A Matter of Interpretation

Today’s Barbados Advocate editorial should be of interest to the BU family – David, blogmaster

For me, as a public legal scholar, one of the more gratifying aspects of the current politico-constitutional enigma owed to the unprecedented outcome of last month’s general election and its consequences, has been the eagerness of citizens generally to seek knowledge on and to discuss what is the appropriate constitutional resolution of these issues. Indeed, some have not been timid to offer their own views publicly on these matters.

In this connection, a number of individuals have recently drawn my attention to an article by my now retired academic colleague, the erstwhile Deputy Principal and Professor Emeritus of History, Pedro Welch, in another section of the press.

Under the caption, “Unconstitutional appointment”, Pedro argues that the appointment of His Grace, the Bishop Joseph Atherley MP, as Leader of the Opposition was not permitted by a close reading of the Constitution and may be unconstitutional. Pedro uses an argument based purely on English grammar to suggest that the relevant section in the Constitution, section 74, contemplates an Opposition with what he terms a “plurality of association”. He states,

The implication seems clear. The Constitution assumes that a plurality of association is required for an aspirant to the office of Leader of the Opposition to be recognized as having the support that qualifies him/her to be so appointed. Under this assumption, it seems clear that a single person cannot, by definition, be considered to have majority support or group support in the absence of a plurality of such support. In short, a single person cannot constitute a majority in the absence of like-minded others…We may also note that most dictionaries define a majority as the greatest number or part, thus requiring a plurality.”

I commend Pedro for adding the discipline of his scholarship to the public debate and accept the force of his reasoning so far as the English language is concerned. He broached the issue with me on Monday last week and I am pleased to see that he has written on it.

However, against his argument, there are certain conventions in drafting that are to be considered in the construction of a legal provision, One of these, well known to most laypersons, is that “the masculine reference includes the feminine”. As a consequence, it would scarcely be argued that the appointment of the current Governor General, or even that of the current Prime Minister would be unconstitutional simply because the constitutional text, in reference to these offices stipulates, “he”, “him” or “his”.

As it pertains to the Governor General, section 74 (2), for instance, provides-

Whenever the Governor-General has occasion to appoint a Leader of the Opposition he shall appoint the member of the House of Assembly who, in his judgment, is best able to command the support of a majority of those members who do not support the Government, or if there is no such person, the member of that House who, in his judgment, commands the support of the largest single group of such members who are prepared to support one leader.. {Emphasis added]

And for the Prime Minister, section 70 mandates-

The Prime Minister shall, so far as is practicable, attend and preside at all meetings of the Cabinet and in his absence such other Minister shall preside as the Prime Minister shall appoint.

Despite ordinary English usage, it would not be seriously contended by anyone that, by virtue of the words of these sections, the Constitution assumes that the holders of these offices would be men only.

Another convention of statutory interpretation, though one much less well known, is that words in plural form or number include those in the singular and vice versa. Indeed, section 4 of the Interpretation Act, Cap 1 of the Laws of Barbados, captures both of these conventions neatly-

In this Act and in all Acts, regulations and other instruments of a public character relating to the Island now in force or hereafter to be made, unless there is something in the subject or context inconsistent with such construction,

or unless it is therein otherwise expressly provided-

( a ) words importing the masculine gender include females; and

(b) words in the singular include the plural, and words in the plural include the singular. [My emphasis]

Thus, the relevant section, s. 74(2), already cited above, would cover the circumstance where there are more members than one who do not support the government (members) as well as that where there is a single member that does not support the government. In that latter case, the notion of a majority would be otiose and therefore meaningless.

This piece is being prepared on the day that Bishop Atherley is scheduled to present his parliamentary response to the Prime Minister’s mini-budget. The nature and content of his response today will serve to establish, in the public mind, the genuineness of his opposition to the governing administration, but once Her Excellency. the Governor General, was so persuaded in her judgment, she had little option in the circumstances other than to appoint him to the position.

95 comments

  • THE CONSTITUTION OF BARBADOS
    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 Whereas the rights and privileges of the said inhabitants were confirmed by articles of agreement, commonly known as the Charter of Barbados, had, made and concluded on 11th January, 1652 by and between the Commissioners of the Right Honourable the Lord Willoughby of Parham, Governor, of the one part, and the Commissioners on behalf of the Commonwealth of England, of the other part, in order to the rendition to the Commonwealth of England of the said Island of Barbados:

    And Whereas with the broadening down of freedom the people of Barbados have ever since then not only successfully resisted any attempt to impugn or diminish those rights and privileges so confirmed, but have consistently enlarged and extended them:

    ++++++++++++++++++

    What about all them whereasis!!

    You all really read this constitution?

    http://www.oas.org/dil/the_constitution_of_barbados.pdf

    Like

  • If Froon and his lot is such demons, who put the new GG there?

    Froon mek a mistake here too?

    Like

  • @ john
    RE Why do I have to go through this basic stuff ad nauseum!!!
    Why? why do you have to go on with this stuff ad nauseum, ad infinitumque.

    You sound like the devil’s son who has come here for years asking stupid questions about the Doctrine of the Trinity, which has ben established since the 3rd century by the “Early Church Fathers.” it is true that you have only been this for weeks whereas he has done it for years.

    Like

  • Well Well & Cut N' Paste At Your Service

    Ah wonder how all the still mentally enslaved, fake high morals, fake christians in Barbados will handle all of this news….lol…

    …the centuries old gayness in the buckibgham palace bloodline is now public…no more pretense, what will the hypocrites on the island say and do now.

    “”The first ever gay Royal wedding has been announced
    JOSH JACKMAN
    16 JUN 2018

    The first member of the Royal Family to come out as gay is set to marry.

    Lord Ivar Mountbatten opened up about his sexuality in 2016 after a decades-long struggle.

    Later this summer, the Royal – who is cousin to the Queen and the great-nephew of Earl Mountbatten of Burma – will wed his long-term partner James Coyle, who was by his side when he revealed he was gay.

    The news comes just weeks after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot at Windsor Castle, with the couple making their support for LGBT rights clear in the build-up to the wedding by meeting with young LGBT activists from across the Commonwealth.”

    Like

  • Now, therefore, the people of Barbados

    (a) proclaim that they are a sovereign nation founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity of the human person, their unshakeable faith in fundamental human rights and freedoms and the position of the family in a society of free men and free institutions;
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    So Jeff,

    Would the following be a fair legal assessment of the words above contained in the Constitution?

    If one were a Barbadian adult alive on November 30 1966 one acknowledged the supremacy of God as the overarching principle of the constitution of Barbados as of midnight 1st December, 1966 when Dipper raised the flag on one’s behalf!!.

    If one was too young to do so for oneself it was done for one on one’s behalf by those legally responsible for one.

    If one was as yet unborn or one became a citizen of Barbados by whatever means, one automatically legally acknowledged the supremacy of God as the overarching principle of one’s existence as a citizen of Barbados.

    As Bajans, one and all, we all legally acknowledge the supremacy of God and have legally proclaimed His name.

    If someone claiming to be a Bajan, wanted to legally renounce the supremacy of God, would that someone have to legally renounce our citizenship of Barbados?

    … or would that someone have to seek to get the constitution changed so that God’s name could be removed?

    Like

  • Well Well & Cut N' Paste At Your Service

    Piece……murder she wrote. ..lol

    Ah don’t think the permanently slave minded would ever give up a fantasy god handed to them…..neither did those born in the Caribbean before 1962 or 1966 independence” in the Caribbean….relinquish their born british citizenship….due to the fact that most never knew about it, or that they had it to begin with………………………………. their blighted, deceitful black governments never told them, obviously hid it thinking they were being cute, creating more yardfowls only good for voting them into parliament…, and in doing so, stupidly stagnated the island’s progress and development for 52 years….wasted decades..

    Glad the duopoly is dead and now we will make sure it stays buried.

    Like

  • If you count yourself a Barbadian Citizen, you are legally bound by the Constitution to acknowledge the Supremacy of God.

    Is this a fair statement?

    Like

  • “@ Mr Skeete, Mr Payne;s question is identical to that that the GG should have asked pdf Bishop Atherley. If she was satisfied with his answer to her, then once she had no reason to disbelieve its truth, she would have been constitutionally entitled to go ahead and appoint him.”

    Are we saying then that given Mr Payne’s direct question to Mr Atherly which remains unanswered that Bishop Atherly might have misled the Governor General into believing that he was no longer a member of the group referred to as the Barbados Labour Party the majority of whose members sit in Parliament and constitute the Government of Barbados.

    Like

  • We are making a mountain out of a mole hill. Bishop Atherley was elected as a member of the BLP; he has since become an opposition member. The answer is simple: do BLP rules allow him to remain a member of the party? Should he not have been expelled, if not should he not remain officially a member of the BLP?

    Like

  • Why does it matter if he resigns or not?

    Liked by 1 person

  • Jeff Cumberbatch

    If someone claiming to be a Bajan, wanted to legally renounce the supremacy of God, would that someone have to legally renounce our citizenship of Barbados?
    … or would that someone have to seek to get the constitution changed so that God’s name could be removed?

    @ John, the words of a Canadian judge on that matter…

    “The preamble to the Charter provides an important element in definingCanada, but recognition of the supremacy of God, emplaced in the supreme law of Canada, goes no further than this: it prevents theCanadian state from becoming officially atheistic. It does not makeCanada a theocracy…” per Muldoon J (Federal Court of Canada)

    Like

  • Jeff Cumberbatch

    *Are we saying then that given Mr Payne’s direct question to Mr Atherly which remains unanswered that Bishop Atherly might have misled the Governor General into believing that he was no longer a member of the group referred to as the Barbados Labour Party the majority of whose members sit in Parliament and constitute the Government of Barbados.”

    @Mr Skeete, He does not have to be not a member of the BLP to be in opposition to it as government: merely that he does not support the government in the House. In addition, how the GG arrives at her judgment cannot be inquired into in any court…

    Like

  • their unshakeable faith in fundamental human rights and freedoms

    +++++++++++++++++

    Jeff

    The answer is simpler.

    God give us free will to choose whether to acknowledge His supremacy … or not.

    In exercising that freedom of choice one is actually acknowledging His supremacy!!!

    https://allthingsliberty.com/2016/02/why-god-is-in-the-declaration-but-not-the-constitution/

    The Declaration states that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Like

  • de pedantic Dribbler

    Dean Jeff, you give us the legal moorings to stabilize floundering debate. Again thanks.

    But I wonder as a layman is there some juncture where legal reason starts and commonsense ends?

    Is it not a mater of commonsense (almost like that comment re a breach of school rules you noted recently) that a person in opposition need NOT be a non-member of the group it opposes!

    Surely political firestorms all around the world give evidence of that.

    This is not an ideal example but didn’t Foreign Minister Eden oppose most vehemently his PM Chamberlain re war issues while still a party member although he resigned…that’s a bit specific I know but others have crossed the floor to show a policy and emotive break with their party while at heart they remain quite grounded in the true beliefs that led them to the party in the first place.

    Despite the warm weather and scant need for knitted long garbs, the debaters on the other side continue unsuccessfully to seek any type of strands to stitch together an argument against the incontrovertibly facts of which you have repeatedly reinforced:

    “Where the Governor-General is directed to exercise any function after consultation with any person or authority he
    shall not be obliged to exercise that function in accordance with the advice of that person or authority.”

    AND ” Where the Governor-General is directed to exercise any function in accordance with the recommendation or advice of, or with the concurrence of, or after consultation with, any person or authority, the question whether he has so exercised that function shall not be enquired into in any court.”

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  • Jeff Cumberbatch

    This is not an ideal example but didn’t Foreign Minister Eden oppose most vehemently his PM Chamberlain re war issues while still a party member although he resigned…that’s a bit specific I know but others have crossed the floor to show a policy and emotive break with their party while at heart they remain quite grounded in the true beliefs that led them to the party in the first place.

    @DPD, There is a Westminster convention pertaining to this. If a cabinet member disagrees with official policy he or she must resign. Bishop Atherley was not so honoured.And therein might lie the rub!

    Like

  • millertheanunnaki

    @ John June 18, 2018 11:50 AM

    “Jeff
    The answer is simpler.
    God give us free will to choose whether to acknowledge His supremacy … or not.
    In exercising that freedom of choice one is actually acknowledging His supremacy!!!”

    Should we take also the ‘liberty’ of interpreting “His supremacy” as ‘Her’ Supremacy in the same way we are expected to substitute ‘Her’ for “Him” and vice versa in arriving at a ‘supreme’ understanding of the Bajan Constitution?

    Can your reference to your ‘God’ as in “His supremacy” be equally applied as ‘Her supremacy’ when you continue to question the judgment of Her Excellency the GG of Barbado(es) the Loyal representative of Her Majesty the Queen?

    So what should it be, Sir John? ‘His’ or ‘Her’ God-appointed representative in Barbados as clearly stated in your King James Version of the Word of your Anglican God patented under Queen Vic or Queen Lizzy or even the incoming King Charles?

    Like

  • MTA

    Free will!!

    You don’t have to ask me for permission, make the choice for yourself!!

    God gave that ability to you.

    That’s how it works, you get to choose what you want to believe.

    You don’t have to read the scriptures if you don’t want to do so.

    Incidentally, I know the Bible does not come with an “Interpretation Act” relating to the masculine and feminine genders … or the singular and plural!!

    And that’s a fact, I have no choice in that matter.

    I kid you not!!

    Like

  • millertheanunnaki

    @ John June 18, 2018 5:54 PM

    “MTA
    Free will!!
    You don’t have to ask me for permission, make the choice for yourself!!
    God gave that ability to you.”

    Pastor John, how can there be “free will” when “the wages of sin is death”?
    Who wants to die in order to go to heaven for milk and honey?

    How can imperfectly (and deliberately so) ‘created’ beings have “Free Will” when he and she were designed’ in the first place (according to the myth) to be fruitful and multiply?

    Have you ever considered what would have become of ‘mankind’ if Adam had resisted the temptation of eating that sweet juicy fruit placed in the middle of Eve’s hairy garden?
    But it makes for a rollicking good yarn to put a naughty child to bed, we must say!

    Would your Quaker family have ever existed to keep and train slaves to become good obedient Christians in Barbados?

    Did the black slaves kept by your Quaker ancestors have the Free Will to leave the plantation of Content Cot or Less Beholden?

    Look Sir John, why not revamp the Constitution to reflect the universal principles and true intent of Rousseau (Jean Jacques) and leave out the God(s) business?

    Barbados has a growing number of minorities who do not subscribe to your god called Yahweh. You are going to either remove the god clauses or state the supremacy of which god or deities you may wish to believe in.

    So that Mr. Lalu Vashwani can ‘genuinely’ take his oath of office swearing to either Brahma, Vishnu orShiva.

    Maybe your God (like Bushie’s BBE) was an alien and wanted to turn two sun worshipping monkey into a foolish man and a sexy woman.

    Is that why you Christians so much worship the dog (your god spelt backwards) star Sirius?

    “Let us make man in our image after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all of earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

    “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

    Like

  • how can there be “free will” when “the wages of sin is death”

    ++++++++++++++++++++++

    That’s the point, if you want to work for wages which lead to death rather than enjoy the free gift of God’s Grace which leads to eternal life, you are free to make that choice.

    But the free gift is there for everyone for the asking.

    Like

  • Well Mr Cumberbatch
    I am not trying to be mischievous but thanks for informing me that Mr Atherly’s appointment is in accordance with the Constitution and that in the context of the appointment, the Goverror General’s judgment is the Governor General’s judgment

    Liked by 1 person

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