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HomeNewsRegional NewsBarbados: Constitutional change proposed to allow 18-year-old to serve as Senator

Barbados: Constitutional change proposed to allow 18-year-old to serve as Senator

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(Barbados Today) Prime Minister Mia Mottley has announced a trimmer Cabinet with some new faces and changes, including the appointment of a Deputy Prime Minister and three other senior ministers, while she awaits legal guidance on two Senate positions offered to opposition parties that were unsuccessful in recent general elections.

She has also proposed a constitutional amendment to allow 18-year-old Barbados Scholar Khalil Kothdiwala to serve in the Senate.

In making the highly-anticipated announcement during a live televised statement from Ilaro Court on Monday evening, Mottley named Santia Bradshaw as her deputy, along with Attorney General Dale Marshall, Dr Jerome Walcott and Kerrie Symmonds as senior ministers.

She said the 20-member Cabinet, reduced from 24 during her last term in office, would have greater supervisory oversight.

She said the changes were necessary as Barbados was at “a critical juncture” and had an “ambitious political agenda to deliver”.

In calling for unity, Mottley said it was her goal to have Barbados viewed as one of the top countries in the world.

She revealed she would retain her portfolio as Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, along with responsibility for Culture, Security, Public Service, CARICOM and the Development Commissions.

As Deputy Prime Minister, Bradshaw will have coordinating responsibility for infrastructure as a senior minister. She will also be Minister of Transport, Works and Water Resources and Leader of Government Business in the House of Assembly.

Marshall will assume the role as the senior minister coordinating for governance in Cabinet; Walcott was retained as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade but was also named a senior minister coordinating for all social and environmental policy; while Symmonds, along with being a senior minister coordinating the productive sectors, will be Minister of Energy and Business Development.

In a notable move, former Transport Minister Ian Gooding-Edghill was given the massive responsibility of Minister of Health and Wellness.

First-time Members of Parliament Kay McConney and Davidson Ishmael were also appointed to the Cabinet.

McConney was named Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training while Ishmael is the new Minister of Industry, Innovation, Science and Technology.

As she announced her Cabinet, Mottley said: “You will observe that this Cabinet is smaller than the last two Cabinets and that it will have greater supervisory oversight and capacity to ensure that the Government’s policies and programmes are fully operationalised. We face, simply, too many critical challenges for us to continue with business as usual.”

Newcomers Rommel Springer and Corey Lane were named as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Water Resources, and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elderly Affairs, respectively.

Shantal Munroe-Knight was also named Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, while Jonathan Reid will become the first-ever Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Mottley also disclosed that long-serving Member of Parliament for St Thomas, Cynthia Forde, had asked not to be appointed.

She served as Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs from 2018 to 2022.

Mottley thanked Forde for her sterling contribution.

“I want, on behalf of all Barbadians, to thank Cynthia Forde who has been the salt of the earth and who has been there in a Government in one form or another since 1994, other than the time she was in Opposition. Ms Forde, we thank you for your distinguished service,” she said.

The Prime Minister also explained that the committee system in Parliament, including the Joint Select Committees, would be expanded.

She said it was the Government’s intention to “increase Parliament’s oversight, engagement and involvement on matters of national importance, national policy significance and in major pieces of legislation”.

As a result, she said three new Standing Committees would be added: an Economic Affairs Committee chaired by St Michael West MP Chris Gibbs; a Committee on Social and Environmental Matters to be chaired by St George North MP Toni Moore; and one on Governance, to be chaired by Christ Church South MP Ralph Thorne.

In a historic move, the Prime Minister said she would be seeking a Constitutional amendment to allow Kothdiwala to serve in the Senate.

In proposing him as one of 11 Government Senators, Mottley said it was unfortunate that a person aged 18 could vote but did not have the capacity to serve in the Upper House.

Along with Kothdiwala, the other newcomers to the Senate are Munroe-Knight, John King, Patricia Parris, Shanika Roberts-Odle, Lorenzo Harewood, and Andwele Boyce.

The Prime Minister, who called the general election 18 months ahead of the constitutional deadline, said she would consult with the opposition parties that contested the general elections on the appointment of two Opposition Senators.

“It is the intention of this government again to engage with the opposition parties which contested the last two elections to determine how best they may participate in the appointment of two opposition senators provided for in our Constitution,” she said.

“I am equally awaiting a legal opinion from the Honourable Attorney General on this matter before we start those formal discussions with the opposition parties.

Reginald Farley will again serve as President of the Senate, with Elizabeth Thompson acting as his Deputy.

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