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Nothing but political hot air …

24 Aug

Hon. Michael Lashley

Mrs. Marilyn Rice-Bowen did a brave thing in questioning the relationship of the Minister with responsibility for the NHC. The response has been to attack her from the precincts of Parliament – a privilege which Mrs. Rice-Bowen does not have as an ordinary citizen. And what has happened since then? The taxpaying public has no greater insight into what occurred and no one has been called to account. unfortunately this state of affairs has become the tradition as to how democracy is to be delivered in Barbados.

It would seem that it is no longer sufficient for the Taxpayers to rely upon political parties alone to be at the forefront of safeguarding their funds. If it is no longer politically expedient to carry forward this issue, who will do it for the Taxpayers? Clearly the laws are inadequate for keeping public officials in check. It is about time that we recognise that the conventions associated with the Westminster style of government do not apply to Barbados. They just do not work to keep Ministers in line. While the public accounts committee does its job the facility for initiating prosecutions seems to be ineffective. The Public Accounts Committee now has a tradition of being completely ineffective in addressing any issues of impropriety.

Barbados needs a new vision and mission in developing its democracy. The old systems are not working. The decent people who formed the bulwark against corruption are no longer there. It is time that the laws were implemented to change the direction in which Barbados seems to be heading.


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.

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.

What’s the Manning Plan?

11 Apr

Trinidad & Tobago Parliament


The respective leaderships of the Opposition UNC and minority COP party are expected to buckle down to the final leg of unity talks in 72 hours, COP Chairman Roy Augustus said Friday. COP acting leader Wendy Lee Yuen said that the final segment of talks between both parties was expected no earlier than Monday. Lee Yuen spoke as COP leader Winston Dookeran and COP Deputy Leader Prakash Ramadhar were scheduled to arrive home on Friday night from India and the US, respectively.

UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar also gave the assurance that she would arrange a meeting convenient to both parties regarding the unity issue after the COP leaders returned from overseas. “I will do every thing to ensure we have a one-on-one fight with the PNM for this upcoming election,” she said.

A number of people are already being tipped from both sides as “unity candidates” for various reasons. Lee Yuen said: “We are committed to this and there is no doubt this (unity arrangement) is going to happen.. There’s is a multi-pronged approach and talks are underway.” Augustus said he was more concerned about the foundations of the system than seats at this point. COP’s screening process begins next week. UNC begins screening next Tuesday. (Trinidad Guardian) Taken from the Barbados Advocate, Sunday, April 11, 2010.

Against the backdrop of the above news story, we would like to say a few things about the decision of Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister to advise the President “to dissolve” the country’s Parliament – a mere two and a half years after the last General Election.

There are a number of issues that Prime Minister Patrick Manning must have examined in dissolving Parliament (i) Mrs. Persad-Bissessar has now made the UNC far more electable and is now basking in her new position as Opposition Leader; (ii) there is the UNC no-confidence motion against the government and (iii) the heightening of the perception amongst more and more Trinidad and Tobagonians that
Government’s management is worsening with violent crimes still high and corruption is still pervasive.

The convenient marriage between the UNC and the COP, and all that it brings with it, probably can attract more votes than the PNM. Remember that in the last General Election the UNC and COP combined got more votes than the PNM and Panday blasted Dookeran over that particular result!!!

Manning’s perception of the great threat posed to his party’s reelection bid by a unified UNC and COP partially explains the dissolution of Parliament. The question still remains as to why an election date has not been set as yet. The PDC however expects this to be announced within the next week or so.

Manning’s bid to deal directly with this threat – in one way – through the holding of general elections, will fail mainly because of the fact that the politics of Trinidad and Tobago has long been largely played out on the basis of race. The PNM is largely supported by the Afro-Trinidad and Tobagonians, and the UNC and COP are largely supported by the Indo-Trinidad and Tobagonians. The populations of these two major races are roughly the same. So, any cracks in either of these support bases would be caused by non-racial factors and also will have to be filled by resort to the race factor.

Thus, with Panday’s style of leadership of the UNC (abrasive and dictatorial), and which helped to cause Dookeran and others to form the COP, out of the way – it is felt by many UNC and COP supporters that it is in the best interests of the Indian race for both those parties and supporters to come together for Indians to regain their relative political dominance in the parliament and government of the country.

Manning does not seem to have a strategy for dealing with the UNC /COP amalgamation and hence has not set a date. He is adopting a “wait and see” approach to determine the reaction of Trinidad & Tobagonians to the unified party. The response of the media is especially important. It seems too that Manning is not ready for elections himself. The PNM’s candidate selection process is NOT complete.

However, it is non-sensical and outrageous that Prime Ministers within our English Speaking Caribbean still have this power to say when General Elections and by-Elections are to be held.

The PNM leader is NOT as confident as he was when he called the last General Election. His political mood and spirit is different. He seems more introverted and more subdued than then, and the tone of political language used by him at this stage is different – less inspiring, less up beat than then, and his tactics more determined by the UNC/COP and public sectoral pressure, NOT based on PNM political electoral strategy – it is like the General in an army taking learning lessons from the enemy. Not good signs for Manning and the PNM.

However, this delay in actually setting the date will cause greater political pressure on Manning as to the real or mock reasons why Parliament was dissolved.

A mere No-Confidence motion CANNOT cause a general election ( The Barbados Advocate, Saturday, April 10, 2010).
This Prime Minister would be rallying his troops, so to speak, and would be in a good position to defeat such a motion. Indeed, a No-Confidence Motion is a parliamentary political device sought and best used by the Opposition to offset or off balance a government The history of No-Confidence motions in parliaments in the English Commonwealth shows that they hardly succeed against governments or government ministers.

The decision of Manning to advise the President “to dissolve” Parliament, seems to have caught the UNC and the COP off guard though. This commitment of theirs to have a marriage in time for the General Election, has NOT gone very far beyond that commitment itself. In the above news story, just check what Bissessar is reported to have said and what Augustus and Lee Yuen are reported to have said too. Do they not seem confusing out of harmony out of step some what?

But it does seem that their being caught off guard is inconsequential since it will have little bearing on the next general election outcome in Trinidad and Tobago.

So, there you have it!!



1 Apr

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.