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Birthday gift

Opposition Leader Owen Arthur addressing the conference.

The rewriting of Barbados’ Constitution has been listed as point one on a Barbados Labour Party 15-piece birthday gift, which it is hoping to present to the country if it wins the next general elections.

Opposition Leader Owen Arthur said there was a need for fundamental changes in the process of government in the country by the time Barbados reach the 50th anniversary of Independence in 2016.

Achieving this would be the “best possible birthday gift” the party could give the country, adding that there was a need to “make greater provision for popular participation by the entire civil society in decision making and in the country’s economic prosperity”.

The Owen Arthur plan also calls for the abandonment of the controversial constituency council, and their replacement by “zonal community councils”; as well as the provision of free, island-wide Wi-Fi service.

Greater protection of citizens

“There is need for greater protection of our citizens from a lawless Government, and for greater fairness, transparency and social justice in all of our public and private affairs,” the former Prime Minister said.

He then offered “some of the matters which should be in place to make a new governance a 50th birthday gift”:

* A new Constitution that focuses on the role of governance as opposed to the rule of Government;

* A Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency that balances the rights of individuals as against the capacities of Government to comply;

* The divestment of CBC and the issuance of broadcast licences to facilitate an open environment for the flow of information;

* The complete revamping of the structures of statutory organisations to reflect greater and more effective participation by civil society;

* Redefined Universal Access to Telecommunications from basic telephony to free Wi-Fi island wide;

* The reform of systems and procedures across Government departments upon which there is heavy reliance by the public;

* The reform and modernisation of Parliament;

* The reform of the Estimate and Budgetary process to facilitate greater scrutiny of Government’s proposed Budgets;

* The Reform of the Court System, and the creation of alternate dispute resolution to provide speedier and affordable access to justice;

* The reform of Government’s procurement system and the provision for publication of details pertaining to the award of contracts;

* The establishment of democratically elected Zonal Community Councils to work in tandem with statutory boards and Government departments to ensure a more effective delivery of services to the people;

* The broadening of the composition of Social Partnership to reflect the entire Civil Society;

* A redefinition of citizenship and essentially the relationship of our society, with the Diaspora and our people abroad;

* The establishment of a Permanent Advisory Social Justice Commission; and

* The creation of a new national mechanism to capture involvement of young people across all endeavours and nation-building activities. (RRM)

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