A decision by Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn to go against the position of his leader in the election of the country’s first President Dame Sandra Mason, has opened up a political “can of worms” in Barbados.
A two-thirds majority of members of the two Houses of Parliament including Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley and one of his two representatives in the Senate Crystal Drakes on Wednesday voted to choose Dame Sandra as the Barbadian Head of State as the island prepares to transition from a monarchial system of government to that of a parliamentary republic.
However, during a heated exchange with President of the Senate Reginald Farley, the lone dissenting voice of Franklyn’s could be heard vehemently objecting to the process by which the new Head of State was being selected.
After refusing instructions from the Senate President to take his seat, Franklyn left the Chamber in protest having unsuccessfully attempted to speak on the reasons for objecting to the voting process.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY later, the Opposition senator explained that he could not be part of any voting process where there was no provision on the ballot paper to vote ‘no.’
He said he had the blessing of his leader beforehand in objecting to the process and his leader told him to “speak my mind and vote according to my conscience”.
But Opposition Leader Atherley who had also earlier criticized the process but still voted for Dame Sandra, told Barbados TODAY afterwards he didn’t want to ignite any controversy at this stage by commenting on Senator Franklyn’s actions because he preferred the focus to be on this historic moment.
“Today the news is about Barbados taking that first major step in becoming a republic and that Sandra Mason, being identified by the Parliament as the Barbadian worthy of holding such office and the commendations that were heaped upon her by both the Prime Minister and myself,” Bishop Atherley declared.
“I really don’t want…the negatives, I mentioned them in my speech about how I don’t think it is the right time and all that… Today is about her and the focus should be on her. The focus should be on what the Parliament did in terms of selecting her or electing her and taking one more step toward becoming a republic,” the Opposition Leader stated.
However, political scientist Dr Gorge Belle is adamant that Senator Franklyn should resign from the Upper Chamber of Parliament.
“I feel Caswell Franklyn should resign from the Senate because he is there on the request of the Leader of the Opposition who sits in the Lower House. And the Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House supported the consultation with the Prime Minister in relation to the election of the presidency,” Dr Belle said.
“For him to, almost on his own, decide that in the Senate he could vote then against what the recommendation of his leader was, I think demonstrates that he has no base, and in terms of a right, in the Senate anymore,” contended the retired Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.
He added: “Who does he represent? He is not in the Senate because somehow he has a space that is apart from everything else in Barbados. He is in the Senate only because Bishop Atherley recommends that he goes there. And to take that kind of stand today, I think he should not sit in the Senate anymore. He should be asked to leave.”
The political scientist recalled witnessing the late Prime Minister and Father of Independence and National Hero Errol Walton Barrow do that with some of his senators “and I think that this guy is deserving of that”.
Dr Belle also noted that Senator Franklyn’s Opposition colleague Senator Crystal Drakes participated and did not leave.
“I think that he is totally out of order. I think that he really should recognize that he isn’t representing anybody in the Senate right now on taking positions that are opposed to his leader in the Lower House and therefore he should resign,” he told Barbados TODAY.
But another political scientist Dr Kristina Hinds disagrees with Dr Belle’s stance.
Dr Hinds suggested that Senator Franklyn was on solid ground in taking the position he did.
She embraced Senator Franklyn’s explanation that his leader gave him permission to vote his conscience.
“That is what he did. I don’t see any problem with it. I think it is good that in a democracy people are able to voice their opposition or displeasure with decisions and the process. I don’t even think that Senator Franklyn was displeased with the decision, but with the process, and I think he has a point,” Dr Hinds told Barbados TODAY.
The political scientist argued that there needs to be proper processes for things so that they function as they should.
She suggested that a lack of adequate processes is a problem in many spheres in Barbados and could sometimes “land us in trouble”.
Dr Hinds believes that while Senator Franklyn and his leader took opposing positions, both voted according to their conscience.