Governor General Dame Sandra Mason is set to become the first president of Barbados when the country officially transitions to republican status from November 30.
During a conversation with Barbadians on Saturday, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that Dame Sandra has consented to be nominated as the first president, while defending the selection of the current Governor General and those selected in the past.
Mottley said she met with Dame Sandra two months ago and indicated to her “that my Government would be proud to have her nominated as the first president of Barbados. I am happy to report to the people of this nation today that Her Excellency Dame Sandra Mason has consented to my Government nominating her at the appropriate time to be the first president of this nation.
“We feel that this is the way we want to go and we want to thank Her Excellency for so graciously consenting in this manner. The truth is that it will now be subject to the vote of the members of Parliament in the House of Assembly and the Senate and I have every confidence just as we are pleased with Her Excellency’s performance, that those who sit in those Houses of Assembly on both sides – Independent or Opposition, will be pleased. And I trust that the people of Barbados through its Parliament will speak with one voice,” Prime Minister Mottley added.
She made it clear that nothing will change regarding the current status quo, except for at least one line in the National Anthem written by Irvin Burgie – “The Lord has been the people’s guide for past 300 years”.
In two years’ time, Barbados will be considered 400-years-old.
In light of heated debates regarding Barbados becoming a republic and the pending constitutional changes, Mottley dismissed any notion that the process was being rushed, and insisted that she was simply finishing what the father of Independence Errol Walton Barrow began in 1966.
She said that amendments to the constitution would not be made before a consultation process has been completed.
“If we are going to have a new constitution eventually that is going to reflect who we are in the third decade of the 21st century rather than who we are in the middle of the 20th century, that should be first and foremost guided by the kind of person that we want to be and the kind of people – a charter, a set of promises and pledges as Bajans to each other, no more than two or three pages.
“And that I have asked the Republic Transition Advisory Committee to start to consult the people on. Those consultations will be led by Senator Reverend [John] Rogers as well as Chereda Grannum,” she said.
Mottley explained that the general public will be involved in the consultation process, which she said should be finished by November 30.
She said following this, the resolution should go before both houses of Parliament in time for the transition.
In relation to constitutional changes, Mottley said a revision will start “in earnest” come January 2022, noting that the process should take up to 15 months “for us to have the kind of detailed conversations supported by a secretariat that is multifaceted”.
She said the secretariat should include retired Justice Sherman Moore to offer guidance.
She also announced that the vocal University of the West Indies lecturer Cynthia Barrow Giles will be a member of this team.
“There will be other professionals who will assist that secretariat as we guide the country through the decision,” she said, adding that she was awaiting the Cheltenham Commission on Parliamentary Reform, which should be submitted by the middle of next year.
“By that time hopefully, Barbadians whether in the diaspora, or here, will equally have that opportunity month by month [to add to the discussion],” she added. (AH)