Historic! Barbados elects first female PM

No Opposition in Parliament

Saturday, May 26, 2018

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Mia Amor Mottley yesterday took office as Barbados's eighth prime minister and the first woman head of Government and immediately received support from the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA), which congratulated her and signalled its intention to partner with the new Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Administration to address the ailing economy.

However, according to a report by Barbados Today, the private sector boss noted that the country was “in uncharted territory with no elected Opposition in Parliament” and called on the island's constitutional experts to advise quickly and wisely on how the traditional checks and balances could be maintained and improved”.

Mottley's BLP took all seats in the 30-member legislature, a first for the small Caribbean island's Parliament.

Early Friday morning, after it became clear that the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) had been comprehensively whipped, DLP leader and former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said he accepted “full responsibility for the defeat”.

The Barbados Nation reported Stuart as saying that his party had put up a fight, but he conceded: “Those performances were not outstanding enough...”

Charles Herbert, the BPSA president, in a statement after Mottley was sworn in as prime minister, said his association was looking forward to “vastly improved consultation with the social partnership; urgency in addressing the country's economic issues; and leadership which inspires every citizen to play an immediate and personal role in our national recovery”.

The BPSA assured the new Government of its commitment, saying it would remain “apolitical and constructive” as it works with the social partnership to make Barbados better.

The 52-year-old Mottley, who first entered local politics in 1991 when she lost the St Michael North East constituency to Leroy Brathwaite, took the oath of office before Governor General Sandra Mason, and in the presence of family, friends and party supporters.

Attorney Dale Marshall also took the oath of office as Attorney General. Other Cabinet members are expected to be named this weekend.

Mottley joins the late Dame Eugenia Charles of Dominica, Janet Jagan of Guyana, Jamaica's Portia Simpson Miller, and Kamla Persad-Bissessar of Trinidad and Tobago as women who have led governments in their respective countries.

Yesterday, Grenada's Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell described her party's victory as “unprecedented”, reminding Mottley that as she faces the “the challenges ahead, I am confident that this overwhelming mandate will be used to provide a new opportunity to address the priorities of all the people of Barbados.

“Your record of inclusiveness will indeed take on new meaning in this period, as you aspire to live up to the expectations of the people for change and economic advancement; even as you work with your colleagues to advance the regional agenda,” said Mitchell, the only politician to have led his party to a clean sweep of the island's Parliament on three occasions.

Mitchell said he was personally looking forward “to working” with Mottley “in addressing the many common and challenging issues of our time, including promoting the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as our final court”.

“Those of us in the region who view the CCJ as extremely important to the completion of our independence and our own democratic consolidation must work together to ensure that the Caribbean, as a family, fulfils this objective,” Mitchell said.

Stuart had promised to remove the island from the appellate jurisdiction of the court had his DLP retained power in the election.

He claimed that the court had shown a bias against the island.

“The BLP's decisive victory is indeed extraordinary, and your win is at once a personal triumph and an historic achievement. I congratulate you, wholeheartedly, on such a feat, and I look forward to working with you in that same warm spirit which has marked not only our personal friendship, but the relations between our two countries for so many years,” Mitchell continued.

“On behalf of the Government and people of Grenada, I wish you and the BLP great success as you work to deliver the promised goals for a more unified and economically stable Barbados,” Mitchell said in his congratulatory letter.

His St Lucian counterpart, Allen Chastanet, said the victory “was a historic day, not just for Barbados, but also for the Caribbean”.

“The people of Barbados have spoken and delivered to Mia Mottley a highly impressive and extraordinary victory,” said Chastanet.

“I personally congratulate Mia on this achievement and recognise that she has made history in Barbados and the Caribbean, joining an elite group of first female leaders in our region.

“I have no doubt that Ms Mottley will continue to work for the good of the people of Barbados and the region and we look forward to working with the new Administration to advance the causes of the Caribbean and strengthen the bond between our countries. We wish the BLP team much success and continue to wish the people of Barbados much prosperity,” he added.

Dr Peter Phillips, leader of Jamaica's Opposition, said Mottley's landslide victory signals the desire of the people of Barbados for change, renewed hope, the reinvigoration of Caricom and a strong collective Caribbean voice in the global community.

Noting that Mottley is a friend of the People's National Party (PNP), Phillips said that the BLP's return to power “marks a move towards people-centred governance, which is always a welcomed development that benefits all”.

“The PNP wishes the new Government success as it takes on board the expectations of the people of Barbados and strives to improve the lives of the majority of its people,” Phillips added.

Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who eight years ago became her country's first woman head of government, expressed “sincerest congratulations” to Mottley.

“The significance of your landslide victory cannot be understated Caricom and indeed the world looked on in awe, not only as you became Barbados's first woman prime minister, but also leading your party to capturing all 30 seats. You have built a formidable record in the political arena, and your determination to succeed, your acumen and strength of spirit are admirable,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar said that Caribbean society and the electorates of regional nation states are characterised by an unprecedented level of awareness.

“Globalisation, coupled with advances in social media and information technology, have produced, on a foundation of sound education, informed and discerning populations, cognisant of their rights and eager to accomplish their deserved self-determination.

“It is within this context that the victory of your party in the recent polls is so remarkable, and has already touched so many lives, and serves as an inspiration to women and girls to witness the shattering of yet another glass ceiling. Our region has much to be proud of as you stand as a trailblazer in women's political participation and indeed leadership,” she added.

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