Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn is accusing the Mia Mottley-led administration of “jumping through hoops” to accommodate “elite” individuals in the Upper Chamber.
In his maiden address to the first session of the Senate for the new parliamentary term this morning, Franklyn further charged that Government had “rushed” to make the changes, which he said amounted to “constitutional abuse”.
“I think it is a rush to facilitate individuals. If this were a bill intended for the general population of Barbados I would have supported it, but Sir, we are starting this system where we have the elite and others,” Franklyn argued.
“This bill is intended to facilitate the elite,” he maintained, adding that “I don’t consider myself to be any elite so I don’t think this would have been done for me or most other people in Barbados. But we jump through hoops to facilitate certain people”.
With the amendment to Section 37 of the Constitution, two Government senatorial designates – former Consul General to Canada Kay McConney; Rawdon Adams, the son of the late Prime Minister Tom Adams – along with London-based Alphea Wiggins, who was recently selected by the Governor General to serve as an independent Senator, will be allowed to sit in the Upper Chamber after they were precluded from doing so, based on the fact that they had not been resident in the jurisdiction for at least 12 months.
While insisting that Government could have selected locally-based Barbadians who satisfied the 12-month criteria, Franklyn contended that the change was “unconscionable”, while recommending that it should have been subject to public discussion before it was brought before both Houses of Parliament.
“When you are amending the Constitution it is a serious matter. You don’t just flippantly overnight say, ‘oh, we are going to amend the Constitution’. There is a process. You publish the [proposed] amendments and circulate them and let the people talk about them.
“Now we want to rush these down the throats, certainly down my throat and the throat of the people in the country, without debate, without anybody really knowing what is going on,” Franklyn complained.
And while noting that the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) controlled 29 of the 30 seats in the Lower House, Franklyn warned the two-week-old administration to be careful how it used its power, given that they were being watched.
“One day coming soon you will not have the power and it will be as a direct result of you abusing the power you have now,” he further warned.
He also questioned if Barbados was becoming a dictatorship, saying while he did not expect members of the administration to publicly “come out and tell the leader, ‘ma’am, that is foolishness’”, they should have “whispered” at the parliamentary group meeting that the move was not in the best interest of the country.
“Don’t be so afraid to voice your views or you will have a situation where there is one mind and everybody else feeds into that mind. This is wrong. It looks bad,” the Opposition Senator said, adding that many residents were “not happy” about the move.
However, Government Senator Lynette Holder dismissed Franklyn’s concerns, arguing that the change was necessary to allow Barbadians who subsequently held other citizenships the opportunity to “give back” at the national level.
In fact, Holder said she was disturbed by Franklyn’s comments, since, in her estimation, what was contained in the Constitution before today’s debate which ended in approval of the measure, could have been considered discriminatory.
“When I hear from the mouth of the member, words such as ‘elite’ and that this provision is for the ‘elite’ and a select few to benefit from what we understand on this side to be removing any kind of discrimination that will prevent Barbadians from participating in our governance, I am somewhat disturbed,” Holder said.
While giving his support to the amendment in principle, independent Senator Kevin Boyce, son of former Minister of Health John Boyce, agreed with Franklyn that the change was “swift” and should have been discussed nationally before it was brought before Parliament.
“Certainly measuring twice and cutting once is the recommended course. I do not know if an opinion of the Solicitor General was sought in relation to the proposed wording,” Boyce said, while contending that “taking time is not laziness”.
“Like all things perhaps it is not what we do, but how we do it, and there is some merit, as suggested by Franklyn, that consultation, communication and opportunity for discussion be provided when we are touching on our most sacred document,” Boyce said.
However, while pointing to his Trinidadian heritage, he argued that when one considered the youth and the constant movement of people, limiting those who serve to individuals having only Barbadian citizenship, could be considered a form of “reverse discrimination”.