Attorney General, Dale Marshall, speaking to the media following the swearing-in of the Constitutional Reform Commission at State House, today. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

A former attorney general, a trade unionist and teacher, a member of the clergy, a youth student advocate, a disabled rights advocate and attorneys-at-law are among the group of Barbadians on the Constitutional Reform Commission.

Ten members were sworn in today by the Acting President, The Very Reverend Dr. Jeffrey Gibson, before the Acting Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw and Attorney General, Dale Marshall, during a ceremony at State House.

The Commissioners who will serve for the next 18 months are: Chairman and retired Justice Christopher Blackman; Senator Reverend Dr. John Rogers; Senator Gregory Nicholls, former Attorney General, Adriel Brathwaite; President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union , Mary-Anne Redman; President of the Barbados Council for the Disabled, Kerryann Ifill; Muslim Chaplin at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus (UWI), Suleiman Bulbulia; businessman, Chris deCaires; Attorney-at-Law, Sade Jemmott, and student advocate, Khaleel Kothdiwala.

University of the West Indies lecturer, Professor Cynthia Barrow-Giles, who will serve as Secretary to the Commission, will be sworn in tomorrow.

Mr. Marshall told the media that the Commissioners’ work would commence this Friday, after the official launch of the members to the public, and described today’s swearing-in as a milestone for the country.

He shared that attempts were made in the 1970s with the Cox Commission and its Constitutional Report to look at the island’s Constitution. Twenty-years later, in 1996, a similar exercise was undertaken, this time with the Forde Constitutional Report.

Acknowledging that much had changed in the island’s development, the Attorney General pointed out that with the island’s transition to a republic, a detailed review of the constitutional structure and mechanics was needed.

“There have been some critics in the press who have said that it has taken too long, but everyone knows of course that we had to deal with elections and we are still dealing with issues relating to COVID but that time has come.

“We methodically set about establishing this Commission….  I don’t think the members of the public would have an appreciation for all of the things that go on behind the scenes.  We had to make sure that the Commission is well funded because … in order to have the kind of in depth consultation … that a modern Barbadian is entitled to and would want, we have to make sure that a lot of systems are put in place …,” Mr. Marshall stated.

The Attorney General said the Commission was well-funded and he, along with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, were pleased with the constitution of the Commission, with persons drawn from the youth and the legal profession, as well as having the “voice” of the former attorney general.

Mr. Marshall urged Barbadians to make an input into how modern Barbados should conduct its business.  “There have been calls for constitutional reforms for many years … but this whole exercise will serve to educate Barbadians as to what a constitution is; what its value to us has been over the years and we want them to take this opportunity to become involved,” he stated, noting that one of the concerns of the Cox and Forde Commissions was that not enough Barbadians had participated in that process.

He continued: “Today, we have Zoom …  We have all kinds of streaming platforms ….  We have a Barbados that is well versed with what is happening on social media and we assure you that we will be using every single avenue to reach out to Barbadians, and we want them to reciprocate by getting involved in the process; participate in the meetings whether by Zoom or by face-to-face, but let their voices be heard….  This is the opportunity for them all to participate in determining how a Republic Barbados looks going forward.”

Mr. Marshall added that he expected the Commission to deliver the new Constitutional document in the specified time frame, and an extension would be granted, if warranted.

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