Will the Real Opposition Leader Please Stand Up?


Submitted by Grenville Phillips II, Leader of Solutions Barbados

After the BLP won all seats in Parliament, we were told that our Constitution is flawed. It is not that our Constitution did not anticipate all members of parliament sitting on the Government side with no Opposition. Rather, our Constitution does not allow it. Constitutionally, there must always be an Opposition in our Parliament.

To increase the protection of the public’s interests, our Constitution (section 74.1) makes it mandatory for the Governor General to appoint a Leader of the Opposition. If an opposition leader is not appointed, then the voters get to decide with another general election.

To avoid holding another general election, Mr Atherley decided to be the Opposition Leader. However, there are mandatory constitutional requirements that Mr Atherley must meet in order to qualify for that post.

Our Constitution (section 74.2) gives the Governor General strict instructions for appointing the Opposition Leader. There are only two options available to her. The first option is to appoint the person who “is best able to command the support of a majority of those members who do not support the Government”.

When the Governor General appointed Mr Atherley, he was a formal member of the BLP, who had sworn, on his sacred honour, that he would support the BLP’s policies. Moments after he was appointed, Mr Atherley confirmed that he did not oppose the BLP’s policies, but intended to ensure that the Government carried them out.

By his own admission, Mr Atherley disqualified himself from being appointed under the first option, which specifies that the post is for the leader of those “who do not support the Government”. However, even if he did not swear fealty to the BLP, Mr Atherley would still be disqualified under the first option. This is because the Constitution requires him to have “support” of other opposition parliamentarians, which he did not have.

The second option is to appoint the person who “commands the support of the largest single group of such members who are prepared to support one leader”.

Mr Atherley explained that he was only becoming Leader of the Opposition to satisfy the constitutional requirement that there be an Opposition Leader, and for no other reason. With the Bible on which he swore nearby, and with his family beside him, he promised the public of Barbados that he would not form a political party.

Mr Atherley was one individual, and not a leader of a group of parliamentarians. Therefore, this automatically disqualified him from the post under the second option, since a group is comprised of a minimum of two persons.

To force Mr Atherley’s appointment, some argued that since the Interpretation Act supports singular and plural being used interchangeably, his appointment was in order. Let us examine this assertion. The Interpretation Act (section 36.2) states: “words in the singular shall include the plural; and words in the plural shall include the singular.”

In the first option, Mr Atherley needed the support of other “members”. The Interpretation Act can only reduce this requirement to one other “member”, which Mr Atherley clearly did not have. In the second option, Mr Atherley needed the support of a “group”, which is already singular (the plural being “groups”). So the Interpretation Act cannot justify his appointment.

Since Mr Atherley is disqualified by both available constitutional options, then on what basis did the Governor General appoint him? We are told not to ask such questions. Instead, we are supposed to shut up, accept the farce, and believe the absurd idea that only in Barbados, the singular of “group” is “individual”.

If our Constitution can be broken (not bent) so easily, without any recourse, then our Constitution offers us no protection whatsoever. This establishes an extremely dangerous precedent, that is foreseen to be also abused by any other political administration. The members of the Barbados Bar Association, who believe this to be a farce, are doing our country a grave disservice with their silence.

Instead of trying to solve a non-existent constitutional crisis, the Governor General should have informed Mr Atherley that he did not qualify. To avoid another general election, Mr Atherley could have resigned from the BLP, and encouraged one other Member of Parliament to join him (the PM would likely have allowed it). Only then could he qualify for the post of Opposition Leader. Our Constitution simply does not allow him to qualify by himself, and the Governor General should have known that.

Since we cannot have a Parliament without an Opposition Leader, and since Mr Atherley’s appointment appears to seriously violate our Constitution, is Parliament, as currently constituted, rogue? If so, then we may now have a constitutional crisis.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

118 thoughts on “Will the Real Opposition Leader Please Stand Up?

  1. What Caswell stated in Parliament yesterday is true
    His voice spoke for the thousands of barbadians now catching hell under a govt that promised better and was given a 30-0 mandate to look out for them but instead look out for those who made it possible for them to win the election
    His mention of tax waivers and benefits which he said was for friends and business partners and associates was meant to be a shameful moment for govt
    He also made a bold comment pointing directly towards a minister of govt stating that this minister made a blatant comment with words to effect when asked if said minister could have been assistance to an individual
    The minister reply was in such orderly manner “did that individual vote for me?”
    Caswell did make some stinging remarks towards govt in an effort on behalf of the people
    However in my mind it is too little too late and as a member of opposition and having an opportunity to sway govt into newer and putting forth measures which are beneficial to the people has now become an exercise in futility
    As the old saying goes the horse has already bolted

  2. Not ready to give Caswell any brownie points for his remarks
    He stated in parliament that he used to be a blp supporter until after May 24th which means he is no longer
    This might have made a difference to Caswell being now in opposition
    However before May 24th he knew of all the many wrongs and indifferences of this govt and ministers who have been openly accused of illicit behaviour and said nothing if there is one word which can be aptly applied to such a person of seeing or hearing of wrong and do nothing
    Such word is hypocrite

  3. Amm David i was not the one attacking govt it was Caswell
    In any case if u reference those comments towards me
    The same can apply to u with doubt since i have seen how u would go to any depth to attack those who oppose govt measures
    Next time before u open yuh mout to throw level low insults on others think about yuhself first

  4. “Small minds attack people, bigger minds try at ideas.”

    David BU

    What I find interesting and hilarious at the same time about this particular Mariposa’s comments, is that, replacing a word “here and there,” they are similarly applicable to the DLP during their tenure at the helm of government. Let me give you an example.

    “However before May 24th (Mariposa) knew of all the many wrongs and indifferences of (the) govt and ministers who have been openly accused of illicit behavior (e.g. Michael Lashley, Denis Lowe, Denis Kellman and David Estwick) and said nothing if there is one word which can be aptly applied to such a person of seeing or hearing of wrong and do nothing.
    Such word is hypocrite.”

    As it relates to her November 14, 2019 7:06 AM post, I’m sure anyone reading her contributions after January 15, 2008 and up to May 23, 2018…….. “without doubt (they have) seen how (she) would go to any depth to attack those who opposed (the former) govt’s measures.”

    Mr. Skinner always reminds us that the “duopoly rules.”

    The “Kool-Aid dispenser” has been relocated to Roebuck Street to George Street…… and the roles of the political yard-fowls have reversed in the process.

  5. “A Decade of Achievement” but for whom and on the behalf of whom? The old age pensioners are now paying the psvs and enduring loud, lewd music. The school children are paying the psvs to travel like sardines in a pan and are enjoying the loud, lewd music. Householders are holding their noses and reallocating part of their food budget to rat bait. And more tourists came and spent less.

    I swear these people think that Bajans are like the Trump supporters who would swear that the bus did come even though they are still waiting at the bus stop.

    Fellows, don’t you understand the meaning of 30:0?????

    Don’t you understand what it means when people like me who had voted Dem for thirty-five years voted for a candidate whose face she has never seen?????

    Your political careers are dead and buried! Do we have to get a priest to read you down??????!!!!!

  6. Fellows, don’t you understand the meaning of 30:0?????


    Read Pedro Welch and you will see they understand it perfectly from the day the election results were published!!

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