Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
For some time, I have been hearing a person on social media proclaiming that Barbados does not have a constitution. Normally, I would listen in amusement and take it for the comic relief that it provided, but now it is no longer funny. It has the potential to become dangerous and reckless, as I am now hearing others expressing disrespect for the court system because they are also parroting the nonsense about this country not having a constitution. I am concerned that the Government has not attempted to clarify the situation and has allowed this dangerous nonsense to take root.
In September 2021, Government brought a bill to Parliament entitled: An Act to alter the Constitution in order
(a) to provide for Barbados to become a republic with a President who shall be Head of State of Barbados; and
(b) to provide for related matters.
It might have slipped past many, but one of the related matters was legislating, for the first in the Barbados Parliament, a constitution for this country. The original independence constitution of Barbados was never passed in our parliament. It was merely a schedule to an order in council, the Barbados Independence Order, made by Queen Elizabeth II.
When the Government decided to rush headlong into republican status; it did so without doing any adequate preparatory work. In order to meet the deadline of November 30, 2021, the Government took its usual shortcuts’ approach by obtaining parliamentary approval, without first consulting the people of this country. On September 29, 2021 the Constitution (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2021 was passed in the House of Assembly, and it passed the Senate on October 6, 2021, with only one dissenting vote.
The 1966 Barbados Constitution was a schedule to the Barbados Independence Order, made by Queen Elizabeth II. That order was revoked by subsection 4. (1) of Constitution (Amendment) (No.2) Act. Without more, the Constitution would also have been revoked, but that subsection went on to save the Constitution. For clarity, section 4 of the Constitution (Amendment)(No.2) Act states:
4. (1) The Independence Order is revoked; but the revocation of that Order shall not affect the validity of the Constitution set out in the Schedule to that Order.
(2) The Constitution referred to in subsection (1) shall be altered in accordance with the provisions of section 49 thereof in the manner and to the extent set out in this Act; and on the appointed day, the Constitution so altered shall become the Constitution and supreme law of Barbados.
Admittedly, the Government’s approach to legislate the Constitution for the new republic of Barbados was mediocre at best or even shameful, but it was a means to an end. It does not reflect the pride of which Barbadians boast, but it is what it is; we do have a constitution.