Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley has raised concerns over the legality of Government’s intended move to Republican status, despite declaring full support for the move.
Citing unnamed members of the legal profession, he said the manner in which Government was proceeding to move Barbados from a realm to a republic with a Barbadian Head of State could be unlawful.
As lawmakers moved to pass the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, Bishop Atherley said he was not attacking Government but merely wanted the transition to Republican status to be done the right way.
Noting that Government had proven to be wrong in the past on points of law, he said: “The Prime Minister said the Government has been advised by prominent persons who we have saluted and honoured; Sir David Simmons, Sir Dennis Byron, Justice Sherman Moore, and I have no doubt that the Government of Barbados would come to proposing this to the House on the basis of good, legal advice. All I am saying is that they are equally prominent persons, legally experienced, trained and acclaimed who are of the view that this is inappropriate.
“I’ve spoken to a number of legal people who hold very strongly to the view that it is inappropriate for the Barbados Parliament to seek to undertake an action that results in what we perceive to be the revocation of an Order in Council of the UK Parliament. Can the Barbados Parliament revoke an Order in Council of the UK Parliament?”
The Opposition Leader said he did not want a situation where the Barbados Government found itself before the law court because it had erred in its procedure.
“We are exposed if we get it wrong,” said Bishop Atherley. “We expose ourselves to legal challenges brought pursuant to or consequent upon any action that we take as a people under the Constitution if it is proven we got it wrong.”
He also opposed the timing to become a Republic and described it as “the wrong moment” as Barbados continued to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, questioning whether Government had an alternative agenda in ensuring the transition was done speedily.
The Opposition Leader declared: “I support the move to Republic, I support the nomination when it comes in the appropriate format and time but I believe very strongly that we are doing this at the wrong time and that the process leaves much to be desired. I believe they are many out there of the view that we are not getting this right when it comes to the process.
“Beyond the constitutional and legal arguments it is a bad moment with COVID. It is not the right moment. We do not know what next year will bring, we may still be faced down with COVID. I would prefer to believe that by the middle of next year this thing would be gone.”
He also said the November 30 date for the transition was inappropriate as it could diminish the work of Errol Barrow, the Father of Independence.
He suggested that July 26, 2022 – the Day of National Significance that memorialises the 1937 Disturbances – would be a better fit for such as event.
“I believe frankly that the better date is July 26,” said Bishop Atherley. “We call it a Day of National Significance. It is to me, among blacks, the majority class in Barbados the birth of consciousness, it is the birth of an identity which was evolving and which has set us on a path to this moment and that the move to Republic when we get there, culminates for me what began in the 1930’s and on July 26, 1937.” (RB)