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Constitutional motion adjourned to February 25

February 12th, 2022

A High Court judge Friday adjourned to February 25, the constitutional motion filed by former Attorney General, Adriel Brathwaite, who is asking the Supreme Court to rule on whether or not the Senate in the Barbados Parliament has been properly constituted.

Madame Justice Cicely Chase heard case management submissions from Brathwaite’s attorney Garth Patterson, QC, and the government’s lawyer Leslie Haynes, QC.

She has ordered attorneys for the Government to file and serve any affidavits in response to the suit by February 17 and that both sides will file written submissions by February 23.

The judge has also indicated there was a possibility she might make a ruling on whether or not the Lower and Upper Houses would be allowed to operate while the matter was being heard.

Patterson told the Court that while he had not filed an injunction he felt it necessary to know whether the Mia Mottley government would continue to hold sessions of Parliament while the case was ongoing or if it would be suspended until a decision was rendered, arguing that a “cloud of uncertainty” now hung over Parliament.

But Haynes said he was not in a position to do so as he had received no instructions on how to proceed with the matter.

“The issue of any undertaking or any injunction is not before the court, that is issue number one and practically issue number two is that we have no instructions on this matter. We came here this morning for case management,” Haynes said.

But when asked if she would make a ruling on whether Parliament would be allowed to continue to meet, Justice Chase said she would allow the Government’s legal team to take instructions first, while not ruling out making a decision when the case returns on February 25.

“I am going to allow counsel for the respondent to seek instructions on that matter, I think it is only but fair. And secondly, I do not believe that I have enough information before me that I can make that decision today at this time,” Justice Chase said.

“I may, note I said may consider such an application on the next occasion if there is no agreement but I cannot without a position being put forward by the respondent make that decision today.”

Brathwaite, who served as attorney general between 2010-18, said that the Upper House is not fully constituted, with only 18 of the 21 members appointed so far, and as a result the Parliament is not fully constituted.

“More importantly, any business that it purports to conduct will be devoid of validity. Despite the clear, urgent calls for the rectification of this unsatisfactory state of affairs, the Government has unlawfully proceeded to pass, in the House, a Bill for an Act of Parliament that alters the Constitution itself, at a time when three of the members of the august Senate body have not been appointed and will, consequently, have no opportunity to debate or vote on these crucial proposed constitutional amendments.”

Brathwaite said that this is against the background of no consultation with stakeholders, no attempt to obtain a broad consensus from members of society about these “substantial, fundamental changes to entrenched provisions of the Constitution that have represented our law for over 55 years.

“It is for these reasons that I feel compelled to seek the intervention of the courts to resolve this controversy – one that centres around issues of vital national importance and goes to the root of our democracy”.

He is asking the High Court to uphold his application that “seeks declaratory reliefs aimed at compelling this Government to put its house in order before conducting the affairs of State.

Parliament met for the first time on Tuesday since Prime Minister Mia Mottley led her ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to a sweep of all 30 seats that were at stake in the January poll.

She told legislators that her administration was simply “doing the right” thing in amending the 55-year-old Constitution to change the qualifications for membership in both houses of Parliament.

She said she was also “correcting a wrong” by reducing the age for eligibility to sit in Parliament to 18, and giving a voice to the opposition by allowing them to recommend appointments to the Senate even when they hold no seats in the House of Assembly.

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