In 2018 the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) won all 30 seats in parliament. It created what pundits described as a political dilemma for the government because the Barbados Constitution recognizes the role of the Leader of the Opposition.
At the eleventh hour Reverend Joseph Atherley who was elected to the House of Assembly on a BLP ticket decided to cross the floor and like magic the constitutional crisis was averted. Before Atherley saved the day there was a move afoot to amend the Constitution to provision for two senators to be appointed by the Governor General from the losing political party winning the most votes. The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) would have been the beneficiary of the amendment. However, we recall campaign manager Robert ‘Bobby’ Morris criticized the move to manufacturer an opposition presence in the Upper House. His reason – a political opposition should earn its place in parliament.
In hindsight given the outcome of last week’s general election the government should have amended the Barbados Constitution to address the lacuna in the improbable event a political party again won all the seats. A discussion being had across Barbados is whether there will be another convenient crossing of the floor by a ‘disgruntled’ BLP member days after campaigning successfully on a BLP ticket in the mold of Atherley or if the shelved 2018 amendment to the Constitution will be dusted off.
Whether there is the convenient crossing of the floor by a member of parliament to create a leader of the opposition in the Lower House or amendment to the Barbados Constitution to create same in the Upper House, it is unfortunate a dissenting voice has to be created arising from the first past the post system we practice. In this regard the blogmaster does not agree with Morris that the DLP should refuse to participate in the Upper House if the opportunity is created to do so. There are commentators like Dr.Kristina Hinds who posit a view there are avenues outside of parliament to make ones voice heard.
The blogmaster’s view is that parliament provides a prominent space for an opposition voice in our system of government. It gives the opposition earned exposure that helps to create a national profile for the political party given the credibility it adds through participation from in the bowels of the parliamentary system. The country witnessed how former Senator Caswell Franklyn did it with good effect. We should not trivialize the optics of opposition participation in parliament by the public.
There is concern two unprecedented 30 to 0 mandates pave the opportunity for the Mottley led government to run roughshod over the views of members in civil society. Especially given her rambunctious leadership style. Decisions taken by the government of Barbados in the coming days have deep implications for our way of life to come.
God Bless Bim!