Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur has weighed in with his opinion how the Michael Carrington matter must be resolved. He has suggested the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Association apply its Code of Ethics to censure the Speaker of the House. Also he opined that the political stock of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government will be dented by the saga and the Prime Minister should also intervene. He does NOT agree with the position taken by the Opposition to boycott parliament, no surprise there. As far as he is concerned Carrington has broken no rules of the House therefore the Committee of Privileges will have no choice to return a ‘not guilty’ decision.
There is a lot to untangle from the Carrington matter which is moral, political and legal in makeup. What we know is that the Speaker of the House has been ordered by the High Court of Barbados to pay $200,000 plus to a wheelchair bound client; money he has withheld for years. All sane persons agree this is wrong morally, it is wrong legally based on the court order and the noise of public opinion ensures that it will have legal implications for a weak DLP government.
The Opposition has made a decision to boycott parliament because Carrington refuses to recuse himself from the Chair. His defence, he has not broken any House rules. The Prime Minister, probably advised by constitutional lawyer Hal Gollop, head of the Employment Rights Tribunal and pal, agrees with Carrington’s position. It is obvious Carrington ‘hijacked’ the matter by anticipating the move by the Opposition and Deputy Speaker Mara Thompson was quick to refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges. Many believe the Opposition should have called for a no confidence motion forgetting the Opposition had no control over the matter being referred to Committee. It is true however that by asking for Carrington to recuse himself the Opposition appears to be allowing the matter to play out in Committee. Do we anticipate the Opposition will bring a motion of no confidence if and when the matter is heard by the Committee? What happens in the period until the ruling is made?
BU supports the action of the Opposition. It has a duty to represent the interest of Barbadians and if boycotting and holding public meetings to highlight the wrong perpetrated by Carrington on an 80 year old man is what is required to galvanize Bajans, so be it. Let Arthur and Stuart defend the sacred rules of the House in the face of an obvious wrong. The highest court in the land must stand for justice in the eyes of the people it serves.
Barbados practices a flavour of Westminster government largely constructed on a bed of conventions. Elsewhere members of parliament have resigned from parliament for a lot less to avoid bringing shame and disgrace to the highest court in the land. Because the Stuart led government defends a two seat majority in the house he is forced, ALWAYS, to distil and act on all issues with only political considerations. This is not about Carrington and whether is has broken any House rules, it is about making sure the DLP can still govern.
The government should have a vested interest in ensuring the Speaker is supported by the Opposition. Continue to make laws in a parliament where the Opposition is absent yet tell the world what a wonderful system of democracy we have.
The inadequacy of our system of government is being exposed by this matter!