Bill dead in the water
by Government on Wednesday night suffered a major defeat in the Senate on a motion that would have amended the Constitution of Barbados.
It was an unusual occurrence, as the Mia Mottley-led administration has a majority and no constitutional amendment has been known to be defeated post-independence.
Eight of the 17 senators present voted against the amendment, leaving Government with nine votes, short of the two-thirds majority needed for the bill to be passed. Three senators were absent.
The matter surrounding the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2018 drew to a head when Independent Senator Kevin Boyce opposed it.
He said that under the amended legislation, a level of protection for human life would be removed, and he suggested that the existing Constitution, which provides that the office of the Governor General automatically trigger a review of people sentenced to death, should be retained.
“Therefore, in the proposed amendment, just change the first line where it says: ‘Where a person makes a submission in accordance with Subsection 5 and simply say ‘Where a person has been sentenced to death’ . . .” he contended.
“We are removing that and saying, ‘You individuals should make the application for clemency’. I don’t think we should let that stand. The Constitution says the Governor General, once you are sentenced to death, will take certain steps. I am not proposing to stop the procedure today, I’m not proposing to delay it; all I’m saying is to bring it in line with what the Governor General’s powers currently are.”
Leader of Government Business, Senator Jerome Walcott, objected, stating that the amendment was in line with those proposed by the previous Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government. However, Independent Senator Monique Taitt interjected, querying why Walcott sought the past as a reference given the recently elected BLP administration has described that period as a lost period.
The crosstalk continued before the bill was moved to a vote, with Government Senators Jerome Walcott, Lucille Moe, Kay Mcconney, Dr Rommel Springer, Lynette Holder, Dr Crystal Haynes, Damien Sands, Rawdon Adams, and deputy president Rudolph “Cappy” Greenidge voting “yes”.
Independent Senators Lindell Nurse, Dr Christopher Maynard, Taitt, Rev. Michael Maxwell, Boyce, Alphea Wiggins and Opposition Senators Crystal Drakes and Caswell Franklyn voted “no”.
The same result held firm when the bill was read for a third time. After further discussion, President of the Senate Sir Richard Cheltenham read his decision.
“Resulting from the vote just taken, I am advised that this bill, the Constitution Amendment Bill, has not met the requirements of two-thirds and to that extent it has not passed,” he stated.