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(BARBADOS TODAY) The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) has considerably more to lose from the outcome of a court challenge over a decision to convene Parliament with 18 of the 21 senators outlined in the Constitution, according to political scientist Peter Wickham.
But if the ruling Mia Mottley administration is found wanting and every law passed under the current dispensation rendered null and void, he admits the implications would be “seismic”.
However, Wickham believes the DLP would be losing precious political capital, whilst acting as a spectator outside the hallowed halls of Parliament. “In all of this, my question is ‘who is really suffering in this process?’” asked Wickham. “Prime Minister Mottley has her government. Parliament is functioning to the best of my knowledge and as long as there is no injunction on the table, Parliament will continue to pass laws for the order and good governance of the nation and the business of Parliament will continue.
“It’s just whether or not the Dems feel that they need to be part of it and the longer this goes on, the longer the Dems are not going to be a part of it and honestly, I think that this could take a very long time,” he added. On Wednesday, former attorney general Adriel Brathwaite lodged an urgent action in the Supreme Court contending that with three seats in the Upper Chamber still vacant, the Parliament is improperly constituted.
The motion will be heard by Madame Justice Cecily Chase at 9:30 a.m. on Friday. While Brathwaite said he was acting totally independently, his arguments support those of DLP interim president Steve Blackett who has previously declared that PM Mottley’s ‘olive branch’ offer of seats in the Senate despite the party’s failure to be elected in the Lower House was simply not hers to give.
Wickham believes that from a legal perspective, the court challenge will greatly benefit Caribbean jurisprudence. But politically, he fears the implications could be even more monumental. “I think Caribbean jurisprudence benefits from this kind of conversation and also this kind of legal action,” said Wickham. But he added: “If we get to the end and it is said that Parliament was improperly assembled and that everything that was done in there was null and void, then the government would essentially have to pass all of that legislation after Parliament is properly assembled. It would be a seismic event if that happens.”
“It would shed a very dim light on the legal advice of the Attorney General. It would be a lot of egg on their faces if that were to happen,” he added.
Conversely, political analyst Devaron Bruce believes much of the proverbial egg could fall on the face of President Dame Sandra Mason, who is accused of “wrongful abdication of her constitutional duty” by refusing to name the two opposition senators. “I don’t think there are any major political implications as such, it would just be a response that would need to follow the court action, if it is against the government,” said Bruce.
“Interestingly enough, the Democratic Labour Party, I think, doesn’t object to having the two senatorial seats. I think they’re simply saying that it is not the responsibility of the government to inject themselves into what has traditionally been the role of the Leader of the Opposition. “The Constitution does set out who is responsible and I think the Democratic Labour Party has been arguing that it is the responsibility again of the President and I believe that they are quite willing to work with the President on that aspect, which has not yet happened,” the political analyst added. He also believes that once the matter is concluded, the result will be a win for Caribbean legal systems. “You would have a clear road going forward on what the Constitution is actually saying and that definitely adds to the quality of a democracy when there is less confusion, when people actually know what that clear road is,” said Bruce.