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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.


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?

Manning Outsmarted

25 Jun

Well that is the only conclusion that one could come to. Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar is the new Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, despite all of the talk about not wanting a coalition government. It is the plight of every successful politician to read his hand badly, but maybe just like Gordon Brown his loss was inevitable. Even from Manning’s own supporters we had heard “too little too late”. Mrs. Bissessar’s win has raised discussions about women in politics and whether Barbados is ready for a female Prime Minister. This is perhaps the same question being raised by Jamaica. But was it so much about her gender as a about someone who the electorate felt embodied the qualities of a new leader? Given the political landscape at the moment Barbadians are becoming more comfortable with female candidates. They will be just as comfortable with a female Prime Minister when the time comes! Congratulations to Mrs. Bissessar.

Parliamentary Melt Down

30 Apr

Barbados Parliament

We have had discussions in this forum about the conduct of the proceedings in Parliament in Barbados. Recently we had the gun incident, where the Speaker has apparently ruled that there should be no new gun policy in Parliament. One should note that this was even in circumstances where both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition agreed that there should be a gun policy for Parliament. Then there was the most recent incident where the Speaker asked the marshall in the Lower House to remove two members of the Opposition. After that we had a presentation by Dale Marshall concerning the gun incident. This was delivered amongst heckling and laughter. Is Barbados suffering a Parliamentary melt down?

Barbadians have had their say on these various incidents. Most of the discussions that has been heard publicly is et along partisan lines. We continue to warn members of the Lower House however that they really need to set a better example for the youth of this country and the people of this country as a whole. Parliamentarians have the capacity to set the tone for a nation. Part of the problem is that they can not hear themselves and really can not hear how badly they come across. Many of them seem not to be confident that the content of their speeches and their presence in Parliament carry any weight and seek to supplement this by behaviour which could only be described in the kindest way as lacking in decorum. We can only hope that these individuals that are meant to be representing a wide cross-section of Barbadians would accept the responsibility that the privilege of being a Member of Parliament actually carries.

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.

How they placed … … a glance at the reshuffle

10 Mar

Cabinets are reshuffled for a number of reasons and we leave it to you to reflect on why the Prime Minister of Barbados has chosen to reshuffle his. Sometimes it is to reward performance or to penalise non-performance.
On the other hand completely, it could very well have to do with positioning incumbents and potential candidates in time for an election. As we said, we leave this for you to judge:

Donville Inniss: First Reshuffle: Minister of Health former Minister of State in the foreign ministry. Second Reshuffle: Ms. Sandiford-Garner gets a share of his portfolio.

Dr. David Estwick: First Reshuffle: moved from Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Empowerment, Innovation, Trade, Industry and Commerce. Second reshuffle: Mr. Todd given part of his portfolio.

George Hutson: First Reshuffle: portfolio reduced (Trade, Industry and Commerce) and became Minister of International Business and International Transport. Second Reshuffle: untouched.

Dr. Denis Lowe was Minister of Social Care now named Minister of the Environment, Water Resources and Drainage. Second Reshuffle: Arni Walters becomes Chairman of the BWA with the power to report to Cabinet directly.

Dr. Esther Byer-Suckoo’s: First reshuffle: lost part of her portfolio (the Environment), as well as responsibilities that had been assigned to the Ministry of Health (Water) and the Ministry of Transport, Works and International Transport (drainage). Second Reshuffle: given an even smaller portfolio – Labour.

Senator Maxine McClean: First Reshuffle promoted from Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade from Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, with responsibility for immigration matters. Second reshuffle: untouched.

Chris Sinckler: First Reshuffle: removed as Minister of Foreign Affairs to Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Rural and Urban Development. This makes him responsible for both the Urban Development Commission (UDC) and the Rural Development Commission (RDC). Second reshuffle: Promoted to Leader of Government Business.

Ronald Jones Minister of Education: removed as leader of Government Business.

Stephen Lashley: New Minister of Family, Youth and Sports

A Wage Freeze by any other name … …

12 Feb

Dr. David Estwick recommended a WAGE FREEZE now the Prime Minister of Barbados the Hon. David Thompson says that he would prefer to call it a MORATORIUM.

Really can this be true? Even though we spend so much money on education, is it possible that there are still politicians who believe that Barbadians would be tricked into believing that a moratorium on the increase in wages is different from a wage freeze? Exactly who are we trying to fool? Really our political discourse has to rise above this.

The people of Barbados have indicated that they are willing to give the Barbados Government a chance. Is this how the public is being repaid for this opportunity? There are those who might argue that a wage freeze will only cause the economy to contract even further, which means that Government’s VAT takings would be even lower.

However there is no doubt there is a sound argument to be made as to why this might be necessary – well spend the time making the argument!! Please do not prove what some believe might be true that most of our politicians are just interested in playing some silly game. These are serious issues. The decisions that we make now would help to determine whether we survive through the recession and whether we are prepared to take advantage of the spending that will come after the recession.

Come on we can do better than that – let the real debate begin about the wage freeze – if anyone is up to the challenge that is!