Difficult Conversations – Open Letter to the Prime Minister
Dear Prime Minister:
I first met you over two decades ago in my capacity as an Engineer. You were the Minister of Education. From that first meeting until the present, your determination to get things done for the benefit of Barbadians has been evident.
Only God has all knowledge. Therefore, all of us must all make decisions based on partial knowledge. Rather than use ‘partial knowledge’ as an excuse to have us flounder in a sea of uncertainty, you have been decisive. If your decisions did not have the intended results, you reversed your decision to keep us moving forward.
Since no human is perfect, your Ministers inevitably made blunders. When they did so, you did not publicly chastise them. Instead, you quickly intervened to show them how to make better decisions. Your demonstrated willingness to change your mind is not a weakness. Rather, it is perhaps your greatest leadership strength, that makes it easy for people to trust and follow you.
CANNOT BE UNDONE.
I feel compelled to write you this open letter, since for the first time as Prime Minister, you plan to make a decision for all of us, that you cannot later undo.
Madam Prime Minister, the time for investigating the potential benefits and liabilities to Barbadians, if Barbados becomes a Republic, is now – not when it is too late to do anything about it. Any harmful consequences will be permanent on all future generations of Barbadians. Therefore, being decisive on this one issue, is not in the best interest of Barbadians.
THE BLP’S PROMISE.
This permanent change to how Barbadians are governed, requires the consent of both Parliament and the public. Your advisors are claiming that the public gave their consent by electing the BLP in the 2018 General Election. They claim that you actively campaigned on this issue, and that it was prominent in the BLP’s 2018 Manifesto.
To my knowledge, none of the nine political parties who contested the 2018 General Election, campaigned on the Republic issue. The facts are that there is no mention of any plan to make Barbados a Republic, in either: the BLP’s 2018 Manifesto, the BLP’s 2016 Covenant of Hope, or the BLP’s 2013 Manifesto.
The most recent BLP plan for making Barbados a Republic, is a promise in the BLP’s 2008 Manifesto. Page 77 reads: “Update the Constitution Review Commission recommendations on replacing the Crown with a Barbadian President and proceed to consult the public fully by way of a referendum”. This never happened. Therefore, the public were not consulted on this issue, and the public did not give their consent.
THE CONSTITUTION REVIEW COMMISSION.
Your advisors insist that we must follow the recommendations in the 1998 Report of the Constitution Review Commission. However, they never mention the Commission’s warning that Barbados was vulnerable to harm, from what it called “Prime Ministerial dictatorship”.
The Barbados Constitution was designed to prevent the economic ruin of Barbados, by a politicised public service. After we became Independent, Parliament began making changes to our Constitution (especially the 1974 amendments), to give the Prime Minister the power to politicise our public services.
In the 1976 General Election, the BLP promised to reverse the 1974 Constitutional amendments if they were elected to form the government. After the BLP was elected, in classic ‘Lord of the Rings’ fashion, Prime Minister Adams found the new powers too addictive to give up.
ACT IN GOOD FAITH.
Madam Prime Minister, I do not believe that you are, or will become a dictator. However, I believe that if we become a Republic, without an effective restraint that our Constitution currently provides, that a dictator will certainly arise to do us harm.
The Commission’s recommendation of a Republic, pales in comparison with the recommendation to address the risk of Prime Ministerial dictatorship. The Commission’s recommendation to remove the powers that a Prime Minister was never intended to have, should be done. After approximately 50 years of broken promises on this issue, doing this first would be an act of good faith on your part.
We have seen previous Prime Ministers almost choke themselves as they pulled at the Constitutional restraints. All of our previous Prime Ministers proved themselves too weak to reverse those dangerous Constitutional amendments.
Madam Prime Minister, for us to become a Republic, while still addicted to that power, is not in our best interests. I believe that at least one year is required, to demonstrate to the public that the extreme withdrawal symptoms of having addictive power taken away, has been overcome.
The risk to all of us if we become a Republic prematurely, is that once the withdrawal symptoms kick in, you can simply use your 30-0 majority to reclaim the powers you gave up just to make Barbados a Republic. We will then have to live the nightmare that our present Constitution tried to protect us from, and the 1979 and 2008 Commissions warned us about.
DO NOT JUST TAKE IT.
Madam Prime Minister, while I believe that you are better than your predecessors, no one knows if you are stronger than them. Since they chose to remain addicted, they avoided the withdrawal symptoms of letting go dangerous power. You have only had that power for three years. If you give up that power, then you will enter unchartered territory. The prudent thing to do is to give yourself, and us, time to see the results.
Your advisors want you to behave like a dictator now, and forcibly take our consent. I am asking you to earn it, as promised in your party’s 2008 Manifesto. This includes allowing an honest discussion on this issue, and then letting the people decide how they want to be governed, by holding the BLP promised referendum.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com