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Barbados Prime Minister Unwell

21 Jul

PM David Thompson

Illness is a very sensitive subject and Barbadians are caught in no-man’s land on the subject of the ill-health of the current Prime Minister of Barbados, the Honourable David Thompson. To the best of our knowledge there has been no other Prime Minister that has had to take “sick leave”. It is clear that a protocol needs to be established for the future.

The current protocol seems to be that the Prime Minister need not disclose the severity or the nature of his illness to anyone. In many other jurisdictions this would not be tolerated, not because people are “malicious” but that the illness of the Prime Minister can have an impact on governance. It could lead to a certain degree of uncertainty. The only legitimate response seems to be prayer. Some Barbadians have expressed the strong view that the Prime Minister’s health is his business.

Take for example, this call for a budget. If the Prime Minister is to be back at his desk should the Acting Prime Minister seek to put a Budget in place? Yes we know that Prime Minister Thompson seems to have granted Acting Prime Minister Stuart the power to do all manner of things (It is doubtful whether this is legitimate); but this could be a matter than in the view of the Mr. Stuart could very well await his return.

Prime Minister Thompson’s projections of returning in two months have not put a stop to the speculation as to who might take over the leadership of the Democratic Labour Party. There are no clear choices except Mr. Stuart by default. Some would argue that this leads to a certain degree of uncertainty in the Government.

We know that in the United States that the Public would insist on their right to know as we saw during their last election campaign. The USA however is not the best example for many things. Their politics is often akin to an extreme sport.

There is always a view that the Public has the right to know on smaller matters. Does the Public have the right to know on this most important matter?

Tory-LibDem LoveFest

15 May

The question on everyone’s lips must be “how long will the love fest last?”. Well the Liberal Democrats have glued themselves to the hip of the Conservatives and so far everything is fine. David Cameron is the new British Prime Minister and Nick Clegg his Deputy. The two make a very vibrant looking team and must make the British feel that they can take on the world. They have already agreed to a 5% cut in salaries.

Political reform is one of the items on the Lib-Dem agenda on which the Conservatives were prepared to make a compromise. The UK may not need very much convincing about changing to proportional representation. There certainly will not be an outcry if there is reform in the House of Lords. Well these are the easy bits, its going to be a long hard slog to get that crippling deficit down to manageable proportions.

The following sets out the proposed political reform:

May 11, 2010

The parties agree to the establishment of five year fixed-term parliaments. A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government will put a binding motion before the House of Commons in the first days following this agreement stating that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015. Following this motion, legislation will be brought forward to make provision for fixed term parliaments of five years. This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour.

The parties will bring forward a Referendum Bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the Alternative Vote in the event of a positive result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies. Both parties will whip their Parliamentary Parties in both Houses to support a simple majority referendum on the Alternative Vote, without prejudice to the positions parties will take during such a referendum.
The parties will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP was found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents.

We agree to establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motions by December 2010. It is likely that this bill will advocate single long terms of office. It is also likely there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.

The parties will bring forward the proposals of the Wright Committee for reform to the House of Commons in full – starting with the proposed committee for management of programmed business and including government business within its scope by the third year of the Parliament.

The parties agree to reduce electoral fraud by speeding up the implementation of individual voter registration.
We have agreed to establish a commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question’.

The parties agree to the implementation of the Calman Commission proposals and the offer of a referendum on further Welsh devolution.

The parties will tackle lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists. We also agree to pursue a detailed agreement on limiting donations and reforming party funding in order to remove big money from politics.

The parties will promote the radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups. This will include a full review of local government finance.

Are Barbadians being treated equally under the law?

21 Apr

Dorothy Height a female voice in the USA Civil Rights movement died at the age of 98. She fought for racial and gender equality

There have been two recent gun related incidents in Barbados that have raised a great deal of debate in Barbados. The debate has not subsided as yet. The first concerned two members of Parliament (Dale Marshall and David Estwick), one of which, David Estwick has been accused of assault. This particular issue got side tracked by a belief that the Speaker had jurisdiction over criminal offences in Barbados as long as they occurred within the precincts of Parliament. Commonsense would suggest that this is untrue even if one were unschooled in the law. The second incident had to do with the death of a youngster. Everyone sympathises with the loss of a child in whatever circumstances. Many Barbadians do not know what happened in the house of the Bjerkhamns that day but a child is dead and this could throw up a situation of mere accident, manslaughter or even murder. We do not know and it is certainly not the point of this piece to speculate on the circumstances.

The issue that concerns a number of Barbadians is process. In the first situation the Police should have been present at the time of the incident in Parliament. They should have been there because it is the practice that they should be there to protect all those visiting and working in the Parliament. The alleged offence was never investigated in order to determine whether or not charges should be filed. In the Bjerkhamn episode the Police delayed in filing any charges and then the public was informed that the suspect (forgive us if that term is not appropriate) had left the island by private jet. Well some argue that he was not charged so he could leave. Many a young male in Barbados have expressed the view that they would never have been allowed to go to their child’s funeral.

What is it that the ordinary Barbadian is concerned about? Individuals can relate incidents where simply because they were present at an incident they were charged and held over night. Even though one would not recommend this approach as the norm, the approach taken to these two incidents must suggest that there is some inequality of treatment. These are not only legal matters they are societal matters. A cursory glance at our newspapers would suggest that it is only working class Barbadians and tourists that are ever involved in the drug trade whether as consumers or retailers.

Are Barbadians being treated equally under the law? These are questions similar to those that were raised in the USA Civil Rights movement. Yet in 2010 Barbadians wonder if there is still anything to fight for, whether there is still some noble cause. Well there is!! While there has always been a suspicion that there is inequality of treatment, these two incidents seem to confirm what had been suspected for a long time. The leadership in the country needs to provide us with some explanation. It would be unwise to allow these feelings of inequality to fester in the breasts of our people for too long.

The Antigua & Barbuda Saga

5 Apr

PM Baldwin Spencer

The case in Antigua and Barbuda where High Court Judge, Ms Louise Blenman, recently annulled the electoral results in three constituencies in the March, 2009 General Elections in that country. This is one case in which peoples within the English Speaking Caribbean, ought to see the matter of legal recourse to their own local Courts as a fundamental axiomatic legal, constitutional, moral and equitable right. This is a part of a wider political dispensation and process that has been established within a system of the rule of law and natural justice within the region. This right that is being exercised in order to properly settle disputes surrounding national or bi-election outcomes.

Indeed, this is one of the principles that can be identified in this legal case in Antigua and Barbuda. Here the Antigua Labour Party (ALP)some time ago brought applications in the High Court of Antigua and Barbuda against the United People’s Party (UPP) questioning – under S. 44 SS 1(a) and 2(a) of the Antigua and Barbuda Constitution – the then membership in the House of Representatives of Antigua and Barbuda of four members who were elected to duly serve four constituencies that arose out of the 2009 General election on the grounds that there were breaches in certain electoral laws.

The UPP has already successfully applied for, and got, a stay of execution until the 16 of April ( BarbadosToday – 1 April, 2010).

The fourth that was challenged based on the same allegations was the seat of Mr. Trevor Walker of the Barbuda Labour Movement which was however declared valid by Madame Justice Blenman.

Having stated those facts, though, the PDC now turns its attention to some very disturbing and irresponsible comments attributed to one Peter Wickham, in BarbadosToday, where Wickham was reported to have summed up this case as being a part of a trend where some courts (in the said English speaking region ) are aggressive in directly confronting governments. This statement would suggest that these courts and the presiding officers were the ones who brought these cases against the governments and NOT the particular opposition parties.

BUT THE FACTS ARE SUCH THAT THE PARTICULAR COURTS AND THE PARTICULAR JUDICIAL OFFICERS DID NOT BRING THESE APPLICATIONS AGAINST THE PARTICULAR GOVERNMENTS, AND THEREFORE FOR HIM TO HAVE POSSIBLY MADE THOSE INAPPROPRIATE HYSTERICAL COMMENTS AND TO BE REPORTED AS SAYING SUCH IS TOTALLY REPREHENSIBLE.

MR WICKHAM MUST BE TOLD BY THE PDC AND THOSE WHO ARE IN THE KNOW THAT THE COURTS WOULD HAVE BEEN MERELY SEEKING TO CARRY OUT THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL DUTIES, ADJUDICATING IN SUCH CONTENTIOUS MATTERS, BY APPLYING THE PARTICULAR LOCAL LAWS TO THE FACTS IN THEIR RESPECTIVE JURISDICTIONS.

These rulings have NOT made based on any partial political grounds as Mr. Wickham suggests. And in some of these cases, bi-elections have already been held. And, therefore, in these cases where bi-elections have been held or contemplated, say in Jamaica, it would have had to be seen that the decisions of the courts would have had to accepted and upheld by the parties concerned.

So, clearly Mr. Wickham is being unfair and unreasonable and is so in making false reckless imputations against the character and integrity of those particular judicial officers.

This is an abridged version of the PDC Submission which can be viewed fully under the comments “When does a savvy PM call elections?”

Righting the Record on Political Parties

7 Mar

First of all, thanks for making mention of our party in your article. We hope that with the Almighty’s blessings; with the continued people-focussed activities of the members and associates of the PDC; and with the undying backing of the many supporters and friends of our party, that we shall be able to continue for many more years to come, doing as much as we can to make Barbados a brighter and better place in the forseeable future.

Anyhow, it is important that you have raised on this blog the issue of the functioning of “other existing parties” in Barbados in cases where there are no attempts on the part of mainstream media to even debate the presence of “other existing parties” in this country and to present an analysis of the history of many of these “now defunct and still existing other parties” that have been around in this country over the last 50 or so years. Clearly, these aspects of our politics are different from any discourse on here or elsewhere that highlights the PEP as having been given space in one of the newspapers to publish its views.

Also, we have to say that we abhor the terms, “third party”, or “third parties”, as well as the use of such terms, as types of idiomatic expression found within the political linguistics of the Barbadian society. For, they are vulgar forms of political expression. They do not even have any logic behind them whatsoever and seems to used mainly by lecturers in political science at the UWI, Cave Hill, tutors in political science at the BCC, many of the students in these academic disciplines, some within the traditional media and now this modern media.

But, outside of the fact that BA or whomsoever else has produced no set of theoretical scientific standards for determining or defining what is a third party, or what are third parties in the Barbadian context, there is still the reality of their being four parties that are already in existence in Barbados – which itself is a fact that cannot even be misrepresented or distorted by any body on the basis of whatever crude and/or false assumptions they make.

So, here we have this narrow view – which is really a very flawed misconception – of many people in Barbados asking for a third party when there are four in existence.

Nevertheless, the PDC sees your attempt to bring focus on other parties in Barbados as being good on face, even when we have got still to ask: how can this discourse on here properly start unless this thing about there being a need for a third party in Barbados is disabused of by the writer ( and without they reinforcing it on here)??? how??

Moreover, not setting out a strong theoretical conceptual frame work for your article, but at the same time filling it with many false suppositions and false generalizations and false contrasts makes it even more impossible for us to seriously enter into a discourse on these subjects esp. when you state “that THERE IS an argument that IF PEOPLE in Barbados ( how many) PERCEIVE there to be some kind of vacuum ( EITHER THERE IS OR THERE IS NOT – BUT WHAT KIND OF VACUUM?)that needs to be filled, it could not be filled by a thrid party created simply for that purpose ( LACK OF DEFINITION MAKES IT HARD TO SEE WHAT PURPOSE YOU COULD BE REFERRING TO HERE – YOUR ASSUMPTIONS OF THIS PURPOSE ARE NOT CLEAR HERE TOO). It is felt that a successful third party must have its own raison d’etre.”

Furthermore, you say, “many would say that these parties have failed to capture the imagination of the people and that it is argued that it is more likely that existing parties would transform themselves; than the emergence of a third party” – but the truth is that we can’t understand the latter part, for it seems incomplete. Unfortunately, therefore, we can’t really proceed as we would have liked in discussing that aspect.

However, we will venture to say this little bit to you, BA or whoever else this is, that it is not correctly fair to judge newer parties from the point of view that they are to be evaluated on the same terms and on the same basis as one would evaluate the two older dying parties – one against the each other. It surely is NOT fair!! Agree? But the PDC will develop further within its own trajectories and capabilities in spite of the fact that the DLP/BLP when in government steal from the relevant people, businesses and others and applies some of that loot to their own patron clientilish electioneering activities, the fact that so-called national political opinion polls are done by CADRES esp. that are grossly anti-democratic and unfair and biassed in their seeking to wrongly influence – through many sections of the mass mdia in Barbados – the minds of many voters as to how to vote or not in elections – and that therefore will be detrimental to the “other existing parties” chances of winning seats at the polls in this country, etc.

Certainly, these are the types of fundamental problems that BA and other relevant media should be condemn the DLP and BLP for and CADRES for, instead of trying to take away from the noble political efforts of the other existing parties at helping to improve the “lot”/the status of the Barbadian masses and middle classes.

Finally, what we in the PDC would like you all to do is to help further develop a culture of understanding and acceptance in Barbados that it is NOT the “other existing parties” that are systematically helping bring greater despondence and despair to many of the broad masses and middle classes in the country and greater destruction and destabilization of many of the affairs of this country, but that it is the DLP/BLP Governments that have been doing such for years and that in order to remove these types of DLP/BLP problems, there must be the removal of these joke parties from this political landscape, as well as alternatively the establishment of a thrust / movement in the country that seeks to attain objectives consistent with giving “other existing and future parties” with better ideas and programs than the DLP/BLP chances of accessing governmental office. PDC

Pollsters Affecting the Vote

13 Feb

Who determines the independence of the pollster?

We must develop in Barbados a political culture that opposes and that resolves to do away with political public opinion polling within a reasonable time of any election.

Evidence has shown clearly that in the past political public opinion polling of the sort that CADRES conducts is a clear violation of the legal and other principles that have helped to establish free and fair elections.

Indeed, this type of adverse political behaviour has been happening for so long in Barbados that it must be fought by many of those persons who are concerned about it.

It is amazing that any so-called political pollsters could be so certain that they are able to prove – as in being scientific – the truth of their findings when election results are declared. They succeed in getting their findings published in some sections of the media in spite of the fact that their political and other motives for conducting this polling are not fully clear to the public.

They are then able to influence many voters one way or another, how to vote or how not to vote, for particular candidates/parties or not at all. It seems that some of these pollsters by their subsequent political actions and omissions intend to unfairly influence the outcome of elections in Barbados.

Should polling be banned close to elections?

[ It is high time that throngs of Barbadians recognize that these so-called pollsters and polling organizations are meddling and interfering and thus bringing into disrepute the national electoral process of this country, which itself must be seen as free and fair to all and sundry.

So just as there have been clamours, and rightly so, by many people for greater and more modern regulation and standardization of political campaign finance in Barbados, it is high time that so-called political pollsters and polling organizations and their political polling activities are reined in in this country. Thus, it is our intention to write very soon the Electoral and Boundaries Commission on this very troubling matter.

For, it is almost certain that national political public opinion polling and the publication of some findings in some sections of the media does great damage and harm, and in many cases deliberately and intentionally, to the electoral process in the country.

This does more harm than the mal-effects of an outdated political campaign finance dispensation, the mal-effects of using party symbols, buntings and such like on voting days, the selling and displaying of alcoholic beverages on voting days. These activities that are however to a great degree outlawed by electoral offences rules of the government.

Moreover, our Political Leader, Mr. Mark Adamson, and so many others too, could speak about those times when Dr. Richie Haynes, when he was the leader of the NDP, used to criticise many of the findings of political public opinion polling and so many of the political public opinion techniques which that were used in those times and which he felt were doing an injustice and disservice to his party’s chances in the upcoming elections.

Also, we in the PDC know about so many instances in which so many people have said that they believe in many of the findings of these polls and how they are influenced by them at voting time in Barbados. Certainly it is high time that political pollsters and polling organizations who are paid to do polling are seriously reined in in this country.

Therefore, notwithstanding these political polling people having the constitutional right to freedom of expression and speech, it is clear that they are violating and impinging on the fundamental democratic principles of a people of a country. Elections are as NOT AS freely and fairly held as possible under the so-called government’s Representation of the People Act in Barbados.

However, to make sure that registered voters have as much freedom as possible to exercise their voting rights without undue influence and influence peddling by so-called pollsters and by extension some sections of the mass media at election time in Barbados, a future PDC Government will – along with the necessary inputs of the relevant stakeholders in this country – enact and publish laws BANNING THE CONDUCT OF POLLING BY SO-CALLED POLLSTERS AND THEIR AGENTS AND THE PUBLICATION BY MEDIA HOUSES AND OTHER MEANS OF COMMUNICATIONS INCLUDING BLOGS, OF FINDINGS OF AND OF NATIONAL OR OTHER KINDS POLITICAL PUBLIC OPINION POLLS THEMSELVES within, say, 3 months of any elections in this country.

And also outside of that period but where national or any other type of political public opinion polling will be allowed, THE BANNING OF REFERENCES TO CANDIDATES, PARTIES, AND SUCH LIKE IN THE PUBLICATION OF FINDINGS BY NATIONAL OR SUB NATIONAL MEDIA INCLUDING BLOGS, so as to prevent a little favour or disfavour or help or harm as possible from these sources, etc. to be done to candidates, parties and others who will likely run in upcoming elections in Barbados.

So, there you have it. Let us in Barbados move to a point in our electoral future where there is greater improvement in the electoral process and there is to be established a greater balancing of the rights and responsibilities of voters, party and independent and non-party candidates, and so-called political public opinion pollsters and others in the democratic electoral process in this country.

PDC

The Cost of the Vote

5 Feb

Many Barbadians will argue that the purchase of votes is a part of our political culture and tradition. It is called “corned beef and biscuit” politics. This type of politics comes in many forms. Let us not only talk about the family that awaits the $1000 before it will vote; the boys on the block that are given anywhere from $10,000 – $30,000; the voters that get $100 as they are taken to the polls; hampers for those who are clearly not in need; the key men that get $10,000. There are also those that are promised large contracts and get them and then there are those that are promised smaller contracts – as it befits their station.

This is where perhaps it becomes a little unclear. Afterall there is none of us who does not believe that individuals should be given opportunity. It is also true that you will know the talents of the individuals that are closest to you and you might give them an opportnity. It is also likely that those to whom you have given opportunity would seek to help you when the time comes.

And what then of universal adult suffrage? Are we now turning back the hands of time, where participating in this democracy was dependent on having access to money? Are we back to the days where “representing the country” was tied to ownership of land, colour or class? Have we now reverted to the stage where political power lies in the hands of those with money because they can now purchase the votes of the masses? It would seem to me that once you have sold your vote the transaction is complete and there is nothing more that you are entitled to ask of the purchaser.

On January 21, 2010 the United States Supreme Court found that restrictions placed on corporate funding of political campaigns was in breach of their constitutional right to free speech. Naturally this has caused considerable anguish amongst those who support efforts to preserve real democracy.

In the United States they speak of campaign finance reform. In Barbados we do not speak of it at all. It is a problem that is destined to become worse if it is not addressed. Is it right for foreign interests to determine the voting outcome in a Barbados election? Barbadians for several years have relied on the good sense of individuals who exercised some control over their power and their excesses. Those days have now long gone. Legislation must be put in place and must be enforced, otherwise our democracy may very well be seeing its last days. This development in the purchase of votes seems to have reached this critical stage. When are Barbadians going to address this matter, when it becomes too late?

Name Withheld