The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is being warned against allowing the “silliness” of the previous election campaign to deny them representation in the Senate.
Attorney General Dale Marshall declared in an interview with Barbados TODAY on Friday that the newly elected government has no intention of selecting opposition senators. He said the administration was seeking to ensure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the two Senate seats are chosen by the DLP.
To achieve this, Marshall explained that a discussion with President Dame Sandra Mason, the government and the opposition parties would have to occur.
“If an opportunity comes to allow you a voice in the highest court of the land and you want to engage in an exercise in sophistry, just because you want to do political posturing and argue highly technical points, then so be it,” Marshall told Barbados TODAY.
“But let’s come back to the real world and the real world is that if the President wanted to, the President could appoint somebody from the Kingdom Alliance [Party] and somebody from the Alliance Party [for Progress] and leave the Democratic Labour Party outside.
“All we are saying is that we need to circumscribe the exercise of the president’s discretion and we think that a reasonable way of doing it is to say the two [opposition senators] should represent the party that next gained the most votes. To us, it makes perfect sense, but instead, they want to engage in sophistry and argue that it is not our gift to offer,” the AG lamented.
The Constitution currently allows the Leader of the Opposition to select two Senators. But with the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) holding all 30 seats in Parliament, there is no Opposition Leader, allowing the President to make selections on her own discretion.
As a result, the Government is proposing a constitutional amendment that allows the party accumulating the second-highest general election votes to make the selections.
Earlier this week, interim DLP president Steve Blackett rejected the offer on the same day Prime Minister Mia Mottley declared that a legal opinion on the matter supported the proposed amendments.
Since then, Queen’s Counsel Garth Patterson contended that Mottley did not have the right to make the changes. He contended that the Senate would have to be properly constituted with the appointment of all 21 Senators before any laws could be changed.
However, Marshall, who declined to release details of the legal opinion, said: “We never said we were going to appoint anybody. We can’t, we don’t have the power to. So it just tells you straight off the bat that they want to engage in silliness, but the election is gone. Stop wasting time. Take the opportunity and let’s move on.”
“We are serious about the offer, but it requires a parliamentary intervention and that parliamentary intervention had to be initiated by the Prime Minister and her team. So all we’re saying is that we should have a discussion to determine what amendment would be made to the legislation, but they seem not to understand,” Marshall added.
On Wednesday, during the official swearing-in of MPs, Cabinet ministers and Government Senators, Mottley explained that her intention was to preserve the two-party democracy.
However, some have accused her of attempting to make too many ‘willy-nilly’ constitutional changes.
In response specifically to the proposed appointment of 18-year-old Khaleel Kothdiwala to the Senate, Marshall noted that only three constitutional amendments were made last year and, on each occasion, pressing matters were addressed.
“If it is being argued that we should not make these amendments to the Constitution now, that they should await a larger review until the new Constitution, it would mean that we would be deferring the need to make important changes as the circumstances now require,” the Attorney General said.
“We are proposing to amend the Constitution to reflect that at 18, a person can be appointed to the Senate, and Cabinet has agreed that at 18, a person can be elected to the House of Assembly.
“I don’t see what’s willy-nilly about that. To me, if you can join the police force or join the army or raise a family at 18, I can’t see any reason why we should say that you can’t offer yourself to public life in that way,” he added. [email protected]