Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said she hoped the election of Dame Sandra Mason as the first President of Barbados will lead to greater unity of purpose in the fight against several external threats that could impact on the way of life in the island.
Mottley made this appeal following the election of Dame Sandra to the position on Wednesday during a joint sitting of the House of Assembly and Senate at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
In defence of her administration’s decision to elect Dame Sandra as the first step to transforming Barbados into a republic, the Prime Minister said it was important for the people of the nation to rise and fight together to build forward better in the face of difficulties posed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, climate change and under-population.
“This is about being able to use this as a springboard that we, as a nation, need in order to confront a completely different reality in many instances completely different than that which confronted us as a nation when we became the government of this nation just over three years ago,” Mottley said.
“Our reality is that the world has confronted a pandemic the likes of which have not been seen in over a century. The reality is that for the first time since being an independent nation, this country has had to contend with double digit declines, not due to anything done by anyone here, but due to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic that has [devastated] every single tourism and travel dependent nation of the entire global community.”
Mottley said the confluence of the pandemic, climate change and under-population was a perfect storm that if left untouched will undermine “the stability of Barbados and the stability and prosperity of our people”.
“If ever there was a time that this nation needs to bind itself together, if ever there was a time we must move from a ‘covenant of hope’ to a confidence necessary, it is now,” she said.
“We are very, very, very clear that the confidence that is needed to be able to meet the moment that we face comes first and foremost that when we look in the mirror, as the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow would have said, ‘We must love what we see’.
She added: “There can be no better way than to reflect the love of self than to accept that one of your very own, born of this nation, shaped by this nation, adding to this nation, bringing honour to this nation that that person should be elected here.
“How can anyone deny the rightness of the moment? Recognising, we need a mobilising force and a unifying force to allow us to fight battles that hitherto in an independent Barbados we have not had to fight.”
Mottley said a 166-square mile island, such as Barbados, could not fight the world divided and it was critical that the right battles are fought in the name of the people.
“I hope that those coming after us will understand that we made a determination that there shall be a two-thirds majority of each house because this country must find a way to find someone that must unite all opinions,” she said.
“We are simply too small not to make the extraordinary efforts to find that person who can provide that unity of purpose for this nation. . . . We believe we must always dig deep to find that higher place.”
Mottley said she felt proud it was “a woman of the soil” that had the honour of being the first President of Barbados.
“I know only too well the journey that it has taken for women to come to any position that they did not hold before and the extent to which it has become the subject of all kinds of difficulties and, regrettably, in some instances, misogyny,” she said.
“I know only too well that those for whom that honour is given come not to be the first ever, but come to ensure that we will never be the last. I believe that is the position of the person whom we have now elected as our first woman President, but the first President of this nation of Barbados.”
Mottley said the election of Dame Sandra was a seminal moment for Barbados, but it was not one that the Government had taken lightly.
“We have reached this moment on the eve of the 55th year of our [political] independence [from Britain],” she said. “We all know that in our own lives that to reach 55, if you are not comfortable with yourself, if you are not confident in yourself, then something is fundamentally wrong.
“This government like those who went before and who expressed confidence in the journey, even if not completing the process, we believe that the time has come for us to claim our full destiny and to recognise in reality what has been the position.”
Mottley said there was no way that the decisions of the Parliament or the Executive of Barbados should need approval of those who were not born and do not live in the island, and do not appreciate the daily realities of life in the island in the third decade of the 21st Century.