The State-appointed committee overseeing Barbados’ transition from realm to republic has come under heavy fire, with two University of the West Indies (UWI) academics dismissing the group as unfit for purpose.
In a joint position made public on Tuesday, law lecturer Dr Ronnie Yearwood and Cynthia Barrow-Giles, senior lecturer in political science, were particularly hard on chairperson of the Republican Status Transition Advisory Committee (RSTAC), Dr Marion Williams, a former Central Bank governor.
Dr Yearwood and Barrow-Giles took Dr Williams and committee member Adrian Green to task after listening to their appearance on Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio “with growing shock and consternation”.
“We were astonished by the level of factually incorrect statements made on the state-owned radio station by the Chair, Dr Marion Williams and committee member, Mr Adrian Green, and supported by the moderator of the programme,” the UWI scholars declared.
Among the “many incorrect” statements identified was that the President of Guyana is elected for life, they said.
“A review of both the Guyana Independent and the Cooperative Republic Constitutions would reveal that this has never been the constitutional reality of Guyana. Indeed, similar to every independent English-Speaking Caribbean country, Guyana’s head of government and state was elected to office first on the plurality system, in keeping with the winner takes all system, and later, on the basis of proportional representation,” Dr Yearwood and Barrow-Giles contended.
They suggested that a Prime Minister remaining in office for an undetermined time is the reality of the Caribbean, and that one can look no further than St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica for the evidence.
They added: “Further, in 2000, following the amendment to the Guyanese constitution, no president can succeed himself/herself more than once. In other words, term limits have been constitutionalized in the country, the first English-Speaking Caribbean country to do so.
“Moreover, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), in the case, The Attorney General of Guyana v Cedric Richardson ( CCJ 17 (AJ), 26 June 2018) has also confirmed the constitutionality of the change.”
Further, the duo said, “by far, one of the most egregious of the claims peddled by the Committee related to the composition of the Senate”.
“The composition of Independent, Government and Opposition Senators in the Senate of Barbados was incorrectly stated, with the statement from the Chair of the Transition Committee that there were in fact six opposition senators appointed.
“It was also incorrectly stated that the composition of the Senate is done by proportional representation. While the Committee representatives did not state that the method used was proportional representation, nonetheless their failure to correct and even agree with the moderator was in fact tacit approval of the incorrect information provided.”
They also chided the committee’s representatives for telling their audience that the powers of the Prime Minister can be limited by the psyche of the Barbadian people.
“How does the psyche of a people limit the real and legal powers of the Prime Minister as accorded by the Constitution of Barbados? Rules are required to limit the powers of a Prime Minister,” the UWI intellectuals responded.
The two also rejected another statement by the committee members that the Prime Minister is directly elected by the people.
“According to the Constitution of Barbados, the Prime Minister is the person who is selected by the majority political party in Parliament. So, the selectorate is Parliament and not the nation, contrary to a nationally and popularly elected Prime Minister or President,” Dr Yearwood and Barrow-Giles said.
The lecturers also dismissed, as erroneous, pronouncements by the RSTAC members that Independence did not signal the end of British rule in Barbados; that the Queen of Britain requires Barbados to ask for her approval to pass laws; and that the Advisory Committee does not advise on the transition to a republic.
With respect to the latter statement, the university lecturers contended that such a comment showed the members’ misunderstanding of their own role because according to key terms of reference of the Committee, it is, among other things: to advise on the required reform measures necessary to achieve this status, recognizing that the Committee’s work is to play a fundamental role in developing the roadmap for the nation’s future generations in claiming their destiny.
“This reinforces our previous concerns that this Committee is not fit for purpose. Enough said,” Dr Yearwood and Barrow-Giles concluded.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced late last month that Barbados would transition to a republic on November 30, when the Queen’s representative, the Governor General, would be replaced by a non-executive President with no links to the monarchy.
She also announced that more sweeping changes will be made to the Constitution of Barbados, following wide public consultations on the way forward.