There will be tremendous political fallout if the current administration fails to deliver on commitments regarding same-sex unions, marijuana legalization and the move toward republicanism, which successive Governments have promised but failed to deliver.
This was the warning from senior political scientist Dr Tennyson Joseph who views Tuesday’s Throne Speech delivered by Governor General Dame Sandra Mason as a declaration of intent from the Government to deliver on the “liberal”, “radical”, and “progressive” areas of its 2018 manifesto.
While Joseph described the proposal to remove the British Monarch as the greatest achievement of a post-colonial Government, fellow university lecturer Dr Kristina Hinds believes the makeup of Barbados’ new Parliament will give a clearer indication of how radical the Mia Mottley-led administration is.
In the interest of “human rights” and “social justice”, Government signalled its intention to recognize same-sex unions but promised that a decision on same-sex marriage would only be made after a referendum. The Governor General also revealed that individuals would no longer be arrested for possession of 14 grams or less of cannabis.
According to Joseph, the administration had only addressed issues from an economic perspective; for example, the 12-month Welcome Stamp Initiative that was recently rolled out.
“What the Throne Speech revealed is that the Government has been listening to its more progressive critics and those people were saying that there might not have been a clear line of action on the things promised, and what the speech did was to kind of give a definite sense of movement in that regard,” he observed.
“I heard the [DLP President Verla DePeiza] say she heard nothing new, but I would not agree with that. The difference is that we have now heard that these are the things [the Government] is setting out to do in a particular time, and it was delivered in a very clear and authoritative manner.”
The political scientist predicted that robust debate would ensue on the most controversial issues. But unlike the Owen Arthur and Freundel Stuart administrations that spoke of movements toward republicanism, he warned that the Mottley Government would be expected to deliver.
“The Government will lose a lot of points if all it allowed for was a debate, and in the end, we just see more talk and talk and nothing happens, especially in the way it was built up in the form of a Throne Speech. If, like the Nelson [statue] issue, it ends up just being talk, the Government would lose a lot of points in relation to dissent and disenchantment from certain aspects of the public who want to see action on those fronts,” Joseph cautioned.
Dr Hinds, meanwhile, described the change as long overdue, but wondered what Barbados’ new political system would look like.
“It really depends on the structure of the republic. So, if we have a republic that comprises as ceremonial, the way in which our Government functions on a day-to-day basis, it will not change significantly. But we have to hear about this proposal for a republic, because in some republics, the president is elected which would differ from the Governor General,” the political scientist told Barbados TODAY.
“We have to hear a bit more about the content of this republic, but even if you watch this whole Throne Speech ceremony, you can see how colonial framework still is,” she added. [email protected]