Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today Inc.
… In my view, personal moral identity; whether starts off as good or bad. Or it can simply cause serious errors of judgment in otherwise morally stable leadership. I’m thinking of the furor over the PM directly intervening in the lawful (or unlawful) performance of a police officer’s duty.
Personal moral identity enshrines conduct in leadership. Correct? So, in an election cycle, we start off relying on OUR view of a politician’s moral identity and ask ourselves; can we trust them? We think we’ve marked their card correctly so we vote for them.
Whereas, in reality, we are only able to rely on the politician’s own (hidden?) view of their moral identity. Most Bajans have a view, now, of the last DLP administration. Compare that view with the one you had when they last took office.
But look at it in practical terms. For example, Mr. Joseph Atherly recently spoke of the Emergency Powers Act; reported by Barbados TODAY. It raised a question concerning “Too much power” being vested in the PM – ostensibly a fair question. The Cabinet must have agreed to that – and since most of the Cabinet are also Parliamentarians, they agreed with it in the House of Assembly. Additionally, Senator Caswell Franklyn is also trying to challenge the exercise of Executive power in the courts and is doing his best to make the same point.
Whatever you think of their politics – the underlying principle is unassailable; too much power vested in one person is dangerous and wrong in principle in any Parliamentary democracy. And, if we’re being honest, we know where that could lead.
Apply that thought to the situation in which a citizen ‘restaurant’ owner phones up the Prime Minister (no less). The police were trying to exercise their lawful authority for allegedly breaking protocols. The outcome, as I understand it, resulted in the police being told by the PM to stand down.
So the question then becomes, what about absolute power?. . That’s the ultimate question, right? Because, three years into the country’s top job, even if this was a serious error of judgment and there was nothing (at first sight) unlawful about the PM’s actions, she did, to all intents and purposes, act as a Judge. She heard the representations of both parties and decided no law had been broken.
There is no doubt in my mind that is a step too far – ultra vires. No Prime Minister has any business directly influencing the decision-making of officers on the ground and concluding that no law has been broken – even if the RBPF is part of the Executive branch of Government.
At the very least, that’s a breach of ethical governance – an unconscionable usurpation of the authority of the Commissioner of the RBPF and the chain of command they adhere to. I would no more expect a CEO to usurp the downward chain of command to the Shop floor than I would an employee to usurp the upward chain of command – because it’s about due process.
Barbados TODAY referred to the PM’s legal training (let alone her experience in politics) so as to infer that she ought to know better – that is without a doubt.
I feel like a stuck record at the moment, which may be irritating. But some messages are too important to ignore. The political and governmental landscape of Barbados is palpably unhealthy! I’ve repeatedly made the same legal point; the Separation of Powers is an absolutely vital principle for achieving transparent, ethical, and lawful governance. I see no reason to detract from that view.
For anyone in the top Job not to recognise this should be somewhat concerning to everyone. We should not have our elected representatives acting beyond their powers. When they do, we should ask questions about the impact and extent of their absolute power.
Correct me if I’m wrong!
Steve Prescott (LLB Hons) is an Employment Law Consultant & Advocate Bajan Pride – “From the People for the People”, [email protected]