(Barbados Nation) Former Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has signalled her intention to pull out of the race for chairmanship of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in a controversy surrounding changes to the rules of the party’s upcoming annual conference.

Mia Mottley

While Mottley has described the amendments as “undemocratic and unconstitutional” the party has insisted that not only was it within its right to make the changes, but the adjustments would prevent distortion in voting at the October 29-30 conference.

In a letter circulated on Monday, Mottley accused the BLP of disenfranchising some members by preventing them from being counted when the number of delegates for the conference was being determined.

“The most powerful way I can register my strongest opposition to this undemocratic and unconstitutional cutting of members’ rights and tinkering with our [party] constitution is to withdraw from the contest for the post of chairman,” she wrote.

“To remain would be to legitimize behaviour that is foreign to this party.”

Mottley had been set to face off against Dr Jerome Walcott to succeed party chairman George Payne. She had been nominated by four constituency branches, the BLP confirmed yesterday, while Walcott got the nod from 19 branches along with the Women’s League and League of Young Socialists. Delegates at the conference would then have voted for their choice.

Despite her withdrawal, Mottley said she was still committed to promoting progressive changes to the party’s constitution.

The Standing Orders for the conference indicate that each league is entitled to one delegate for every ten members. However, when it is being determined how many members each has – in order to calculate how many delegates they’re entitled to – a person will now only be counted in one organization.

Mottley has taken issue with that new method.

“It has reduced the rights of women and young people in the party by forcing them to choose if they want to be members of a branch or the Women’s League
or Young Socialists respectively,” she argued.

“Simply put, these changes will also reduce the number of young people and women who would be entitled to be a delegate and vote at the conference . . . .
We must rescind these Standing Orders as a matter of urgency.”

She also expressed outrage that there was no consultation with members about the new Standing Orders. However, in a statement issued by BLP general secretary Peter Phillips yesterday, the party insisted that the changes would eliminate distortion.

“[Multiple counting] had the potential to distort the number of people who could vote at the annual conference,” he explained.

The BLP also dismissed Mottley’s claim that the party’s National Executive Committee had no right to ratify the new Standing Orders in advance of the conference.

Phillips insisted that the Conference Arrangements Committee acted as a Standing Orders Committee and had the right to formulate new rules which were then ratified by the National Executive Committee.

The requirement in the new Standing Orders that recommendations for amendments to the constitution be submitted only by the chairman of the Constitution Review Committee and that they be circulated at least 60 days before a conference also disturbed Mottley.

She said that submission process contravened the party’s constitution and the timeline prevented recommendations concerning constitutional change, including her “one man, one vote” proposal, from being brought for this year’s conference.