The decision by Prime Minister Mia Mottley to reverse the controversial appointment of 18 year old Khaleel Kothdiwala is unfortunate. It was evident from exchanges in the last session of the Upper House the amendment to the Constitution to allow Khaleel’s sitting would not have garnered support from independent senators.
Immediately after the January 19, 2022 general election Prime Minister Mottley announced Kothdiwala’s as a BLP nominee for the Senate with the justification she was fulfilling an election promise to bring the youth into “the centre of governance and national determination…if you are old enough to vote then you must be old enough to serve”. All who have followed politics in Barbados are patently aware Khaleel’s politics is heavily influenced from Roebuck Street – and it is right to practice the politics of his choice.
The prime minister became swell headed by a second 30 to zero victory in the last general election and took for granted Khaleel’s appointment would have been rubber stamped by the Senate. Lest we forget, the Senate is currently involved indirectly in a fight for its legitimacy. Although the constitutional motion brought by former Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite was tossed out by Justice Cicely Chase, legal counsel Garth Patterson signaled appeal documents will be filed this week to challenge the Upper Chamber doing business with 18 appointed Senators instead of 21.
From comments posted to BU and aired in other fora, those opposed to the appointment of Khaleel took umbrage to the lack of national consultation about the unprecedented decision to add an 18 year old BLP supporter to the Senate to represent youth matters. Bear in mind Mottley- also in controversial and contentious circumstances- transitioned Barbados to a Republic in November 2021. The dissenting cry then was – why not complete an exercise of national consensus to determine a new constitution to make the process to a republic comprehensive.
At the root of the uncertainty muddying the governance process is an election result that rejected opposition candidates AND the unwillingness of elected members of parliament to cross the floor to manufacture an opposition. This is interesting against the rumour Mottley called a snap general election to quell a political mutiny.
There is also the contention that President Sandra Mason is partly responsible by her refusal to appoint two apposition Senators given the outcome of the general election. Had she appointed two Opposition Senators and Mottley a standin for Kothdiwala there would possibly have been no legal challenge brought and Mottley would have avoided the political embarrassment of having to withdraw Khaleel’s appointment.
It is what it is as the popular saying goes. We wait to endure the Court Appeal process and possible request for leave to appeal to the CCJ. In the meantime there is the potential lawmaking in parliament will be disrupted if Justice Chase decision is overturned.
At a time the country is battling to manage economic challenges acerbated by the pandemic we have become mired in process because of off flippant decision making. It is ironic the Upper House that is currently under challenge in the Barbados courts is responsible for Mottley’s decision to remove Kothdiwala.
We are living in interesting times.