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Barbados Governance in Question

9 Aug

Mrs. Marilyn Rice-Bowen

Over the past few days Barbadians have been amazed that a stalwart of the Democratic Labour Party and former Chairman of the National Housing corporation has come out in public to lambast Minister Michael Lashley for operating in breach of the law when it comes to the awarding of Government contracts. It is alleged that he has refused to take contracts to the Board that should be considered by them. According to Mrs. Rice-Bowen the Board’s responsibility was to make recommendations to the Minister.

Some have suggested that this is evidence of the unravelling of the Democratic Labour Party in the absence of the Honourable David Thompson. However it seems to go further than this and this is what Barbadians are afraid the confront. The illness of the prime minister of a country can never be a private matter. It is fundamental to good governance. The Honourable Freundel Stuart despite his best efforts does not carry the full mantle of Prime Minister to enforce discipline in a Cabinet. As far as everyone is concerned he is not really prime minister, he is just acting. So what is to be done about the Minister of Housing? Whether Mrs. Rice-Bowen’s allegations are true or not this matter was handled very badly and is an evidence of a Government losing control.

Barbados has never dealt with a matter like this before and has therefore decided that it should do nothing. However there needs to be a protocol as to how this sensitive matter should be addressed. Certainly we must do more that accuse individuals of being uncaring who seek to raise this matter as a genuine issue of good governance. The Cabinet is a part of the executive arm of government, so this is not a party issue. The admonition is to watch and pray. We can all pray and raise legitimate governance issues at the same time.

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New Party in TT Elections

18 Apr

Election Day is Monday, May 24, 2010, in Trinidad and Tobago. Nomination Day is Monday, May 3. (See Barbados Today, Saturday, April 17, 2010).

It has become clearer that the United National Congress (UNC) and the Congress of the People (COP) are finalizing an election accord of theirs in time for this general election.

We have also got word that Mr. Yasin Abu Bakr and the Jamaat Al-Muslimeen group of Trinidad and Tobago are forming a party to contest this election.

Well, so, let the campaign begin.

PDC

Barbados Media: make, break or ignore

13 Apr

These seem to be the options that the media currently have before them in Barbados. There are those that would argue that the media has an exceptional role to play in the political development of Barbados. In Barbados there are two newspapers, two radio stations and one television station that have enough reach to disseminate the messages of politicians to the people of Barbados.

Barbados has seen the advent of what are called “call-in programmes”. These programmes started out with the notion that the voice to the ordinary people of Barbados. It is clear that the owners of the radio station with the most popular “call-in” programme has allowed it to be hijacked by people who were not only expressing their personal views but that were scripted by political parties. Now one might argue that this is politics afterall and that all parties in Barbados could have their own scripts prepared. This is of course not the same position with respect to the moderators who have in recent times declared their party affiliation. Allegiance is not of the view that the members of political parties should not be moderators, however it is of the view that these individuals should declare their party affiliation. This becomes necessary in the name of transparency, which they themselves say they wish to promote.

The lone television station in Barbados has been over many years used as a tool in order to promote Government projects. There is however now a blurring between what can be defined as the promoting of Government projects and what are being considered “political broadcasts”. The showing off of Government’s accomplishments has always been the great advantage that politicians in Government have. There must however be some concern expressed if these broadcasts are used for direct canvassing purposes, thereby amounting to political broadcasts.

The Internet has now provided a means by which concerns can be expressed by some of the smaller political parties as well as by individuals. However it is clear that these avenues are not as far-reaching as the traditional media – not as yet any way.

Much depends on whether the media in Barbados believes that it has a duty to be fair and balanced. Individuals in senior positions in media houses in Barbados have expressed their liking for one politician or the other and has openly supported them using the media house. This admission seemed to have given them the ultimate justification for giving their “favourite politician” more coverage than the opposing candidate. Certainly there must be something fundamentally wrong with this approach to journalism. Going down this slippery slope our “independent” pollster Peter Wickham has identified his preference for the political leadership in Barbados.

Barbados media has a long way to go in giving everyone a fair shake, but we know that improvement in the media is a part of the developmental process in which this country must engage. So perhaps we need to give them some scope to grow. We hope that they will do better in the future. It is critical to our democracy – balanced coverage and access by all parties is what is being demanded.

Should Barbadian citizens abroad vote in Barbados?

7 Apr

This is the question that is now being raised and it would be useful to get some early views on this topic. What is currently the situation? individuals who live abroad, have an ID card and can find their name on the voters’ list have been voting for years in the Barbados elections. One might argue that this is really a minority of individuals. There is then a further point, what happens in situations where political parties are prepared to incur the costs of ensuring that citizens that live abroad are registered and are prepared to foot the bill for them to return to Barbados. Now spending that some of money on one elector would immediately find the particular candidate in breach of the law.

It would seem that Commonwealth Citizens resident in Barbados have the right to vote within Barbados. Hence the argument might be that Citizens living abroad are in a comparable situation and that their voting from abroad should be allowed. The argument is also made that these individuals have property and family interests in Barbados and therefore should have a right to say what should happen in the management of the country.

The argument against such a move would be (depending on how citizenship is defined for these purposes) that there are perhaps more people who can claim citizenship live outside of Barbados rather than inside Barbados. Even if this is not the case, should an individual have the benefit of voting but not have the burden of living with his choice if it turns out to be a bad one?

The cost of running elections has become more and more expensive. While we still adhere to the notion that any man or woman, rich or poor can stand in a general election; that many or woman has to have the ability to raise funds by some means or another. If this is then extended to campaigning abroad the democratic ideal of having any deserving person stand would certainly no longer apply.

There are also those who have first hand knowledge of at least one CARICOM country that failed in trying to implement overseas voting as it was riddled with complaints of irregularities. This is an important question if it is ever put to Barbadians. Now is the time to start considering it carefully.

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?”

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.