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EDITORIAL – Sex, religion, politics


luigimarshall, [email protected]

EDITORIAL – Sex, religion, politics

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If there is one thing the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Summit, which wraps up today, will be remembered for is the manner in which the position of women has become enhanced.
For the first time in the history of the organization, we have witnessed one female chairperson (from Trinidad and Tobago) handing over the presidency to another (Julia Gillard of Australia) in the presence of a female, Her Majesty the Queen, as head of the Commonwealth.
Of greater significance was the agreement between all members of the Commonwealth that the barrier to female succession to the British monarchy should be removed.
As a Commonwealth member, whose Head of State is Her Majesty, the agreement of Barbados was necessary, and we anticipate that it would have been freely given.
The symbolic message of this major constitutional change must signal to one and all that the position of women in the highest echelons of political office is now enshrined in our constitutional system, and that no glass ceilings remain to be shattered. It is obvious that the role of women in politics is being seen as imperative, especially since the theme of the conference recognized that women could be agents of change.
Amidst all the historic change though has been concern about the practical usefulness of gatherings such as this. Critics regard the exercise as little more than the meeting of a club of political leaders who achieve little or nothing, other than contributing to a talk shop, created, supported and attended by the respective heads at the expense of the taxpayers who foot the bill for these biennial jaunts.
Defending the $1/4 million trip this year to Australia of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and his delegation, which included Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Maxine McClean and our High Commissioner in London Tony Arthur, has been Minister of Industry Denis Kellman.
He pointed to the savings to the country of Mr Stuart seeing “all of those leaders” at the Commonwealth summit than “having to go and meet them one by one”.
Minister of Health Donville Inniss equally argued there was no “joyriding” by the Prime Minister, but that Mr Stuart needed to travel to open new markets for Barbadian products and negotiate new financing.
There are many others who argue too that the meeting permits personal contact between leaders who might exchange frank opinions of matters of particular parochial interest, and in some instances the first roots of an agreement might be planted. Networking, they say, is vital to the protection of national interests. 
Some leaders, almost assuredly, will go back to their cabinets with nothing more than promises made with all sincerity, but many of which might be torpedoed in the political hustings when the promisor returns to the more contentious atmosphere of his local seat of power.
Another change we have noted with great interest is the removal of the barrier that prevented an heir to the throne marrying a Roman Catholic and still succeeding to the throne. In this modern era, and with written Commonwealth constitutions entrenching freedom from discrimination on grounds of sex or faith, it was always going to be only a matter of time before this outdated condition was removed from the laws of the country that gave us the mother of our constitutions.
Protection from discrimination on grounds of gender or faith is vital to the moral and social growth of democratic nations.
Another question that raises its head here, given the context, is that of our island becoming a republic. This is a development that would not jeopardize our position as a member of the Commonwealth, because one can retain one’s membership while removing the British monarch as Head of State.
We believe this is still an important matter for our people to decide, even if it is not on the front burner at this time.
 

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