You kept us well; now keep faith!

Say whatever else you like, our Prime Minister has a way with words,

which some of his political colleagues would be better of trying earnestly to

emulate. His detractors will say it was merely an exercise in magniloquence.

We say it was a magnificent use of euphemism. The literary devices

available in this wonderful language of ours called English are evidently never

lost on Freundel Stuart.

Mr Stuart, speaking to the Press last weekend on the outcome of his

meeting with the somewhat suddenly discharged members of the Drainage

Unit, in his usual mellifluent tone, remarked that things had gone “relatively

well” despite that some of the obviously displeased workers had expressed

themselves “quite energetically” and “quite vigorously”.

Said the Prime Minister: “We expected that; but it was done within the

context of decorum and decency, and an understanding of where Barbados is;

where the world is; and, of course, that these decisions have to be taken.”

Well, it would have been quite unnatural for there not to have been

“energetic” and “vigorous” powwow from the booted to the boss,

especially when the dismissed have been acknowledged everywhere for their

distinguished work. The Prime Minister himself was moved to described

these former Drainage Unit workers as a “remarkable set of people” who

gave of their best. We say, their very best!

The irony of it all is that the job this “remarkable” lot has done over

the last five years or so is still very much required. Even the Prime Minister

admits that the challenges the Drainage Unit was established in 2008 to tackle

are still very much here.

Those threats to or tests of our environment by flooding remain constant

and demand sustained monitoring and control. We shudder to think of the

consequence of a simultaneous firing of the Drainage Unit team with a deluge

and disaster as we have seen in our neighbouring St Vincent and St Lucia.

Flooding is the most common environmental hazard –– worldwide; and

the bad habits of disposal of refuse (blocking drains among other things)

and the tinkering with our natural watercourses in the name of housing

development do not help. Continual preventative and remedial work by such

as the Drainage Unit is necessary.

The Constituency Councils, supposedly a heartbeat away from the people

and their environs, must be able to attest to that.

Even so, the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage, whose remit

it was to oversee this National Environmental Enhancement Programme

(NEEP), must have been aware that contractural arrangements were coming

to at end at this time, and that a review of contracts and source funding for

the continuation of this necessary work was dutifully required. We may be

sympathetic towards the Minister of Drainage on account of his bouts of

illness, but that is no excuse for obvious bungling by the ministry proper on

this matter before us.

It presents how essential a deputy is –– or acting minister.

Strangely enough, Minister of Drainage Dr Dennis Lowe did not appear

to be headliner at the meeting with the workers over whom he is head.

Maybe he was not physically well enough to take on the “energetic” and

“vigorous” discussion that would come, or in the frame of mind for the drill

in syllogism and practice in euphemisms. Whatever the reason for Dr Lowe’s

lukewarmness, it conjures up no flattering image.

Still, we must give credit to Prime Minister Stuart for his deductive

reasoning in having with him also at the meeting with the Drainage Unit

workers Minister of Labour and Social Security Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo and

Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett. Enter the humane face!

Mr Stuart has implied too that NEEP, in essence, won’t be going anywhere

far off; that the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage has already started

on a restructuring programme, “putting it on a completely different footing

where funding can be accessed for it, with a little more convenience than at

present”. It seems a tad shrouded in secrecy, but offers hope, it appears, for

a majority of members of the currently disbanded Drainage Unit.

These brave souls who literally weathered Tropical Storm Tomas in

2010 ensuring City drains were cleared while we stayed snugly indoors; who

dared to face the creepy crawlies, centipedes, spiders, strange lizards and

armies of giant African snails and millipedes on clearing the bush and brush

we would simply pass by; who put their lives at risk next to hustling traffic

on the highway (and even had one among them killed) to give us a clear and

beautiful view deserve nothing less than appropriate reparation.

They deserve as well our utmost appreciation and respect!

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