Time to change ministers’ oath
I offer congratulations to our new Government and wish it every success as it works on behalf of the people of Barbados.
At the swearing in of the ministers and parliamentary secretaries, our Prime Minister stressed that she expected a situation in which the citizenry plays its part in what is supposed to be a participatory democracy.
As former United States president Barack Obama told Americans, we are the ones we have been waiting on to show up. For much too long, we have felt excluded by our system, which has encouraged us to vote and expected us thereafter to keep quiet unless called upon to speak.
The view has taken root that the Government is an entity quite apart from citizens and, quite frankly, over the many years, people who have tried stating their views other than heaping congratulatory praises have often been viewed as nuisances or have felt that they would be targeted. What this has done is to make some citizens tune out to the point where they do not bother to vote.
But Prime Minister Mia Mottley has invited the citizenry to take an active part in governance by airing our views, so here is our chance to be a part of our Government, to reset how our version of the Westminster system has been excluding us other than at the voting booth, and we must take it. Democracy demands it.
As I sat listening to the ministers taking the oath to the Queen, her heirs and successors, I felt that oath has outlived its ability to inspire as it excludes mention of Barbadians. I believe that the oaths taken need to expressly state that the functionaries are swearing to serve the people and country of Barbados.
Jamaica also has the Queen as its head of state. However, in 2002, the Jamaican Parliament changed the oath of allegiance to read as follows: “I, [here place the name], do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Jamaica, that I will uphold and defend the Constitution and the laws of Jamaica and that I will conscientiously and impartially discharge my responsibilities to the people of Jamaica – so help me God.”
The other official oath is as follows: “I [name], do swear that I will well and truly serve the people of Jamaica in the office of . . . – so help me God.”
For judicial officers, it is, “I [name] do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Jamaica , that I will uphold and defend the Constitution of Jamaica and that I will administer justice to all persons alike in accordance with the laws and usages of Jamaica without fear or favour, affection or ill will – So help me God.”
I note that Malta, another Commonwealth country, has similar oaths, which expressly refer to the country and the people of that country.
So I suggest that we make the change so as to expressly include us, the people of Barbados, in the oaths to be taken by our functionaries. How about it?
– BEVERLEY J WALROND QC