The constitutional way is now clear for two Government senators and one Independent Senator to take their seats in the Upper Chamber.
This afternoon the Senate completed the process of amending the Constitution by a vote of 15 to one, following approval given by the Lower House on Tuesday.
The issue arose after Prime Minister Mia Mottley named Kay McConney, the former consul general to Canada, and Rawdon Adams, the son of the late Prime Minister Tom Adams, among her Senate picks on May 26. At the time, McConney, who was also named Minister of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology, was still residing in Canada, while Adams had only recently returned home from France.
London-based Althea Wiggins was later named by Governor General Dame Sandra Mason as an Independent in the Upper House.
However, Barbadians who have sworn allegiance to another country and have not been resident here for at last 12 months prior to their appointment were precluded under Sections 38 and 44 of the Constitution from becoming members of Parliament.
Nonetheless, when the matter came up for debate in the Senate today, Deputy President Rudolph Cappy Greenidge is adamant that they were all Barbadians who wanted to serve their country.
“The point is that they are three Barbadians. I mean, Barbadians to the bone – all of them. And they want to make a contribution to Barbados. An opportunity has been offered to them and there is some restriction in their way and we want to get rid of that restriction,” Greenidge said in explaining the rationale behind the constitutional amendment.
However, Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn, who was the only member objecting to the change, said Prime Minister Mottley caused embarrassment when she announced the appointment of McConney and Adams as she ought to have known they did not qualify.
“I have to say that Honourable Senators were behaving in this debate as though they were being disadvantaged in some way . . . that the Government was being disadvantaged in some way and that this thing sneaked up from behind and bit them.
“[But] it could only have sneaked up from behind and bit somebody if they had not been familiar with the Constitution,” Franklyn said, while pointing out that the clause at issue was in place since 1966.
“So to appoint someone or recommend the appointment of someone who you ought to have known does not qualify for the position and hence the embarrassment in which the Government finds itself, it smacks of a person who has not done their homework,” the Opposition Senator told the Upper Chamber.
However, Government spokesman John Williams, who was one of two temporary senators sworn in yesterday to stand in for Adams and McConney, strongly defended the amendment.
Williams said the bill was properly brought before the Chamber and was not something that was rushed through as suggested by Franklyn.
He noted that the issue of dual citizenship and of persons being able to make a contribution in their home country emerged in the Constitution Review Commission Report, while arguing that “when a small country has the ability to be able to use the knowledge, the skills and abilities of its people inside and outside of the country and across the Diaspora, we ought to be able to do so”.
Another Government Senator Damien Sands said he did not think that Barbadians should be deprived of opportunities to contribute and serve their country simply because they have citizenship in a foreign nation.
“These clauses deprive our country of the right to reap the full benefit of the wide pool of talented Barbadians that exist across the entire world,” Sands told the Upper Chamber, adding that in a modern Barbados, no one should be opposed to removing outdated and archaic provisions in the law.
For Independent Senator Monique Taitt, the issue came down to a matter of timing.
“I still firmly believe that if we are amending the supreme law of the land, it warrants taking a little time to ensure that we get it right and also that we follow procedure,” Taitt said, arguing that if the wrong procedure were used, everything else that followed would also be flawed.
“So I am saying that, not just to be an obstructionist or not to suggest that we are not trying to modernize our situation because, yes, if we have a Constitution that was drafted before I was born, we would need to take into consideration the changing times,” the Independent Senator added.
She was also not happy that Senators only had a little more than a day to examine a Bill.
“Having been sworn in on Monday this week, attended the opening of Parliament Tuesday, this week . . . you have Wednesday when you got your proposed Bill and you are here this week Friday. So, in essence you had a day and some to look at an amendment to the Constitution of Barbados. So in that regard, I would say we should have had more time to look at this,” Senator Taitt emphasized.