Home » Posts » Party leader wants less power for a pm addressed in a revised constitution

Party leader wants less power for a pm addressed in a revised constitution

by Marlon Madden
6 min read

A scaling back of Prime Ministerial power, the crafting of a well-defined consultation process and a reform of the system of voting in Barbados are among the recommendations of a leading political party in Barbados.

The suggestions were put forward by President of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Dr Ronnie Yearwood, as authorities continue to hear views as part of a constitutional reform exercise, a year after the country officially became a republic.

Insisting that nothing much had changed in relation to governance and constitutional processes since November 30, 2021, Yearwood said there were some pressing issues that should be addressed in a new constitution.

“One of the issues that I think is pressing that concerns me and one we see a lot of is this issue of consultation,” said Yearwood.

Referencing the Constitution of Guyana, which outlines consultation expectations, Yearwood said “I think when we build out our constitution we should really define what that process looks like because right now our Constitution does not lend itself or at least force the offices such as the Prime Minister or whoever holding office, to have to consult.

“‘Consult’ is a very loose term in our Constitution. This is one area I would like us to pay some attention to and pay serious attention to the nature of the Senate. That is a concern for a lot of people – whether we require one and what’s the process for that; and in particular, our voting system because the reality is our first-past-the-post system we end up with an anomalous situation like where we are, where one party has 30 seats and one party has zero seats. We know the percentages at the base do not reflect that intention. So we need to reform that,” he explained.

The Constitutional Reform Commission started public consultation in mid-October and is expected to gather information and make recommendations.

“So consultation, the voting system and then we can look at things like powers of the Prime Minister, term limits and fixed-term elections. So you just can’t call elections willy-nilly, that is a power that should be taken away from our prime ministers as well,” he recommended.

Yearwood was speaking as a panellist on Tuesday night during an Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAB) discussion forum entitled, Barbados the Republic – One Year On. It formed part of Accountants’ Week, which is being celebrated from November 6 – 12, 2022.

“We do not have a republic constitution. We still have a 1966 independence Constitution. The constitution has not fundamentally been changed in any way. The biggest change in the constitution has been the appointment process of the president,” said Yearwood.

“Really the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader are the starting point for selection of the President as they would have been. Obviously there is the additional layer of voting internally where both houses come together to do so,” he said.

“Essentially when we think of the republic one year on, not much in particular has changed in terms of our governance and constitutional process where we have a republic in name but in terms of the substance of what a republic means we have not yet achieved that,” he added.

He said the recent attempt to change Independence Day celebrations to Barbados National Day was also evidence that “the process of republicanism” is not properly understood.

“It is not being properly entrenched in the psyche and the psychology and the culture of being a Barbadian,” he suggested.

Declaring that it will take some time and work for this to be achieved, the political leader cautioned: “There is a saying ‘when you start wrong you end wrong’, and really the exercise that the Constitutional [Reform] Commission is going through now is what we should have started with, and then we would have ended up with a republic.”

Yearwood said he was concerned about the lack of enthusiasm among residents for the whole process of transitioning to a republic, but said he was encouraging everyone to let their voice be heard in the constitutional reform process given that it was a very important exercise that would “shape and build out the type of republic that we want”.

Political Consultant Peter Wickham dismissed the notion that Barbados did not have a republic constitution, stating that the framers of the Constitution were wise enough to ensure that consultation was clearly defined and that it spoke to instances in which the President had no choice but to take the advice.

“That to me, is one of the innovations that our republic constitution has that I am happy about. It avoids potential problems that can be created,” said Wickham.

He identified the appointment process of an elected president as opposed to the selection of a governor general by the prime minister, as one of the fundamental changes.

He also cited the absence of a pledge of allegiance to the Queen, explaining that this was a signal that “we are no longer part of the British empire so to speak”.

Wickham said he also recognised that the President is now able to engage in “self diplomacy”, referencing a recent decision of President Dame Sandra Mason to go on an official visit to Africa.

However, the DLP leader insisted “I thought the process itself was somewhat backward and wrong, and I still stand by that. I stand by that for the very reason, probably the exact opposite reasons Peter outlined”.

Attorney-at-law Senator Greggory Nicholls also rejected the notion that Barbados was not yet a true republic, as he pointed out that Barbadians were no longer swearing allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II.

He argued that becoming a republic went beyond constitutional arrangements and was more about giving people “psychological freedom”.

“The idea of a republic is to liberate the minds and develop the people of Barbados in a way that we are no longer yoked to a colonial past, and it goes way beyond keeping it to a narrow perspective of constitutional arrangements,” said Nicholls.

Nicholls, who is also Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Reform Commission, reported that no fewer than 10 submissions have been made from members of the public on what the new constitution should contain. (MM)

You may also like

About Us

Barbados Today logos white-14

The (Barbados) Today Inc. is a privately owned, dynamic and innovative Media Production Company.

Useful Links

Get Our News


Subscribe my Newsletter for new blog posts, tips & new photos. Let's stay updated!

Barbados Today logos white-14

The (Barbados) Today Inc. is a privately owned, dynamic and innovative Media Production Company.

BT Lifestyle


Subscribe my Newsletter for new blog posts, tips & new photos. Let's stay updated!

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. Accept Privacy Policy

Update Required Flash plugin