By Michelle Sutherland
The appointment of Moses “Shyne” Barrow as the new Leader of the Opposition (LOO) does not offend the United Democratic Party (UDP)’s Constitution, UDP Chairman Michael Peyrefitte affirmed to The Reporter today.
Article 9(7) of the UDP Constitution reads as follows:
“In the event the occasion arises that the Party Leader is not elected in a general election, or vacates his seat in the House of Representatives, or is recalled during the parliamentary term and there is an urgent need to identify a UDP member of the House to assume the office of Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition, the Central Executive Committee shall name a UDP member as Leader in the House according to the following order of precedence and the Governor-General shall be immediately so informed: First Deputy Leader, Second Deputy Leader, The UDP representative with the longest service in the House, The UDP representative that won his or her seat with the largest percentage constituency votes in the preceding general election.”
The UDP Constitution would go on to state: “A National Convention shall be held within three (3) months of such appointment in order to either ratify or change the advice given to the Government General.”
On Tuesday, however, Barrow was sworn in as LOO in a move that ostensibly upset the UDP Constitution’s “order of precedence,” but Chairman Michael Peyrefitte, in speaking with The Reporter, said that the UDP was not going against their party's constitution in appointing Barrow instead of Panton, because nowhere in the party’s Constitution did it speak to a Party Leader “resigning”.
Thus, according to Peyrefitte, those particular rules would not have applied to the current scenario. According to Peyrefitte, it was then left up to the Central Executive Committee (CEC) to make a final decision and that was done in this case. While Peyrefitte maintains the view that the rules of the party's constitution would not have applied in this instance, Hon. Tracy Panton had taken to social media to chastise the decision of her party members, accusing them of going in contravention of the party's constitution.
Panton, however, is not alone in that view. The Reporter also spoke with a senior attorney familiar with the UDP Constitution, and specifically in reference to Article 9(7)’s “order of precedence.”
The attorney noted that it is “reasonable” to expect that the CEC would have still abided by the order prescribed, despite it not specifically mentioning “resignation of the Party Leader.” The attorney underscored that it is evident and virtually “common sense” that the “purpose” of the provision was to provide a seniority-based structure and order to any interim succession, at least until the National Convention is held.
Last week, the UDP’s National Organization of Women (UDP NOW) had issued a press release supporting the position that Panton—who has the longest service in the House—should have been selected as the new LOO.
When the Reporter reached out to the Deputy Leader of the UDP, Hon Hugo Patt, for a comment on the matter he told us that the decision to appoint Barrow as LOO was done based on consultation among party members. He reiterated, however, that Shyne's appointment as LOO is only on an interim basis until a party convention can be held. Something which he says needs to be done as early as possible to elect a new leader who will also become the LOO.