said this was the first time in all of the more than two decades she had served as a Member of Parliament that a business session was carried out on the same day as the state opening of Parliament.
During the first sitting, it was also announced that a “mini Budget” will be presented next Monday, June 11, by Mottley, who is the country’s Minister of Finance.