It’s no laughing matter

I find myself reading and re-reading the comments MP Ronald Jones in the Barbados House of Assembly on Tuesday, June 11, 2013 (not 1813, not 1913!!) and I confess that I find myself becoming more and more incensed and embarrassed in equal measure.

Do Barbadians fully recognise and appreciate what Mr Jones’ specific allusion to the 1937 Riots reveals? Do we really?

By his particular parallel, he has cast himself — and his Government — in the role of the oppressive, racist Colonial leaders of that day who called on their military forces to so ruthlessly crack heads and shoot people to put down a popular uprising which we as a society commemorate and, each year, pay honour and tribute to those who rose up! And Jones will most probably be up front and centre in these commemoration ceremonies next month!

To put Jones’ intemperate, reckless and, yes, menacing comments in yet another perspective, all Barbadians should consult our official Government Information Service website and read an article by Julie Carrington, published July 26, 2012 titled Re-Education Needed About the Significance of the 1937 Riots.

This article records that our Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, calls for a “re-education of Barbadians about the importance of the 1937 democratic struggles in the face of a misunderstanding by some generations about its significance”

He emphasized that many Barbadians “seem to forget that people lost their lives, reputations and imperiled the prospects of their families while fighting for these rights and privileges and, therefore, a re-education has to take place in this country so that our young people can understand that we have not got to where we are by accident. However, men fought and died, lost their reputation, placed their children’s prospect as risk, imperiled their families while trying to ensure that we enjoyed democratic entitlements in Barbados”.

Stuart went on to say: “We owe a debt of gratitude to these pioneers who counted not the cost, heeded not to wound, sought not for rest and asked for no other reward but to see their country free and to see the masses of the people given greater opportunities for the realisation of their God-given talents.”

It is noteworthy, too, that Stuart observed that as a result of mass discontent, the 1937 democratic uprisings had led to a “niagara of changes” which swept Barbados on “a modern course”.

Jones obviously did not get this memo! Or, he did, but just completely ignored it!

This is horrifying stuff. It is no laughing matter to be taken lightly!

It is extremely significant to note that Stuart in the same article cited above was reported to have declared that “every single citizen must see him or herself as a part-time politician fighting to keep the flame of democracy burning in Barbados”.

Will we, as Barbadians, have the energy, the commitment, the sense of self, the respect for who fought and lost their lives in the 1937 “democratic struggles” (as Stuart himself describes them) to ensure this is not a nine-day storm in a teacup? Are we prepared to “fight to keep the flame of democracy burning in Barbados”?

What will we demand of Jones? What will we demand of our Prime Minister? And most importantly, what will we demand of ourselves?

— Lionel Cumberbatch

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