Evidence of a Solution Seeking a Problem in the Current Governance Arrangements of Barbados!

Submitted by Roland R Clarke PhD (UPenn 95), Caribbean Energy Consultant, Member of the Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN), Barbados – www.linkedin.com/in/rolandclarke

A solution is only required when there is a problem for resolution.  It seems to me that the kernel “problem” in Barbados’ governance arrangements at this time, is the failure of the President to act with timeliness in using the power bestowed to that office under the current Constitution.  For me, this is not a problem per sec, but rather a potential lost opportunity.

In order to resolve that particular “problem”, all that needs to happen is that: 

(a) The President should reach out to those who are known to be in opposition to the Government within the context of our recent national general elections; or 

(b) Politically active “individuals” from the known non-government political parties could/should offer themselves to the President to serve as Opposition Senators. This notwithstanding that any “qualified person” can offer themselves to the President irrespective of party affiliation or otherwise; AND

(c) The President shall use her best judgement to make the final decision and selection of two Opposition Senators.  

One more thing, the Prime Minister (PM) must select one more “qualified” individual to be a Government Senator. The notion of “keeping a seat” for an unqualified individual is untenable.  That problem could easily be fixed after the fact.  It is also recognised that not all qualified individuals may be available right away to take the oath of office and sit in the Senate.  The key is for the PM to make the selection NOW. 

Once the Parliament is fully “constituted” as per the argument of at least one constitutional lawyer of national repute, then any and all constitutional changes could be properly laid before the Senate AFTER the fact. 

In sum, the current impasse is artificially and prematurely created. It only serves to potentially lay bare an intent to insert “political parties” into the Constitution of Barbados for the first time at least since 1966. So far, I have not heard any objections from any political party (as a corporate person in its own right) to the proposed change to the Constitution regarding the insertion of a role for political parties. The silence of the political parties speaks volumes.

Clearly, the solution has predated the problem!

I assert that the premature creation of the problem above also lays bare the potential for a qualified citizen and resident of Barbados to seek leave of the President to bring a Constitutional motion against the President, if such a motion cannot be brought immediately and directly before the High Court of Barbados. Surely all concerned citizens and residents of Barbados would wish for the most vaunted governance institutions of Barbados to be protected at all times. We must protect the King of our National Chest Board, should we not?

The constitutional basis for my analysis above is given in alphabetical listing as follows:

A. Choosing the Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House of Barbados:

Section 74(2) of the Barbados Constitution states in part:

“(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, 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, 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:

Provided that this subsection shall have effect in relation to any period between a dissolution of Parliament and the day on which the next election of members of the House of Assembly is held as if Parliament had not been dissolved…” etc..

B. Two Senators to be Appointed by the Leader of the Opposition. I took the liberty of pre-supposing that these two Senators would be “in opposition” to the Government. However, the Constitution is silent on my supposition. See

Section 36 of the Barbados Constitution states:

“36. (1) The Senate shall consist of twenty-one persons who, being qualified for appointment as Senators in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution, have been so appointed in accordance with the provisions of this section. 

(2) Twelve Senators shall be appointed by the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, by instrument under the Public Seal. 

(3) Two Senators shall be appointed by the Governor-General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, by instrument under the Public Seal. 

(4) Seven Senators shall be appointed by the Governor-General, acting in his discretion, by instrument under the Public Seal, to represent religious, economic or social interests or such other interests as the Governor-General considers ought to be represented:

Provided that before appointing any person under this subsection the Governor-General shall consult such persons as, in his discretion, he considers can speak for those interests and ought to be consulted.”

C. The two Houses of Parliament “may” meet at the time for a limited purpose at the time of writing this article.

Section 50(1) of the Barbados Constitution states:

“50. (1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, each House may regulate its own procedure and for this purpose may make Standing Orders. 

(2) Each House may act notwithstanding any vacancy in its membership and the presence or participation of any person not entitled to be present at or to participate in the proceedings of the House shall not invalidate those proceedings.”

D. The issue of a quorum is only relevant during the “sitting” of the Senate. It seems to me that a “sitting” can only occur after the initial establishment of the Senate. See –

Section (52) of the Barbados Constitution states:

52. (1) If at any time during a sitting of the Senate objection is taken by a member that there is not a quorum present and, after such interval as may be prescribed by the Standing Orders of the Senate, the person presiding ascertains that there is still not a quorum present, he shall thereupon adjourn the Senate. 

(2) For the purposes of this section a quorum of the Senate shall consist of eight Senators besides the person presiding.

E. The President is “required” to act in lieu of the Leader of the Opposition, “under the current circumstances in Barbados” at the time of writing this article (at least in my opinion given the use of the word “shall” below). 

Section 75 of the Barbados Constitution states:

“75. During any period in which there is a vacancy in the office of Leader of the Opposition by reason of the fact that no Leader of opposition. person is both qualified in accordance with this Constitution for, and willing to accept, appointment to that office, the Governor-General shall- 

(a) act in his discretion in the exercise of any function in respect of which it is provided in this Constitution that the Governor-General shall act in accordance with the advice of the Leader of the Opposition; and

(b) act on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in the exercise of any function in respect of which it is provided in this Constitution that the Governor-General shall act on the recommendation of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.”

Reference: Do note that the quotes above are taken from the full text version of the Barbados Constitution, posted on the web site of the Organisation of American States (OAS). Since the posting of this full text document, the Barbados Parliament has recently documented thirty-six (36) instances of constitutional amendments in a piecemeal fashion on their website. My current understanding is that the thirty-six (36) documents speak to amendments having to do with the recent transition to republic status by Barbados. See the full text version of the Barbados Constitution at – https://www.oas.org/dil/the_constitution_of_barbados.pdf

My two bits,