“Leave the Constitution!” was the cry in an article by Shawn Cumberbatch in the Barbados Advocate today. The Government of Barbados was thwarted in its efforts to suspend Section 94 of the Barbados Constitution in order to speedily appoint about 3,000 civil servants. This item was on the agenda for the Barbados Parliament to discuss today, but Parliament itself appeared to have been suspended!

Quote from the Constitution:

 

Appointment, etc., of public officers

94.1

Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, power to make appointments to public offices and to remove and to exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices is hereby vested in the Governor General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Public Service Commission.

94.2

Before the Public Service Commission advises the appointment to any public office of any person holding or acting in any office power to make appointments to which is vested by this Constitution in the Governor General, acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission or the Police Service Commission, it shall consult the Judicial and Legal Service Commission or the Police Service Commission, as the case may be.

94.3

The provisions of this section shall not apply in relation to -

  1. the office of any member of the Governor General’s personal staff;
  2. any office to which section 92 applies;
  3. any office in the Police Force;
  4. any office to which section 100 applies;
  5. the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; and
  6. the office of the Auditor General.

An extremely heated meeting at the National Union of public Workers (NUPW) headquarters even hearkened back to the amendments of 1974, which were never rescinded. There was an impassioned call for “transparency, fairness and reasonableness” in the appointment procedures.Although most Barbadians would approve of more efficient appointment procedures, suspending all or part of the Constitution takes a country into dangerous territory. Imagine suspending parts of the Constitution pertaining to, for instance, Section 5.7, which requires elections at least every five years!
Quote from the Constitution:

5.7

Notwithstanding anything contained in section 61(3) of the Constitution (but subject t the provisions of subsections (4) and (5) of that section) Parliament shall, unless sooner dissolved, stand dissolved on the expiration of five years from the first sitting of the existing Assembly after the general election of members of the Assembly last preceding the appointed day.