When one has the kind of super majority in the House of Assembly, as Prime Minister Mia Mottley currently does, one is in a most charmed position to effect significant, even historic and far-reaching changes.
Miss Mottley not only has the constitutional leverage and political capital that few leaders in the Westminster system enjoy but importantly, she has acquired a near fervent following who can be extremely defensive and sometimes offensive in their verbal attacks, including on-line, when the bold outliers dare to criticize her.
But such is the nature of party politics and tribalism. At the same time, the Barbadian electoral public is known to fall deeply out of love with politicians as easily as they fell in love in the first place. And can banish them to the political wilderness with one fell swoop.
But we digress.
Yesterday’s Throne Speech from Governor General Dame Sandra Mason was memorable in many ways. With her usual grace and dignified demeanour, Dame Sandra delivered the messages of Her Government.
Half-way into Prime Minister Mottley’s electoral term, many had wondered why was it necessary to prorogue Parliament in the first place. Objective observers have looked past the fact that the Mottley team was in office only 27 months, and so much has happened during that period that she could be excused.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) changed the world as we know it in a most dramatic fashion, disrupting lives, businesses and leaving a trail of death and anguish across the globe.
The current administration was on a positive economic path. Had it not been upended by the pandemic, the possibilities could have been extremely rewarding for Mottley’s political tenure as Prime Minister of the country. But you know what is said about the best laid plans.
After significantly reducing the country’s debt load through a successful, though painful, restructuring exercise in which many suffered losses on their balance sheets and personal investments, the country was the better for it.
On the surface, the South Coast sewerage mess was removed from public display, the threat of devaluation of the prized Barbados dollar was staved off, and all at once the most despised property developer of Hard Rock fame became the flavour of the month. His highly criticized investment on Bay Street, The City, now stands as a beacon of local investment in the economy.
It is expected that the strange bedfellows will be partnering for even more investment opportunities as every effort is pursued to reduce the galloping number of unemployed in Barbados. A 40 per cent unemployment rate is not something any political leader wants on his or her resume, whether or not it was COVID-induced.
But Dame Sandra’s two-hour-long Throne Speech was historic in other ways as it unveiled hot button issues that only the very self-confident leader would seek to tackle at this time. Some may argue that it was politically expedient and a brilliant move on the part of the administration and its leader to have the issues of decriminalization of marijuana and the embracing of same sex unions delivered from the mellow, apolitical Governor General and former Appeals Court Judge, than from the benches of a cold Parliament sitting, or a political branch meeting on a Sunday afternoon.
From our perspective, it adds nothing to our society to have hundreds of mainly young men, tarnished by the smear of a criminal record because he was caught smoking a joint.
The truth is that smoking weed is so pervasive in communities – from the parks and terraces to the villages and gaps – from the poorly educated to the university graduates – it is practically a lost cause trying to stamp it out.
There are also many broken homes that have been made worse by substance abuse and countless young people who now have little or no control over their habit and desire for the drug. And this is a matter that cannot and should not be ignored.
Then of course, there is the subject of same sex unions. There is still significant resistance to the idea of same sex unions and marriage. Those who have followed the discussion over the past two to three years would not have been surprised at the announcement.
The local religious community continues to maintain that it is not for discrimination against people who are gay, but they maintain their opposition to the acceptance of the gay lifestyle.
One has to await the legislative support for this new national position on same sex unions. Certainly, it is expected to be argued as a legal and human rights position and not a moral one.
One has to wonder if the legislative framework for the acceptance of same sex unions occurs before the referendum on same-sex marriage, will the whole exercise not be moot?