Archive | March, 2010

Lessons on Corruption from Rio Tinto?

31 Mar

ALLEGIANCE has sounded the warning on more than one occasion about the negative impact that corruption is destined to have on this country. For many years we have had a civil service that believed that it had a duty to protect the public purse. Now it seems as those that have taken the view that they need to intercept the monies destined for the coffers of the Government. Corruption is becoming endemic. It is affecting from the largest to the smallest contracts and involves individuals at the highest and the lowest levels in the public and the private sector.

A recent report coming out on Afghanistan suggests that corruption has resulted in the much needed aid destined for Afghanistan poor has been diverted into the hands of corrupt officials. This is one of the worse case scenarios of what could happen to a country when it allow corruption to get out of hand.In the news recently we also see how the Chinese Courts have dealt with four Rio Tinto Executives who were charged for receiving bribes and also for selling trade secrets. The sentences ranged from seven to fourteen years. Much has been said about the way that the Chinese Courts addressed this matter. Views have been expressed that there is a lack of transparency and that the sentences were much too harsh. The defendants had admitted their guilt on the bribery charges.

Our concern must be the issues that this raises for Barbados. From a social perspective – does Barbados have the will to jail corrupt officials and business people? Barbadians have got used to seeing boys from the block behind bars but they have found it difficult to see a man in a suit and tie under lock and key. Is this the reason that little has been done to put legislation in place against corrupt practices? It has always been the case that it is the powerful that determine exactly which areas of social policy are actually reduced to writing. It is perhaps when we start to answer some of these questions that we might actually enter into a meaningful debate at what is clearly a reluctance to deal with corruption in Barbados.

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When should a savvy PM call elections?

29 Mar

PM Patrick Manning

Prime Minister Patrick Manning has apparently hinted to party faithfuls that they might need to get into election mode pretty soon. Elections are due in 2012. The leader of the majority opposition Kamla Persad-Bissesar has responded by telling him to bring it on! Reports in the local media are also giving the impression that residents in the PNM stronghold are telling him to bring it on too – so that they can vote for the other side! It is always difficult to tell what any demographic is feeling from this far away. However anyone visiting T&T must have wondered why a country that is “oil rich” has not spent more of that money on improving conditions in Laventille.

So is Barbados getting into election mode too? The reports by DLP members to Constituencies and the acceleration of the Constituency Councils might suggest that there will be an early election. The BLP has also been holding a number of public political meeting. While those held in the past have been rather parochial, the meeting held in Heroes’ Square might suggest that the BLP is also getting itself ready.

But for both Governments elections are due in over two years. How would voters react to an early election? No doubt there would be representations about seeking a renewed mandate. There could however be the view that there is a need to call an election before the economy gets worse. Time will tell.

The Barbados: Haiti Policy

29 Mar

Allegiance continues its call for Barbados to strengthen its policy towards Haiti. Yes there is a CARICOM policy towards Haiti and indeed Haiti is a member of CARICOM. There is a CARICOM policy towards the UK, the USA and Canada (for example) and this does not prevent Barbados from developing its own policy. Maybe this song will be an inspiration to our people to continue to call for this policy.

New Look Parliament Website

29 Mar

Good news! The Parliament of Barbados has revamped its website to a more modern look and feel. In addition it now carries videos of the various presentations by members. Member of the public will also be able to see the parliamentary sessions live on the site.

The website strikes a stinging contrast with the behaviour of some members of the house in recent times. We know that the editors of the video must have had their work cut out for them!

Constituency Councils must be disbanded before it’s too late!

28 Mar

Chris Sinckler Minister responsible for Councils

The two main political parties have accused each other of tricking the people on several different occasions and they are probably both right in their assessment. It seems that we have not settled down to run this country properly but we are continually in election mode. One can not help but get the feeling that more time is spent on election strategy than on policy formulation and implementation.

The main election gimmick that is now in full flight is the Constituency Councils project. As we had stated previously from the objectives set out in the legislation their mandate certainly is not to strengthen the communities. In fact it seems to be exactly what Government Departments are meant to do(distribution of social services) – but how can you seriously expect to do that with $1 million? The people using this formula would become even more dependent on the personal hand outs from politicians. And this is why these councils must be abandoned before they reverse the independence that education and landownership were supposed to bring.

[Before we get into this topic any further let us just state that we do not agree with Barbadians who express the view that because something happened before that it is a justification for a continued type of behaviour. Certainly it must be a part of our function on earth to seek to improve our circumstances.]

So another set of constituency Councils have been launched. We continue with this exercise even though we know that it will do Barbados’ democracy no good. We are entitled by now to a report on what these councils have achieved so far, how much money they have spent and on which projects. All of the evidence thus far points to the Councils being used in a very partisan way in order to reward individuals for their support. No doubt as we draw closer to elections they will be used to buy votes.

Barbados has reached a sad day in its history where “corn’ beef and biscuit” politics has become institutionalised and is being funded using taxpayers’ money as opposed to coming from the private sector. Word on the ground is that selected individuals are being called up to be offered “assistance” without any rhyme or reason. Those of us who live in constituencies with councils have no means of accessing the goodies which are on offer.

Anyone opposing DLP backed candidates (and I use this expression advisedly) in the next election will certainly have their work cut out for them. The BLP never came out against these Councils in the way that it should have done. Their reasons remain unclear. There is no objective vetting process in which people would engage in if they were getting small business assistance from one of the established agencies.

And the people of Barbados remain silent on these issues as they remain silent on so many issues.

Allegiance Review

27 Mar

Allegiance promotes the principle of transparency and accountability. It is within this context that we report to our readership on our progress. We started off with a great deal of interest in creating a forum for the expression of non-partisan views. In doing so we have been able to develop a small cadre of individuals that are committed to the cause of speaking in a political and yet non-partisan way. This has been encouraging. Our viewership has been growing steadily although as can be expected there are peaks and troughs. There are very few individuals that post comments however. In reviewing our site one would notice a steady decline.

We believe that contributions have nevertheless been of a very high quality and we believe that we have been able to learn from each other.

Amongst those that started out by participating in this exercise, few are willing to come forward and be identified. This has had a severe impact on the ability to move forward with other plans. This is symptomatic of the difficulties that civil society movements face in Barbados. We understand that politics is a rough game and many individuals prefer to remain hidden. We have explored in “Fear or Taking the Lazy Way Out” whether Barbadians are really afraid of victimisation or whether they just can not be bothered. This is still left to be seen. Whatever the reason one can not deny that there is a price to pay with the expertise in spin being honed in Barbados every day.

We have every intention to continue with our contribution to the debate in this nation and we would like to thank those who have contributed to this small movement. As we take stock on our position on the Internet and in Barbados politics we have resolved that we will continue. We have not forgotten our pledge to bring these discussions out in the open via a town hall meeting. The bottom line is that members do not have the will to do so at this time. We apologise. We will however press on as we are determined to make progress.

God Bless all of you at this Eastertime

Just how far does that privilege extend?

23 Mar

We agreed that part of our committment in setting up this site would be to keep an eye on developments in our Parliament especially the Lower House as this is where the elected representatives sit. Over the past few days there has been considerable commentary an incident which occurred in the precincts of Parliament at the core of which seemed to be the possession of a firearm.

The public has been waiting to hear from both sides of the political divide as to how this matter will be handled. The question has arisen as to whether the state through the Commissioner of Police has any role in the matter. If for example a gun were used in a threatening fashion, it would seem on the face of it to be a matter upon which at least a charge of assault could be laid.

Some have wondered if the police is in some way prevented from carrying out its responsibility in the same way that they would had this incident taken place on the “block” or elsewhere in Barbados. The answer would seem to be that there is nothing to prevent the law of the land from being enforced if there is enough evidence to support a charge. However it is also clear that if the victim of the assault fails to cooperate with the police that it would be difficult for any charge to be pursued successfully in a court of law.

If the Commissioner of Police will not take any action for the reasons discussed before, it would seem that the Speaker has a role in ensuring that the debates in Parliament can be conducted without any fear for one’s life. No doubt there are members of Parliament that would take the view that any action taken by the Speaker need not be shared with the public. What seems clear however is that there is a call from members of the public to know what actions are going to be taken.

Then we come to the Party leaders. If the parties are serious about the conduct of their members then they must ensure that there is a minimum standard. Engaging in assaults could certainly not amount to meeting a minimum standards. On this matter the Members of Parliament elected by the people of Barbados must determine how they will respond to this request for answers. At this juncture politicians stand to lose a great deal of respect from the people who have given them the privilege to serve.