It is also about the right to dissent in a civilized manner. Genuine political opposition is a necessary attribute of democracy, tolerance, and trust in the ability of citizens to resolve differences by peaceful means. The existence of an opposition, without which politics ceases and administration takes over, is indispensable to the functioning of parliamentary political systems. If these systems are perceived as not working well – as being “seriously overloaded,” to quote a distinguished Canadian Opposition Leader, the Hon. Robert Stanfield – it may be the rights of political oppositions which are immediately and most visibly at stake, but ultimately the threat is to democratic rights and freedoms generally. The following paper is an attempt to come to grips with the challenging nature of the opposition’s role in Parliament, specifically in the Canadian context – THE OPPOSITION IN A PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
Senator Caswell Franklyn has been scathing in his criticism of a few decisions made by the newly installed Mia Mottley government. He has expressed in the usual caustic manner his disagreement with the appointments of David Comissiong and Charles Jong as Ambassador of CARICOM and Director of Communications respectively. Caswell’s issue with the appointments is why should taxpayers have to fund the two positions. And isn’t the Government Information Service (GIS) equipped to deliver the same support.
Another story caught the eye of the blogmaster this week – a widely promoted DLP lunchtime lecture by former minister Donville Inniss was abruptly cancelled by Freundel Stuart. Although the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was rejected at the polls on the 24 May 2018, the executive of the party with Freudel Stuart as leader remains firmly in position until August when the AGM is scheduled to elect officers of the party.
The two news events reminded the blogmaster to confirm the role of an Opposition in the parliamentary democracy we strive to practice in Barbados. The following summarizes the importance of an Opposition which is to “check and prod, but ultimately to replace the government party“.
In the early life of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) government many social commentators will be inclined to be less strident during the traditional “honeymoon period”. That said, it should not include the Leader of the Opposition Bishop Joseph Atherley whom the Constitution of Barbados supports in the role. In the first six weeks of the Mottley government we have had several ‘questionable’ decisions taken that merit fuller explanation. It does not mean the decisions are illegal, it has more to do with the citizenry being eternally vigilant which is the price to be paid to keep a fragile democracy alive.
A few questions have been asked about the process that led to the appointment of Atherley by the Governor General Sandra Mason. Many suspect the 30-0 result at the last poll created a lacuna and the result has given rise to a contrived opposition presence in the House of Assembly. To date Senator Caswell Franklyn in the Upper House has been more vocal in the role as ‘opposition’ compared to the Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House. It is early days but some say first impressions count!
What does all of this have to do with the cancellation of Donville Inniss’ lunch time lecture?
The DLP received the most votes in the last general election from the also-rans. In the minds of many Barbadians it is the de facto opposition voice. In the first past the post system 33, 985 votes were cast for the DLP which created a 30-0 result that will forever haunt the party. What has piqued the interest of the blogmaster is the lack of urgency by the DLP party to embrace the role of opposition from outside the House of Assembly. A feeble attempt was made by Inniss, Estwick, De Peiza and Lashley to offer critique of the BLP’s mini budget. We understand the party needs to organize itself by having the obligatory retreats and election of officers but is there an opportunity being missed by the party to re-establish itself quickly? The nothingness coming from the party post 2018 General Election is not unlike the period when late David Thompson fell sick in the role as prime minister and Stuart again was guilty of doing nothing.
How long will the DLP continue be Missing In Action? Will another rise up to fill the vacuum?