Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today Inc.
by Heather Cole
The ruling Administration has reneged on its Covenant of Hope where it promised to include Barbadians in governance. Perhaps one of the most frightening examples to date is Barbados becoming a Republic without a Referendum or consultation with the people. This article will focus on the impact on General Elections.
We have all heard it so many times that it has become second nature to state “elections in Barbados are constitutionally due every five years” and since the last general election was held in 2018, it would be expected that the next General Election will be held in 2023. The latter part of the statement is now in doubt.
The admission that the Constitution will come into existence after the Republic has started was brazen. This form of oppression is subtle. It should be the other way around with the Constitution first and the Republic after so that everyone can read and understand what they are getting into.
That admission has changed everything. One does not know how long a time period that will be. Since a date has not been specified, could it be a month, six months, a year, five years?
The Prime Minister’s statement was not precise and therefore it cannot be measured. Hence, regardless of political affiliation, every member of the Barbadian public must acknowledge that this is a massive red flag.
There are several requirements to getting a mortgage and once these are met, the purchaser is provided the mortgage agreement and can get legal advice on the contents before signing. It is a legally binding document by which a person agrees to the principle, interest, payments, the terms and the other conditions.
If the bank provided you with a piece of paper with just the title Mortgage on it and informed you that this will be the mortgage and asked you to sign without the principle, interest, payments, the terms and the other conditions being declared in writing, would you sign that piece of paper?
Added to this you are told by the bank that the actual mortgage document with the written details will be available shortly after, not even on a specific date, would you sign? No one with all their mental faculties working would sign this blank mortgage document as the bank could write after the fact whatever it wishes on the document.
In the scale of things, the Constitution of Barbados is far more significant than a mortgage. It too is a legally binding document that will not only contain the laws that govern a mortgage but every other law that defines all aspects of life in Barbados.
So how can the people of Barbados be asked by the government to agree to a change in the status of the State and a new Constitution with a blank document? What will be written on this document after the fact?
Essentially that is what the government is asking the people to do, to agree to a grand show and tell and later find out about the laws that make the new Constitution. It is a buy now pay later concept that is a trap for unsuspecting buyers.
There is no guarantee that elections will be held in 2023 as this is based off the present Constitution. Without a definitive time period of when the proposed Constitution will be ratified into law no one knows when the next General Election will be. Will the document be laid in Parliament in a month, a year, or two years from the change of status?
Only heaven knows. In addition, one cannot even assume who will be legally responsible for issuing the writ that declares when elections will be held.
One does not know if changes will be made to the Electoral and Boundaries Commission, if the matter of campaign finances will be a free for all, if payments to social media influencers will become part of the law.
The action by government to change the status of the island first and the Constitution after the change in status causes one to question the legality of this process. Due process is that the laws come first. What happens in the interim, emergency law or military law?
The matter of when the next General Election is to be held is not to be taken lightly. There has been no referendum, no terms of reference, no draft issued on the type of Republic or the contents of the new Constitution. There are just too many unknowns and people wanting to believe what they have no evidence of.
To the electorate, why is this entire process a secret? You are not at a fair, the Constitution of Barbados should never be part of a lucky dip where after withdrawing your hand from the box you get the surprise of your life! Now is the time to stand up and fight for your rights.
Heather Cole is a United States-based Barbadian investment banker.