The People Have Spoken … or have they?

Submitted by Tee White

Following the unprecedented Barbados Labour Party (BLP) 30-0 victory over the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in the general elections, an often heard statement from both winning and losing candidates is that the people have spoken. But does an analysis of the election results support this claim?

According to CaribbeanElections website, there were 255,833 people registered to vote in the 2018 election. Combining data from VOB and Caribbean Elections, I have calculated that 153, 547 people actually cast a valid ballot. Of these, 112,249 cast a vote for the winning BLP. In other words, 44% of registered voters voted for the BLP while 56% did not. This could hardly be described as “the people have spoken”.

If David’s statement that “A manifesto is a bunch of promises designed to woo an ignorant electorate. The real business begins as far as managing the economy” is accurate, then the situation is even more dire. Since not only are we dealing with a government elected by a minority of the population but there is also the very real likelihood that many of those who voted for the winning party have been deliberately misled. It is difficult to understand why in the light of this reality, we continue to insist that we have in our country a democratic political system, by which I understand government of the people, by the people and for the people. Would it not be more accurate to acknowledge that we have a fundamentally undemocratic political system that we have inherited from slavery and colonialism but to which our fore-parents through numerous sacrifices have added some political rights that we enjoy, including universal adult suffrage?

From a constitutional point of view, sovereignty, or supreme power in this system, lies in the hands of the queen of England. Through the royal prerogative, she has the absolute power via her representative, the Governor General, to dismiss any government elected in Barbados and even to dismiss the entire parliament, as happened in Australia in 1975. Added to this is the fact that the promises made by the parties vying for power have no legal force and so once Bajans have marked their x on the ballot paper, there is nothing they can do to force a government to carry out its promises nor prevent it from doing things which it never mentioned in its election campaign. Through these arrangements and others, ordinary Bajans are left disempowered and marginalised from the decision making in the country.

Something else is needed. In the same way that previous generations of Bajans had to work out how to end the iniquitous system of slavery and then how to win various political and social rights, including formal political independence, our generation is faced with the task of shaping political arrangements in our country that empower the mass of the people and end our marginalisation from political power. We do not need to emulate anybody else’s model as we can think for ourselves. What if we ended the system of party government and political parties existed solely to politicise the society and to advocate for different approaches to solving the problems we face? What if the electorate itself set the government’s programme before each election through extensive discussion of the issues that needed to be dealt with, in this way becoming informed about the reality of the situation and the complexity of the problems that needed to be solved? What if the programme once agreed had the force of law and the government’s performance was continuously evaluated against the targets set within it? What if the candidates themselves were chosen not by political parties but by citizens bearing in mind the skills sets and experience that successful completion of the government’s programme would require? What if elected representatives were held to account for their performance by accountability committees made up of citizens with interest and expertise in particular areas? What if all government finances operated under a system of extreme transparency in which each citizen had a right to information on how all public money was collected and spent?

Just putting it out there.

119 comments

  • Mariposa and this newbie,T inniss you two understand you all just was kicked out of Parliament and Ms Mottley has now started give the lady some space and stop the daily bellyaching .In other words grow up and get over it.What happen to your pal Fractured J/A and CCC,the licks were too hot?Fractured was on here talking about Pegasus tapes and Bombshells to drop it seems that the stink bombs blew up in his party and his face,as he seems to have disappeared,moron.Both of you need to follow his lead and join the Dems on the dump heap,taking along Bush tea,SSS,the Trini Dem andMs Maureen Holder with you.I hope Ms Holder has already left CBC.

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  • Pingback: The People of Barbados Have Spoken … or have they? – mark jacobs lives!

  • One of the issues that has come up in the discussion of the results of the recent election is the issue of the constitutional arrangements in Barbados and the place of the royal prerogatiive within these. There appears to be some confusion about this issue.

    First, this discussion about the royal prerogative only has relevance to Barbados because we have inherited the whole political and constitutional arrangements that the English slavemasters established on this island to enslave, exploit and oppress our foreparents and after 52 years of independence, we are still running with them.

    Be that as it may, the royal prerogative is a product of England’s history. It originates in the theory of the divine right of kings which underpinned the ‘absolute monarchies’ that were present in Europe. According to this theory, the governmental power of the monarch was handed to them by God and in exercising it, they were accountable only to God and not to those they ruled over. In other words, their power over those they ruled was absolute. The French king Louis XIV’s famous statement that “I am the state” expresses this concept in a nutshell. This is the context in which I use the term absolute power.

    The rise of the capitalist class in Europe set off a major conflict in European societies over the issue of the source of governmental power. Those who rejected the monarch’s claim to absolute power insisted that Parliament was the source of power. This position is set out most clearly in Cromwell’s Instrument of Government of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland which functioned as the Commonwealth’s constitution. In this document, you will find no reference to the powers of the monarch, for the simple reason that he had been overthrown. The issue of the constitutional role of the royal prerogative only arose in England after 1660 when the monarchy was restored. It took until 1689 when the Bill of Rights was enacted to finally resolve the conflict between those who claimed parliament was the source of government power and those who claimed the source was divine right. This bill represented a political compromise between these opposing groups. It led to the birth of the concept of the Crown in Parliament as the source of sovereignty. In other words, the monarch is the source of sovereign power but he/she is constrained in how they can use it by Parliament. This is the concept that sits at the heart of Britain’s constitutional monarchy and which underpins its system of ‘representative democracy’. It is worth noting that nowhere in any of these arrangements were the ordinary people even mentioned, let alone being considered as the sovereign power. This is the origin of the royal prerogative, which has nothing to do with Henry VIII. This undemocratic system was exported around the world by British colonialism via its empire.

    Wherever countries have inherited Britain’s colonial constitutional arrangements, the problem of the royal prerogative comes up. This is reflected in the consitutional crisis which erupted in Australia in 1975. First, the Australian constitution makes it clear that the Governor General in that country is the representative of the Queen of England and, in representing her, exercises the powers of the royal prerogative. Chapter 1 section 2 of this constitution reads:

    “A Governor-General appointed by the Queen shall be Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth and shall have and may exercise in the Commonwealth during the Queen’s pleasure, but subject to this Constitution, such powers and functions of the Queen as Her Majesty may be pleased to assign to him”.

    Chapter 2, sections 61-64 further reinforce that “The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General”. The Australian constitution does not confer any authority on a Prime Minister to dismiss a Governor General and it is factually inaccurate to say that it does. If Australian politicians have claimed that they can dismiss a Governor General, it is possible they are basing their claim on their interpretation of Chapter 1 section 2 of the Australian constitution. However, there is no constitutional mechanism by which they could compel the queen of England to dismiss a Governor General. Also there has been no case where a Prime minister has dismissed a Governor General but we have the case of the Governor General dismissing Whitlam which shows that it is possible and that this possibility is due to the royal prerogative.

    The Barbadian constitution states in its preamble “the people of Barbados proclaim that they are a sovereign nation”. This statement implies that sovereignty lies with the people of Barbados, and that we are the supreme power in constitutional terms. However, in Chapter VI, Section 63, it states:
    (1) The executive authority of Barbados is vested in Her Majesty.
    (2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive authority of Barbados may be exercised on behalf of Her Majesty by the Governor-General either directly or through officers subordinate to him.

    So the royal prerogative is also embedded in the Barbadian constitution. I do accept that my statement that the Governor General can unilaterally dismiss the Prime Minister or dissolve parliament is inaccurate and accept the criticisms made on this point and withdraw that statement. However, this does not fundamentally alter the role of the royal prerogative in Barbados’ constitutional arrangements. The constitution states that the Governor General can only dismiss a Prime Minister following a no confidence vote in parliament(Chapter VI, Section 66, sub-section 2) and can only dissolve parliament under the advice of the Prime Minister (Chapter V, Section 61, sub-section 2). In other words these provisions confirm that sovereignty lies with the Crown in Parliament and it is the power of Parliament and of the royal prerogative which operate and not the will of the people of Barbados. There is no constitutional provision for the people of Barbados to initiate the dismissal of a government that they are unhappy with. They have to wait for the prime minister to call an election using his powers under the royal prerogative. It is worth noting that the powers of the Prime Minister, as the leader of the Executive, like those of the Governor General, derive from the royal prerogative as stated in Chapter VI, Section 63 sub-section 1 and not from the people of Barbados. This is why elected MPs, ministers and so on swear allegiance to the English queen and not to the people of Barbados.

    The central point here is that our country’s current constitutional arrangements which vest sovereignty in the Crown in Parliament act as a powerful mechanism to disempower Barbadians in the governance of the country. Today, these constitutional arrangements are outmoded and undemocratic. Barbadians need new constitutional arrangements which vests sovereign power in the people of Barbados and create the necessary mechanisms for us to exercise it.

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  • de pedantic Dribbler

    @Mr White, you are too careless with your analysis and research so if you are desirous of developing interesting and engaging debate here then first fix that glaring problem. Secondly you are making too often circuitous arguments which I believe the experts label as fallacies and thirdly there is little need to ‘argue’ about easily researched (properly) factual data from the net.

    This is an example of all three above. You said:

    “The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General”. The Australian constitution does not confer any authority on a Prime Minister to dismiss a Governor General and it is factually inaccurate to say that it does. If Australian politicians have claimed that they can dismiss a Governor General, it is possible they are basing their claim on their interpretation of Chapter 1 section 2 of the Australian constitution. However, there is no constitutional mechanism by which they could compel the queen of England to dismiss a Governor General. Also there has been no case where a Prime minister has dismissed a Governor General but we have the case of the Governor General dismissing Whitlam which shows that it is possible and that this possibility is due to the royal prerogative.”——–

    Yes the Aussie constitution does not specifically set out a GG termination by a PM but that is BESIDES THE POINT based on CONVENTON AND PRACTICE IN THE COUNTRY. Your point is clearly not supported by facts!

    This is just one search effort which shows up your strange efforts: “Section 1 of the Constitution states that the Parliament of Australia is made up of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives and section 2 states that the Governor-General shall act as the Queen’s representative in Australia. Then we have Section 61 that states that the Executive Power of the government is vested in the Queen and the Governor-General[…] However, as the Queen CANNOT ACT WITHOUT (my emphasis) the advice of her Prime Minister, the vested power given to the Governor-General means he or she MUST ALSO ACT (mine) on the advice of the Prime Minister.”

    That MEANS the PM holds the cards and gets to decide who is appointed or asked to resign ! It’s very, very simple once we cut through all the fluff.

    ALSO… “But has a Governor-General been sacked?…Because of the high level of respect of the position, Governors-General are normally given the opportunity to RESIGN, rather than be SACKED.(mine) This was the case with Governor-General Peter Hollingworth in 2003. Senior members of the Government were forced to make public statements asking for his resignation before he finally resigned.”

    The reasons why he was sacked/terminated are not the focus of this debate just that he was ‘terminated’ by the PM. So again I ask, ‘how in heavens name’ can the Queen hold the absolute power when convention, standard operating process and realities of loads of Aussie history DEBUNK your fallacy!

    But apparently, you withdrew that herring although you then adopt a similar model of flawed reasoning with your ‘royal prerogative’ stuff …SMH….Anyhow, I gone.

    BTW, no distress with you senor, just your very, very flawed reasoning.

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  • I am always amused when the BLP and others on this site try to shut down dissenting opinions here.

    What would a piano sound like with one set of keys?

    For a long,long time I watched how this site deteriorated from a site with many,many contributors of all shapes,size and political persuasion to a site where all the die-hard blp followers flooded the site and insulted the few dlp supporters who were repetitive and sometimes a turn off.

    Now again it seems they want to revert to being the only ones in their echo chamber.Ah well.

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  • Some observations on the Barbados constitution

    Thanks to some constructive feedback from @Hal Austin and @de pedantic dribbler, I got hold of a copy of the constitution and gave it a detailed reading. I have to say that I know that Irving Burgie wrote the words of our national anthem and that Roland Edwards who lived opposite my primary school wrote the music, but as I read the constitution, I kept wondering who wrote it. I remember independence but I don’t remember at that time any meetings, discussions or anything about what type of constituion we should have. I don’t know how many Bajans have read the constitution but I wanted to share some extracts from its preamble.

    “Whereas the love of free institutions and of independence has always strongly characterised the inhabitants of Barbados And Whereas the Governor and the said inhabitants settled a Parliament in the year 1639:

    And Whereas as early as 18th February, 1651 those inhabitants, in their determination to safeguard the freedom, safety and well-being of the Island, declared, through their Governor, Lords of the Council and members of the Assembly, their independence of the Commonwealth of England:”

    And now to look at some extracts from a law passed in the free institution of the Parliament in Broad Street by those our constitution refers to as safeguarders of “freedom, safety and well-being”:

    “WHEREAS the Plantations and Estates of this Island cannot be fully managed, and brought into Use, without the Labour and Service of great Numbers of Negroes and other Slaves : And forasmuch as the said Negroes and other Slaves brought unto the People of this Island for that purpose, are of Barbarous, Wild, and Savage Natures, and such as renders them wholly unqualified to be governed by the Laws, Customs, and Practices of our Nations: It therefore becoming absolutely necessary, that such other Constitutions, Laws, and Orders should be in this island framed and enacted for the good Regulating and Ordering of them, as may both restrain the Disorders,
    Rapines, and Inhumanities to which they are naturally prone and inclined”

    “That no Master, Mistress, Commissioner, or Overseer of any Family in this Island, shall give their Negroes or other Slaves leave on Sabbath-days, Holy-days, or any
    other time, to go out of their Plantations, except such Negro or other Slave as usually wait upon them at Home or Abroad, and wearing a Livery ; and
    no other Negro or Slave, except with a Ticket under the Master or Mistress’s Hand, or some other Person by his or her Appointment, specifying the time
    allowed for his or her Return ……. And if any Master, Mistress, Commissioner, or Overseer of a Plantation, shall find any Negro or other Slave in their Plantation at any time without a Ticket, or Business from his said Master, and doth not apprehend them, or endeavour so to do; and having apprehended them, shall not punish
    them with a moderate Whipping, shall forfeit Ten Shillings Sterling, to be disposed of as aforefaid”

    “A N D be it further Enacted and Ordained, That if any Negro or Slave whatsoever shall offer any Violence to any Christian, by Striking, or the like, such
    Negro or other Slave shall, for his or her first Offence, by Information given upon Oath to the next Justice, be severely whipped by the Constable by Order of
    the said Justice; For his second Offence of that nature, by Order of the Justice of Peace, he shall be severely whipped, his Nose slit, and be burned in some
    part of his Face with a hot Iron; And for his third Offence he shall receive, by Order of the Governor and Council, such greater Punishment as they shall
    think meet to inflict”.

    Extracts from “An Act for the Governing of Negroes” passed in the slavemasters’ parliament in Broad Street on the 8th of August, 1688.

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  • Georgie Porgie

    RE
    watched how this site deteriorated from a site with many,many contributors of all shapes,size and political persuasion to

    THERE IS MUCH TRUTH IN THIS STATEMENT
    I HAVE OBSERVED THE SAME
    REMINDS ME OF VALUEMD

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  • For a long,long time I watched how this site deteriorated from a site with many,many contributors of all shapes,size and political persuasion to a site where all the die-hard blp followers flooded the site and insulted the few dlp supporters who were repetitive and sometimes a turn off.(Quote)

    Well said.

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  • pieceuhderockyeahright

    Can you see the wind…?

    How many of you go out to spend a few hours in public spaces?

    Places where people congregate and more importantly interact in gregarious speech?

    What places qualify as such?

    Church? Certainly not. For such a venue while gregarious in theory is bound by what is discussed.

    Work? Again a “no” cause it is against the very nature of work that the dialogue which is critical to and supportive of what you gents are observing, cannot be encouraged.

    So in one breath, much like the chant of bajan employers, you bemoan the paucity of dialogue, they, the calibre of critical thought in the pool of potential employees , and you, you speak to the corraled discourse here on BU.

    But then it begs the question “from whence do you expect this dwindling? Characteristic of elastic thought and analysis to self combust from?

    Certainly it is not being continuously enabled in our various climes

    Be it in veritable rum shops all that is talked of is how much rum I can drink and how much pussy I have had.

    At church we talk about the Wondrous Nature of our God whatever his Name

    At school, from kindergarten to high
    School or secondary school gents what do we teach?

    The tell de ole man what diet of ideas do we supplement these pliable minds with?

    Violence, perversions, aberrant behaviours and dysfunctional programming a la Grand Theft Auto indoctrination styles

    De ole man humbly suggests to wunna proud societal abdicators that complaining about “…deteriorated from a site with many, many contributors of all shapes,size and political persuasion to a site where…” is simply wunna self absolution and de facto contribution to the problem that faces us as we descend further into the dross

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  • pieceuhderockyeahright

    @ The Honourable Blogmaster you are being naughty now….lolol

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  • T or should that Be D Inniss,no one is trying to shut down anyone but most are sick of Mariposa and yourself on here bellyaching everyday trying to create a problem with every move ms Mottley makes.For chrit sakes the new Government is four days old,give the lady some space.Funny enough I never heard of you during the Dems 10 painful years but all of a sudden you arise and finding fault every day is this a coincidence.The Dems messed up big time and they were voted outlet the new Government roll out their plans capice.

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  • Georgie Porgie

    LORENZA

    CANT YOU SEE?
    THIS INNIS PERSON IS A DEMOCRAT………HE WORKING LIKE THE US DEMOCRATS
    RESISTANCE IS HIS PLAN
    OBSTRUCTION IS HIS STAND
    HE HAS JOINED AC TO FORM A BAND
    BUT HIS PLOY WILL CONTINUE TO FAIL THROUGHOUT THE LAND

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  • Theophilius Gazerts 250

    Great post Tee White

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  • Theophilius Gazerts 250

    Mariposa
    Did Mia fix the sewage problem.
    Wha wrong wid she?
    Two working days on the job and we still have problems..

    Girl. cut out your foolishness. Let the woman get familiar with the myriad of problems the island faces.
    You were making excuses for the bunch of jokers, now you want instant action

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  • @T.Inniss May 29, 2018 2:35 PM “For a long,long time I watched how this site deteriorated from a site with many,many contributors of all shapes,size and political persuasion to a site where all the die-hard blp followers flooded the site and insulted the few dlp supporters who were repetitive and sometimes a turn off.”

    So exactly TInniss what is it that stops DLP contributors from sitting at their keyboards in the safety of their homes from making their contribution here.

    And I remember very well that some DLP contributors here, especially the one named “Fractured BLP” specialised inn insulting anyone he/she perceived as BLP, even those of us who never been a member of any political party, and who have in truth voted both BLP and DLP all the days of our lives. I warned against such bad behaviour. But did anybody listen?

    Simple Simon, as always

    Neither “B” nor “D”

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  • I always vote, and I always vote “C”

    Conscience

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  • @Tron May 28, 2018 7:32 AM “The Barbadians in Britain will be happy to finance that glorious idea as taxpayers and work from 7 AM to 5 PM .”

    What? What are you telling me? That Bajans in Britain only work 10 hours per day? Most Bajans that I know routinely work 12 to 14 hours per day.

    You and the Bajans in Britain need to get on board.

    Need to hit the ground running.

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  • “So exactly TInniss what is it that stops DLP contributors from sitting at their keyboards in the safety of their homes from making their contribution here.”

    When people have an agenda to change the narrative on the blog, those are the types of excuses they come up with, like if someone is stopping others from typing and hitting… post comment…

    it has been about a month now I stopped reading most comments, I just type what I believe to be relevant to the subject matter at hand and hit post, who wants to moan and complain because that is what they live for…tough.

    Apparently there is currently a lot at stake so the narrative have to change to suit those who think they are dealing with damn idiots.

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