The Barbados government has presented a new Barbados charter to parliament, which has sparked a battle of words between Prime Minister Mia Mottley and opposition leader Bishop Joseph Atherley.
Prime Minister Mottley, who presented the charter to lawmakers Tuesday, a week before the island becomes a republic, said the document promotes the concept of active citizenship and is a guide to how people should treat each other and the country, but it is not such a constitution, the preamble of a new or existing constitution, or a legal document.
âHowever, it is a document that reflects the opinion of the majority, but which is committed to protecting everyone, not just the majority, because the role of government is to grant the benefits of the rule of law protection, the precepts of fairness upon the People while insisting that this order be maintained to avoid anarchy, âshe added.
But Atherley said the document, while not legally binding, outlines the rights and duties of citizens, omitting “God” and insisting that God cannot be thrown out with the monarch as Barbados prepares its transition to republican status next week.
The opposition leader said he had serious problems with the section of the charter that refers to the fact that all are equal because of “our humanity in the eyes of the Creator”. He said the wording was watered down and deviated significantly and tragically from what appears in the preamble to the 1966 Constitution.
âWe recognize God in the national anthem; I have to believe, based on the language of this charter, that we are going to address this line with the part that says, “The Lord was the leader of the people”. âAre we going to remove that too because we believe we are excluding others? Don’t we say that And if we don’t say it there, we have to make sure the language is right here so that we don’t give people the opinion that we are saying it here.
âBecause I’m telling you, if you play the national anthem on that line, you’re going to have some problems in Barbados. I say this modestly, and you can take it for what it’s worth, âargued the opposition leader.
He told lawmakers that the charter contains no expression of duty, devotion, or dependence on God, the highest and sovereign.
âIt’s humanistic; it represents a pre-eminent mindset in the world today, it represents a value that we import from abroad, and it is a departure from what we have always relied on in our lives. There is no primacy to God.
âIn my humble opinion, this charter must express very clearly that we, who, in my opinion, share this binding understanding of values, recognize that we share these values ââtogether under the eyes of him who is sovereign and sovereign for all of us. For me he is called God. “
Atherley said that all of Barbados’ major religions recognize a sovereign being to whom devotion is due. He warned those responsible for the charter against painting a picture that Barbados is not a Christian state.
But Prime Minister Mottley, who accused Atherley of trying to mislead the house by claiming her government was trying to distance itself from the supremacy of God, said nothing was further from the truth and urged him to withdraw his testimony.
She said the charter, which is not a legal document, was drafted by several people including a distinguished Anglican clergyman, Senator Reverend Dr. John Rogers.
Mottley said the use of the word “creator” was not meant to be disrespectful, rather it respected the fact that a creator pays tribute to who it is, and said the opposition leader had an opportunity to say what he changed to word creator shall be.
âThat shouldn’t divide you. But what will not be recorded and left in the records of the public in this country is that this government is trying to deny everyone in this country the right to determine who their God is, and besides, we are trying to recreate a preamble to create for the constitution. That’s not the Constitution, âadded Prime Minister MÃ¶tley.
But the opposition leader maintained his stance and said, âDon’t come up with this watered-down garbage that we are not a theocratic society.
“Hello, it’s rubbish. All major religions hold the view that there is a supreme and sovereign being. They may call him God, they may call him Jehovah, they may call him Allah whatever they call him, he is exalted and sovereign and worthy and deserving of their devotion and duty, and they recognize their dependence on him. Don’t come with this imported folly. “
Atherley referred to the 2010 census, which said the Anglican community comprised 23.9 percent of the population; the Pentecostal denomination made up 19.5 percent; six percent are Seventh-day Adventists; 4.2 percent Methodists and Catholics made up 3.8 percent.
âOf 277,000 people, 75.6 percent or 209,000 people admitted to believing in this supreme and sovereign God. Twenty percent admitted they had no religion. Barbados is a Christian country. The concept of God is not alien to us. You can’t water it down or dilute it [it]. So in this charter we must go beyond celebrating our equality and humanity and also give priority to God who is sovereign, âsaid the opposition leader.
Former Prime Minister Mottley told lawmakers that “the one major departure of this charter from the current constitution and the other things we have done as an independent nation is that there is no document telling the Barbadians that you can.” not only have rights, but you have a duty to look after one another and you have a duty to look after this nation and you have a duty to get involved in its affairs or nation-building as a form of active citizenship .
She said that the charter “very, very clearly sets out not only the precepts of rights, but also the recognition that the only people who will take care of this beautiful country are the Barbadians themselves and those who choose to be here to live”.
The Barbados Charter is based on five articles, the first of which says that all Barbadians are born free and regardless of age, race, ethnicity, belief, class, cultural and educational background, skills, gender, gender or sexual orientation.
âWe need to have a policy to ensure that if we are to live up to the struggles and to honor the struggles of our ancestors, and if we are to do justice to the struggles, we must never, never, never, never reflect even a bit of discrimination against any person in this nation must live up to the precepts of human dignity that we believe in, be it as a nation or spiritually, âMottley told Parliament on Tuesday.
Barbados becomes a republic on November 30th.