MIA AMOR MOTTLEY was sworn in as Barbados’ eighth Prime Minister and its first female leader of government following her Barbados Labour Party’s resounding, earth-shaking 30-0 wipe out of the then ruling Democratic Labour Party led by former prime minister Freundel Stuart.
Mottley, 52, now joins an elite club of women including Dame Eugenia Charles of Dominica, Portia Simpson-Miller of Jamaica, Janet Jagan of Guyana and TT’s Kamla Persad-Bissessar to have been elected as heads of government in Caricom. Mottley is the only female prime minister in Caricom at present.
The BLP’s victory over the DLP gave it total control of the 30 seat House of Assembly. There is now no Opposition in Barbados’ elected house of parliament and no one to advise the governor-general on the appointment of opposition members to the country’s 21 member Senate.
Yesterday, Mottley declared, “This victory is the people of Barbados’ victory.” She said the election was a vote for more inclusive and transparent leadership for Barbados.
“This must be our legacy to the people of Barbados, to give you back your government and your governance,” she said.
Mottley acknowledged the BLP’s overwhelming mandate. She warned there is no magical remedy or single shot solution to fix the country’s challenges. Mottley, a former Attorney General officially became prime minister at 12.25 pm, when she read the oath for the execution of the office of the Prime Minister in the presence of Governor General, Dame Sandra Mason at Government House. Member of Parliament Dale Marshall quickly followed suit as he was sworn in as the country’s Attorney General. Mottley, dressed in a canary-yellow skirt suit accessorised with a red and burgundy shawl and matching handbag, was greeted with hugs by her parents Elliot Mottley, QC, and Amor Mottley, moments before reading her oath to a ‘live’ national audience on radio and television.
It was a family affair for the new Prime Minister, as the ceremony was also attended by brothers Warren and Stewart, sister Elan, and uncle Elombe, as well as nieces and St Michael North East faithful. After the ceremony, both Mottley and Marshall departed for the first official meeting of the new Government, in an effort to start the people’s business as a matter of urgency
FOR PNM, UNC
News of Barbados’ election results were greeted in TT with a combination of praise, surprise and caution. Former head of the public service Reginald Dumas and UWI political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said the BLP’s victory was not unexpected. However the extent of the cuttail, was a surprise.
“I did not expect a wipe out,” Dumas said. He thought former prime minister Freundel Stuart’s DLP would have won some seats in the House of Assembly. The DLP previously held 16 seats in the House while the BLP had 14. When Ragoonath asked the student if he was going to vote for the DLP, he said the student replied, “Definitely not.”
Both men said there were lessons which the PNM government and UNC opposition should learn from the Barbados general election. Ragoonath said governments must recognise that citizens’ needs cannot be dispensed with. He opined this was the message voters sent to the DLP.
Dumas said a repeat of the National Alliance for Reconstruction’s 1986 victory is “not impossible” in TT.
However, he said the UNC cannot bank on the PNM’s unpopularity to win any election. Dumas said despite the PNM’s mistakes, the UNC is not resonating with the population because it presents no tangible plan of action to the people.
Ragoonath and Dumas said Mottley must tread carefully, with no parliamentary opposition. Barbados’ parliament consists of an elected house of 30 members and a senate, whose 21 members are appointed by the governor-general.
Section 36 (2) of Barbados’ Constitution permits the governor-general to appoint two senators, on the advice of the opposition leader. The governor-general has the power to appoint seven independent senators on her own, under this same section of the constitution.
This means these senators could serve as an unofficial opposition in Barbados’ parliament in the current scenario. As prime minister, Mottley has the constitutional power to advise the governor-general to appoint 12 senators. Ragoonath said Mottley should ensure her government works with the judiciary to ensure rule of law is maintained.
Dumas agreed that Mottley’s administration must be “extremely cautious” in how it moves forward. While Mottley has handled the situation well so far, Dumas said there is a risk of politicians forgetting the boundaries in such situations and overstepping said boundaries.
He remembered TT experienced this situation when the PNM won all 36 seats in the House of Representatives in the no-vote campaign of 1971. While some PNM MPs formed an opposition then, Dumas was uncertain how this issue would be dealt with in Barbados.
CONGRATS FROM ROWLEY
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley congratulated Mottley on her victory. Rowley, who is now in Australia, said, “We issue congratulations and best wishes for a successful term.” Rowley said while Barbados is facing challenging times, “we know that the people of our sister nation have always distinguished itself by being sane and sober.” The Prime Minister added, “So we continue to wish them the all the best.”
Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said, “The people have spoken overwhelmingly.”
In a letter to Mottley, Persad-Bissessar told her, “The significance of your landslide victory cannot be understated.”She said Mottley “built a formidable record in the political arena.”
Mottley’s determination to succeed and strength of spirit are admirable, Persad-Bissessar added. Recalling she was elected prime minister on May 24, 2010, Persad-Bissessar told Mottley they now share “a common place” in their hearts for that date.
Former prime minister Basdeo Panday said the election results clearly demonstrate, “the need for change in the Caribbean.” Panday said old institutions in the region are not facilitating that change. He observed this was another case where people chose to vote against a government rather than vote a party into government.
Congress of the People (COP) MP Prakash Ramadhar congratulated Mottley on her victory. However he said, “I think we must be very cautious with such an overwhelming majority, 30-0, there being no opposition.”
He warned there is “grave danger” that constitutional change could be effected, contrary to the wishes of the Barbadian people. Ramadhar said “a robust opposition is required in any democracy” to ensure that “power does not corrupt as we know absolutely.”