EDITORIAL: All eyes on Barbados

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The eyes of the Caribbean will be focused on Barbados as that country heads to a general election tomorrow, May 24. For election watchers, it is and has been one for the ages. Prime Minister Freundel Stuart revealed the date one month and three weeks after Parliament was automatically dissolved on March 6, a date which marked the end of the five year  anniversary of its first meeting following the February 21, 2013 general election. This election was special for a number of reasons, but chief among them was the fact that it was the first time in the history of Barbados that Parliament was dissolved without an election date being announced.
That scenario alone threw the political world in Barbados into chaos. Not only did Stuart allow parliament to automatically dissolve, he did so without any indication that he would call the election before the 90-day election clock ran out, which raised the spectre of a constitutional crisis. And, he added fuel to the fire by calmly stating that he would take it down to the wire. That he has done. 
To give you some sense of what choices the country’s voters have to face, the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP), led by Stuart, is seeking its third consecutive term on the platform that they did an admirable job of keeping Barbados’ ship afloat during the most turbulent economic times in recent history. The main opposition, tell a much different tale.  The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) contends that the DLP and Stuart mismanaged the country and plunged it into economic hardship due to incompetence and the lack of strong decision making.
 We should note that there are five new political parties in the upcoming election. Joining the DLP and the BLP are  the United Progressive Party, Solutions Barbados, Barbados Integrity Movement, the People’s Democratic Movement and the Bajan Free Party, a coalition involving the Kingdom Government Party and the People’s Democratic Congress.  
At this point, you are probably wondering what makes Barbados’ election such a curiosity and what does this all have to do with our bit of paradise. Well, let’s start by saying that we have no comment to make regarding who is more suitable for the leadership role, and we make it a point not to mess in other people’s affairs. What makes it interesting for us as Caribbean people is Prime Minister’s Stuart’s remarks that the DLP will withdraw Barbados from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). It immediately reminded us of Dr. Eric Williams, then Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, who famously said, “one from ten leaves nought” when, in 1961, Jamaica voted by referendum to withdraw from the West Indies Federation.  
No need to rehash the history of the federation but suffice to say, when Jamaica left, it signaled the end. Today, Stuart, citing disrespect from the Trinidad-based CCJ, said that if the DLP is reelected, Barbados would leave the CCJ in its appellate jurisdiction. Beyond the disrespect, the PM also said that he had a problem with the number of cases that made their way before the final court of appeal, saying, “That court has heard two cases for the year – one from Barbados and one from Guyana.”
With only four countries signed on to the CCJ, we wonder if this will be a case of one from four leaves naught (if the DLP is reelected)? This is obvious fodder for the anti-CCJ faction that continues to criticise the court’s establishment and its effectiveness in dispensing justice in a fair and timely manner. “We went in first, and we can come out first,” Stuart told supporters and most people believe him.
This is a serious blow for the pro-CCJ faction because the natural reaction is: if Barbados is in and they want out, why should we want in?” And, if Barbados is out, how does that bode for the future viability of the CCJ both in terms of financial support and confidence. This is especially pertinent to those who already question the ‘self-sustaining’ financial model that is the foundation of the court’s existence and impartiality. 
With the talk of the CCJ referendum raising its head in Antigua and Barbuda again, we wonder how this type of news will affect people’s perceptions. Will confidence continue or will the criticism by the Barbados PM be too much to overcome? Right now, everyone is taking a wait and see approach to the situation, but there will be lingering effects from Stuart’s statements, especially on the undecided.  
 May 24 will set the course for the Barbados ship; however, the question that remains is, what is the course for the CCJ?
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