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By Paula Sealy
In October 1996, Sir Clifford Husbands, the Governor General of Barbados, appointed an advisory commission to examine, consider and inquire into the Constitution of Barbados and related laws and matters.
The political parties, the Social Partners, the Church, the youth, voluntary organisations and citizens of Barbados generally were represented on the Commission. (Sir Henry Forde was appointed as the Chairman of the Commission and the Forde Commission was born.) In Barbados, the Commission held five general public hearings, a special hearing for secondary school students and six hearings on special topics.
Overseas, the Commissioners held open meetings which were attended by large numbers of Barbadians at six venues: Boston and New York in America, Brixton and Birmingham in the UK, Montreal and Toronto in Canada.
In Barbados, there were also 22 private hearings, by arrangement, with individuals and specific groups. The Commission received, in Barbados and abroad, 265 oral submissions at public sessions and 208 written submissions. Twenty-two organisations submitted memoranda on invitation by the Commission.
In December 1998, the Commissioners submitted their Report to the Governor General.
The Report was laid in the House of Assembly and the Senate shortly before the dissolution of Parliament later that month.
The General Election took place in January, 1999.
The Commission recommended that our system of government should be a parliamentary republic with the Head of State being the President.
Since this subject has become a matter of gaslighting (and another PR distraction), here is my $3.99. Here is where I use my one litre of gas and hope it stretches.
Consultative participation in governance was a hallmark of the Commission in the execution of its mandate. Significant resources were used in order to ensure the inclusion of the diaspora in the canvass of a wide cross-section of Barbadians.
The report of the Forde Commission was submitted over twenty years ago. Its canvass was conducted during the last decade of the 20th century.
We are now into the third decade of the 21st century; a fact which should not be purposed to rally Barbadians when it is politically opportune or bureaucratically convenient.
The citizens of Barbados do not seek merely to be governed or to be governed remotely but to be governed wisely and respectfully.
The previous government, as did each one to precede it, made its errors. Its failure to listen to, engage with and heed the sentiments of the people contributed to its historic electoral demise. The current administration must see value in the outcome of the last general election with respect to when a government fails to listen or listens with great reluctance which is only surpassed by its collective arrogance. The moral of the lesson should not be forgotten.
The voting public did not simply endorse the BLP overwhelmingly. The electorate served notice to all and sundry in the political establishment when it soundly dismissed the DLP, and the obtuse manner in which it functioned as a government and managed the affairs of this nation. The moral of the lesson should not be forgotten. That is as far as my $3.99 goes.