Eighteen-year-old Khaleel Kothdiwala will not be a Senator.
In a media release on Saturday, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley stated there was “clear indication by Independent senators that they would not have supported the measure”.
At last Friday’s sitting, leader of Government Business, Senator Lisa Cummins adjourned debate on the constitutional motion when it became evident that the required two-thirds majority vote would not have been achieved.
The bill before the chamber sought to not only enable an 18-year-old to serve in the chamber, but also to provide for the appointment of two senators nominated by the party securing the second highest number of votes in the preceding election.
Mottley met today with Kothdiwala and said “dis-appointing him was one of the most difficult acts of my tenure to date as Prime Minister of Barbados”.
PM Mottley lamented, “It is unfortunate that in the midst of global turmoil with respect to youth in crisis, Barbados finds itself at a point where embracing young people and youthful leadership is clearly still beyond its imagination.
Pressed for a comment, a reflective Kothdiwala said “even though not having climbed the historic stairs of Parliament in my intended capacity, I am nonetheless humbled that a government would go to such lengths to create the opportunity for the voices of 18-20-year olds who can vote to be heard in the ultimate chamber of decision-making.”
Kothdiwala maintained that he “will continue to pursue his academic studies but shall remain a keen student of governance and the management of public life in Barbados”.
Continuing, Prime Minister Mottley said “this is one of the most painful days in my tenure so far.
“Why it is so painful as a Barbadian that this is happening, is that in countries around us, when the moment of truth came they rose to the occasion. Two recent examples that come to mind was the election to parliament in St Lucia of a 21-year-old female and her subsequent appointment 18 months later as minister in charge of the vital tourism industry.”
Reflecting on events in Dominica a couple years later, she noted, “You had a then 27-year-old, following the tragic deaths of two successive prime ministers in office, being asked to assume the mantle of leadership at so young an age. Many said then he was way too young, but today, 23 years later he is still the prime minister of that country and everyone would agree that he will go down in the annals of history as one of the best leaders this region ever had.”
In summing up the development, Mottley opined, “Historians will have the last say on this matter.”
In the interim, she announced that Kothdiwala has been invited to be an honorary member of the Barbados Labour Party’s parliamentary party, noting that “he has a perspective that needs to be shared and that we need to hear as we shape a post COVID Barbados”.
Turning to Kothdiwala, she said: “The genius of our people cannot be contained by age. Khaleel, do not be deterred – your turn will come.” (PR/SAT)