Independent senator calls for more balance in Upper Chamber

Independent Senator John Watson today called for a change to the make up of the Upper House, arguing that there was a need for more independent representatives in order to bring a greater level of balance.

Of the 21 senators, 12 represent Government, two are from the Opposition, and seven are independent.

Harking back to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s mantra during the 50th anniversary of independence that Barbadians needed to identify features of the society that they wanted to keep, those they wanted to discard and those they wanted to reclaim, Watson said “the first change should take place in this Senate”, recommending an Upper Chamber comprising seven independent, ten Government and four Opposition senators.

This, he said, would more often than not still ensure Government wins any vote that is taken “but on the odd occasion where the balance is required I think that gives the opportunity to the Senate to make the best decisions in the interest of Barbados”.

He said while there were arguments in support of a Government majority, there were those who believe “the balance in the Senate should be held by the independent senators”.

“I am not suggesting at all that it removes any power from the Government, but what it does it gives the representation of all people a better chance of getting the best. And it will give more confidence to the working of this Senate,” he added.

The businessman also called for technical and clerical support for senators, saying assistance with research would result in “a greater contribution from senators” instead of them relying purely on the time allotted to them for debate.

At the same time, Watson called for a “consolidation” and “rationalization” of Government ministries and departments, insisting there were too many overlaps, as he pointed to the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade where consolidation of some departments would create greater efficiency.

Another area of concern, Watson said, was a need to ensure good governance by having a well functioning and structured Public Accounts Committee (PAC) comprising a higher proportion of independent senators for greater balance.

“I believe it doesn’t matter which party is in the Government, that committee should be a committee that represents the interest of Barbados,” he said.

The businessman, who said he missed only one of the 93 sittings of the Senate and one of the 43 PAC meetings, said he enjoyed his time spent in the Upper House and called for more to be done to get more Barbadians attending and listening the debates.

10 Responses to Independent senator calls for more balance in Upper Chamber

  1. Pat Clarke February 20, 2018 at 11:37 pm

    I agree. Let’s push for it to happen.

  2. David Brathwaite February 21, 2018 at 12:28 am

    This is one of my pet peeves. I think the independent senators should be reduced to five and the remainder allocated on the basis of the portion of the popular vote received by each party contesting the immediately preceding election, provided that each party gets at least 5% of the vote.

    The independent senators and the government would have a majority if the proposal is reasonable. But the majority would shift to the opposition if it’s something unreasonable, like the recent amendments to the Police Act.

  3. David Brathwaite February 21, 2018 at 12:30 am

    I also proposed some time ago that the PAC should perhaps be a standing committee of a reformed Senate as described above.

  4. Sue Donym February 21, 2018 at 5:47 am

    Why is it important that the government has an automatic majority and needs to be assured of winning each vote? Isn’t this a mockery of democracy? Why are we funding a body to rubberstamp or duplicate what occurs in the lower house?

    If the senate is to ensure checks and balances, the first order of business is to ensure that it has the ability to do so, unencumbered by loyalty or affiliation. If that body is intended to provide further perspective, to action citizens’ concerns or on occasion to censure, we’re obviously unlikely to achieve any of this with the current procedure or composition.

    Time for a meaningful public debate.

  5. jrsmith February 21, 2018 at 6:05 am

    What do senators do , could never come to grips a small island as Barbados have such a top heavy political infrastructure , but still we have no real management of Barbados LTD………….

  6. Ralph W Talma February 21, 2018 at 8:14 am

    In this instance @Sue Donym I agree with you, but I doubt very much whether it will be considered by the Government.

    • Sue Donym February 21, 2018 at 10:36 am

      As it turns out @Ralph W Talma, I agree with you also. Your comment is appreciated.

  7. Ossie Theophilus Moore February 21, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    So you all mean to sey; it aint nutten but a Hog’s Head barrel ’cause it got nuff weighing down pun society. Dah is to you jrsmith!

  8. hcalndre February 21, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    I totally agree with you Senator Watson, Barbados` government senators going to vote with the party at all times as the ministers did, they are none of them that has the back bone to vote against even when one knows that its not a good idea for their constituency.

  9. Jack Husbands February 24, 2018 at 5:07 am

    Senator Watson, while you are at it let’s reserve two ministries for independent senators so as to give greater “balance”. What is “balance” anyway?


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