‘Document of the People’: Ministers back Charter of Barbados

The Charter of Barbados is an objective all-inclusive document that reflects the views of a wide cross-section of Barbadians, Christ Church East MP Wilfred Abrahams declared on Tuesday in the House of Assembly.

As the House of Assembly debated the document, Abrahams, the home affairs minister said: “When this document first came out, I was afraid that people would seek to ‘hijack’ it over a few narrow points such as the notion that we were ‘taking God out’ and that in so doing, we would be leading Barbados down a path of moral decay. But when people came to me making these statements and I asked them whether they had actually read the full document, many of them said ‘no’.

“In preparing the charter, we wanted something that would reflect our people’s wishes, hence we made sure the committee charged with drafting it was made up of a wide cross-section of people. We held about 15 or 16 meetings, all of which were advertised in the local media and televised and there was no political involvement in the process.

“We in Cabinet saw the document for the first time when it was presented to us after the committee had drafted it and we only made changes to very few elements of it dealing with matters such as foreign policy, but we made no amendments to the basic tenets.”

The debate focused on objections to the use of the words “the Creator” instead of “God” in one of its clauses, but St. James Central MP Kerrie Symmonds stressed that all religious denominations acknowledge a creator.

He said: “This charter is especially important to Barbados given its non-discriminatory nature, because of the historical fact that Barbados drafted the slave code that was used to institutionalise racism. Therefore, if a country has such a record, should it not be able to evolve to a point where it can rise above this and lead the world out of discrimination?”

Symmonds also spoke to the matter of sexual orientation. He declared: “In 2021, we cannot treat to certain issues the same way we did in 1821, and we must accept that sexual attraction has many different forms. It may be uncomfortable to talk about it but it is an issue we must confront. For example, if a man puts on a dress and says he identifies as a woman, we may have our personal views on it, but he is well within his rights if the law allows him freedom of expression. When we address the matter of discrimination we cannot cherry-pick certain groups to include or leave out.”

St. James South MP Sandra Husbands said that the charter defined the type of society Barbados wanted to become and made the distinction between a charter and a law.

She said: “In my previous experience as a management consultant, we got companies to draw up customer charters which outlined the way companies wanted their customers to view them, whereas a contract was a legally binding arrangement that outlined that company’s obligations to its customers and could be challenged in court if they failed to meet them. This charter outlines the kind of society Barbados wants to create and invites us to grow and develop as a country using those principles.” (DH)

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