The Caswell Franklyn Column – The Makings of a Mottley Dictatorship
It would be remiss of me if I did not congratulate Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, and the Barbados Labour Party on their emphatic victory at the polls on May 24th. I would also like to commiserate with the vanquished Democratic Labour Party (DLP), the other parties and independent candidates who failed to make any appreciable showing. The people wanted to rid the country of the former administration and have spoken in a loud clear voice. But as they say, “Vox populi, vox dei” – the voice of the people is the voice of God.
That said however, I am forced to point out to the Miss Mottley that one of her first proposals as Prime Minister reeks of contempt for the wishes of the electorate to my mind. It would seem that she has not heard that loud clear voice of the people/God. And in an effort to appear magnanimous, she announced her intention to amend the Constitution to allow for the participation of the DLP in the Senate. She has advanced some specious reasoning about them getting the second highest vote to justify tampering with the Constitution. So far, this country does not rely on a proportional representation system to constitute the Senate. If that is her intention, let her put it before the people in a systematic way rather than in the knee jerk way that she is going about the matter.
The people of this country have given Miss Mottley an unprecedented mandate to govern which she is apparently questioning. The electorate appears to be saying, we trust you to do the right thing but by her proposed action, she is seemingly saying that she is incapable of managing her parliamentary group and would be happier with oversight from the DLP.
I am therefore forced to ask, why the DLP and why not Solutions Barbados, the United Progressive Party or the Barbados Integrity Movement? Why this indecent haste to resurrect the DLP? Is she afraid of the new talent that is located outside of the two musical chairs political parties that have swapped places with each other since 1961?
Literally while writing this column, I learned of another proposal to amend the Constitution this time to qualify two of the Prime Minister’s picks for appointment as senators. How is this different from the last administration amending the Supreme Court of Judicature Act to secure the appointment of their preferred candidate as Chief Justice? Mind you, the BLP while in Opposition castigated the Stuart Administration for changing the law to accommodate their man.
These two impromptu proposals to amend the Constitution, just because you can, should give the people of this country cause for concern about electing a potential dictatorship. With an opposition of one and no backbench to speak of, I am fearful that if the dear leader does not like something, however desirable, she has the unrestrained power to do as she pleases.
Under our present system of governance a cabinet minister would first have to resign if he/she opposes government policy on the floor of House of Assembly. On the other hand, backbenchers are free to oppose government policy. By appointing almost all of her colleagues to the front bench, the Prime Minister has effectively silenced any dissent from within.
After appointing almost all of the elected members of parliament to the Cabinet, Miss Mottley still saw it fit to appoint three persons from the Senate as ministers. In making that announcement, she claimed that the Constitution requires that three members of the Cabinet should come from the Senate. That left me to wonder if this would be one of her spontaneous amendments to the Constitution, since I know of no such requirement. As far as I am aware, section 64.(1) of the Constitution which provides for the Cabinet. states:
There shall be a Cabinet for Barbados which shall consist of the Prime Minister and not less than five other Ministers appointed in accordance with the provisions of section 65.
Section 65.(1) provides for the appointment of the Prime Minister and subsection (2) goes on to say:
The other Ministers shall be appointed by the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, from among the members of the two Houses.
The way things are shaping up, it looks like we have the makings of a Mottley Dictatorship but only time will tell.