End the Joseph Atherley Farce Already


Submitted by Grenville Phillips II

Two years ago, we all witnessed our Constitution being violated to install a Leader of the Opposition. When Mr Atherley crossed the floor of parliament, he became an independent member. But he wanted to become the Leader of the Opposition.

You do not become Leader of the Opposition by simply wishing to be one. There are mandatory constitutional requirements that Mr Atherley had to meet, to qualify for that post. These qualifications are explicitly stated in the Barbados Constitution, Section 74.2, copied below.

Section 74.2: “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,

1) 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,

2) 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”.

In both of these scenarios (referenced for clarity as 1 and 2), the Leader of the Opposition must have “the support” of at least one other parliamentarian to qualify for the post. Mr Atherley never had that mandatory “support”, and he still does not have it.

It is plainly obvious to any casual observer, that there is currently no person in the Parliament of Barbados, who can qualify for the post of Opposition Leader. Not a one. Yet, we have had to watch this farce play out for the past two years.

The Leader of the Opposition has a constitutional role of advising the Governor-General. If no person is constitutionally qualified to be Leader of the Opposition, then Section 75 of our Constitution allows the Governor-General to use her discretion, and advise herself.

So, what does the Constitution of Barbados allow in the current circumstance? Section 74.4 allows the Governor-General to revoke the appointment of the Leader of the Opposition if, in her judgement, he does not command this mandatory “support” of another parliamentarian – which he clearly does not.

If the Parliament of Barbados has not been properly constituted, then are any of the laws passed, or appointments made during the past two years valid? Can any of the new Ministers constitutionally claim that any part of the past two years Barbados can contribute to their pension?

Why would 29 parliamentarians, with everything to lose, spend two years ignoring these valid concerns? Why would they actively enable an unconstitutional parliament, knowing full-well that Mr Atherley does not have the constitutionally required support of any of them? What were they thinking by unnecessarily dragging this out for so long?

The new Ministers, who have not qualified for a pension, need to understand that this is not an academic exercise – for them. There will be a reckoning. There will come a time when they are no longer in government.

An Attorney General, from a rival political party, may decide not to ignore this critical constitutional concern. They may find that their enabling role in this farce, has disqualified them from any benefits they thought that they had accumulated during the past two years.

To address the common excuse that the Interpretation Act allows it, Section 36.2 of the Interpretation Act states:  “In an enactment – (a) words in the singular shall include the plural; and (b) words in the plural shall include the singular.”  Therefore, the support can be reduced from members to only one member, but “support” is still required.

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

20 thoughts on “End the Joseph Atherley Farce Already

  1. Well this is the most insightful artical we have read by you. And for once we agree if your legal referencing and argumentation is as sound as it seems to be.

    More fundamentally, we have contended for decades that nothing about our system of government is democratic. That in fact we have always had an elected dictatorship.

    It is good to see that you may yet come to know the truth about our existence.


  2. ANARCHY slowly creeping in under the DICTATORSHIP umbrella. Just another step Barbados is/Has taken to its FAILED STATE STATUS.

    Is it time for a NEW BUSSA REVOLUTION.

  3. The farce is that a country populated by 95% African descendants is basing itseld on a constitution formulated from the ideas of 17th century English merchants, most likely drafted by bureaucrats in Britain’s colonial office and introduced with a racist preamble.

  4. This column is truly farcical. I often try to excuse Mr Phillips as a well-intentioned idealist in an unfortunately real world. But today’s article requires condemnation.

    Phillips’ interpretation of s. 74 is utterly erroneous. He has made the bold claim and must justify on what legal ground does he stake his claim that there must be more than one Opposition member in order to legitimately establish support for the post of LoO? He cannot rely on s.117 the Interpretation section of the Constitution, because therein one does not find guidance on how to interpret the term “majority”. He cannot rely on the word “members” as he himself admits. He cannot rely upon the definition of “majority” which Black defines inter alia as “the greater number”. I am quite sure that enlisting the support of 1 person is the greater number of a pool of 1 person. That is frankly axiomatic. On what basis does “support” absolutely require more than one person? One can have majority support in a pool of 1 person if that one person can be said to support the candidate, because that is the greater number. Phillips has made bold assertions and little by way of response to these pertinent questions.

    I wonder that if by some miraculous circumstance, there sat in the House a member from St George North…I don’t know…let’s call him for argument’s sake Granville Philip IV. And he sat among 29 members supporting the government from a political party called the Labour of Barbados Party, while he did not support the government, as a member of Barbados Solutions. Would our hypothetical Mr Philip IV accept the appointment of Leader of the Opposition?

  5. From what was stated is it not the Governor General’s job to act on this matter? Is it not the Governor General’s job to determine if the government is constitutionally formed. Why the other political parties did not take this matter to the judicial branch? Who are the people the author is asking to end it? With my untrained legal mind it sounds like an argument can be made. However, if you want to lead then YOU have to lead! GO TO COURT AND PRESENT A CASE!!

  6. We have made a decision and put in place a workable solution with which we, the majority ,are quite contented. Why are we revisiting this non issue? There is no solution that will suit all with their varieties of agenda. Relax. Our best legal brains have already agreed with the solution.

  7. Now the ISO-Taliban is also trying his luck as a constitutional lawyer. At least without a single reference to ISO. What progress.

    As said before, his interpretation is as flawed as the Senator’s. Both are obviously dilettantes who don’t know what they’re doing.

  8. Here’s a little social commentary in response to Grenville’s latest rant.

    Make up your own melody and have fun. Could be uptempo or classic Kaiso.
    Verse 1
    Grenville has been parading Barbados up and down, in the town, all around,

    Claiming that solutions can be found, to make us strong,we struggled too long.

    Some say he is wrong, simply a clown singing a sad song.

    That he opposing for opposing sake, go take a break, down by the lake.

    He led his party in the last campaign, but ran in vain, and felt the pain.

    Then to add insult to injury, dem boycott he, for Atherley.

    Now them form a shadow cabinet, and in invite him, to join in it.

    Green is the color of PpDD, dem tief from he, for breadfruit tree.


    I am the ISO, opposition,

    I am the man,

    For our problem.

    Barbadians must trust in me

    And my party,

    Solutions we.

    Forget bout Mia and the BLP

    The DLP, and Joe Party

    I am an engineer with a mission

    I have a plan, for this nation.

  9. I was agitating against this since his installation but apart from Professor Pedro Welch none of the legal luminaries were prepared to bell the cat
    Anyhow, in your case better late than never

  10. @ Tee White May 28, 2020 8:29 AM
    “The farce is that a country populated by 95% African descendants is basing itseld on a constitution formulated from the ideas of 17th century English merchants, most likely drafted by bureaucrats in Britain’s colonial office and introduced with a racist preamble.”

    It is indeed a “farce” for so-called educated black people to continue to pander to such a poorly written and laid out archaic document couched in legalese totally baffling to the ordinary citizen with many provisions not only barbaric but also indifferent to rights (and responsibilities) of some sections of a ‘modern’ society

    But we shouldn’t worry too much. For it is written in the stars that Little England will soon be facing its inevitable ‘Constitution’s’ Waterloo.

    When the nonagenarian Queen Lizzie is forced to abdicate- whether through the receiving of that inevitable call from the gods or through the loss of physical and mental capacity to carry on as Her Majesty of Barbados- her little England will have to decide if it is prepared to continue with the royal charade of an archaic parody of a tropical ‘pappyshow’ by simply amending the Supreme Law of the Bajan Land to read:

    His Majesty instead of Her Majesty;

    and ‘King’ Charlie instead of ‘Queen’ Lizzie (as in queen counsel).

    It’s time the country stop making a mockery of its own national anthem.

  11. I like how KK disembowel GPII. Question, does the Constitution allow the nominee to vote for him/herself in determining majority support? Is one out of one not the majority? GPII should focus on winning a seat; but I guess when yuh arrogant and convinced yuh is the brightest yuh become emboldened.🤣🤣🤣🤣

  12. @ Enuff May 28, 2020 4:36 PM

    No! The brightest of the minority black boys in the majority white PR firm in NYC!

    Where ever there is a ‘Majority’ there must be a Minority. Unless there is a 50:50 outcome which would require dividing one member into two or cutting one person in half or many pieces or one opposition member voting twice.

    You would be on less shaky (technical) ground if you couch your argument in the use of the term: ‘Unanimous Support’.

    This one of the many shortcomings and obvious defects in your “supreme” Law badly in need of a major overhaul to reflect modern social and political realities and potential anomalies.

    This rectification job was promised long ago to be completed by 2016.

    What does that say about you lot of political fart flies of both ends of the electoral colour scheme?

    Why not use the upcoming event to do just that?
    Or are you going to let yourselves be caught like a dumb deer or a blasé Bajan black belly sheep in the headlights of Constitutional inertia leaving you in a comatose state of proper governance?

  13. The same applied when there were only two DLP MPs and neither supported the other!!

    Just observing

  14. Turns out if you multiply 0 by 0 enough times you end up with 1!!

    This must be the mathematical basis for Reverent Joe’s claim to be the leader of the opposition.

  15. There is a saying if you ask a lawyer what is one plus one, is reponse might be,” whatever you want it to be”. Khaleel’s rebuttal has just re-enforced that saying in my opinion. Years ago, when learning the foundation of Euclidean geometry, postulates were given that doesn’t require definition. These were self-evident concepts. This was to avoid circular reasoning and thus established a starting point. In science, a similar logical system has developed. In law, semantics and the art of persuasion rules.

  16. Section 74.2: “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,

    1) is best able to command the support of a majority of those members who do not support the Government, or………

    Grenville, there are two possible extreme election outcomes in Barbados: 30-0, and 15-15.
    Both of these outcomes trigger intense behind-the-scene political maneuvrings and machinations.

    The legislative process apparently cannot start without a Leader of the Opposition.

    Now put yourself in the position of the Governor-General who had watched 30 members of a political party crisscrossing the country and swearing to God and Bajans that they support each other and the policies their party was advocating. Whilst trying to do her job in a professional and diligent manner, the Governor-General would have been forced to ask: “Are there any members who do not support the Government?”
    (If she received an answer of “no”, parliament apparently could not start. If she received an answer of “yes”, hypocrisy and deceit would have formed a sinful halo around the head(s) of those who were now finding it convenient, and possibly lucrative, to oppose policies they were spouting forth a few days ago.)
    “Yes, Your Excellency. But let me explain. We have two groups. Group A is made up of 29 members and they support Mia Mottley. Group B is made up of 1 member. As you can see, and as the constitution requires, that member is best able to command the support of those who oppose the government. In fact he commands 100% support. Interestingly enough, if the DLP had gained one seat, that one member would have become the Leader of the Opposition without any fuss being created, or any questions asked.. No one would have wasted their time talking or arguing about a majority of one. ”

    The history of Barbados will reveal that Joseph Atherley became Leader of the Opposition. All of the laws passed within this parliamentary session will be recorded as “legal” and parliamentarians will accrue pension benefits during the period 2018 -2023. That is reality 101.

    The 30-0 result created a situation which the wording of the constitution evidently did not fully anticipate. Yet, with that same wording, forces of practicality and pragmatism have conspired to produce a Prime Minister and a Leader of the Opposition from within the bosom of the same united party, and based on results from the same general election! The genie cannot be put back into the bottle. We now have a remedy and a playbook for a 30-0 election result.
    Reality 101 again.

  17. @ Walter
    “The legislative process apparently cannot start without a Leader of the Opposition“
    Are you saying that had the BLP retain all the seats there could be no “legislative process”?

  18. Not correct….suppose he and others in a Party had contested the Elections and he was the only one elected ,that would mean he AUTOMATICALLY becomes the Opposition Leader…the GG had NO other choice.

Leave a comment, join the discussion.