COLUMN – Forward ever! Backward never!
We Barbadians must resolve to make 2015 the year in which we draw a proverbial line in the sand and refuse to go backward any further as a nation. It must also be the year in which we send a clear message to the powers that be that there will be no further dismantling of any of the fundamental elements of our precious Barbadian economy/society/nation!
Tragically, there is clear and incontrovertible evidence that over the past ten years our Barbadian nation has gone backward. Our Government has either deliberately dismantled crucial programmes and policies that earlier generations of Barbadians had developed through sacrifice and struggle, or, in some instances, has simply failed to fight to preserve the social gains of previous decades.
Over the past decade, we have –– for example –– witnessed a treacherous assault on the principles of our Barbadian system of “social democracy”, with the current Democratic Labour Party Government, in particular, whittling down the national provision of free university education and public health care.
We have also witnessed an assault on, and the whittling down of, the image and authority of our crucial trade union movement. Simply put, trade union leaders and unionized workers have been treated with contempt by our Government.
In addition, our Public Service has been thoroughly compromised and demoralized; our national politics has been debased; our system of representative Parliamentary and Cabinet Government has been reduced to a joke; our national commitment to a “mixed economy” is in the process of being discarded; and the list of negatives goes on and on!
The time has come for us Barbadian people to declare that “enough is enough” and that there will be no further retreat. Indeed, 2015 must become the year in which we bring the backward momentum to a halt, and establish a platform for future forward movement.
I am sorry to have to say this, but I think that one of the essential requirements for stopping the rot and moving forward is that we must rid ourselves of the current Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government. This is not a statement which I make lightly, for I have many friends in the DLP and have enjoyed long relationships with many persons who now hold senior positions in the governing administration, but the simple truth is that I love Barbados more than I love my friends and acquaintances in the DLP.
The sad reality is that the seven-year rule of this DLP administration has been disastrous for Barbados. Clearly, the DLP came to power in 2008 without any coherent plan for governing the country. This basic weakness was further compounded when they found themselves faced with an international economic recession, and the tragic result has been a hapless administration that has lurched from crisis to crisis, bereft of any national vision or sense of purpose.
I am sorry, but after seven long years I have given up on this DLP administration. Surely, if this administration possessed the substance required to lead our country out of crisis, we would have seen some glimpse of it by now. The fact that we haven’t seen it after seven years says to me that it is simply not there.
And so, my advice to my fellow Barbadians is that we should embrace every opportunity in the coming weeks and months to say clearly and firmly to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and his corps of ministers that we have had enough, and that, as citizens of Barbados, we wish the country to go back to the polls so we can take fresh guard where our Government is concerned.
But we must also send a critical message to Opposition Leader Mia Mottley and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) as well –– a message in which we insist upon their engagement with and accountability to us.
Indeed, it behoves us all, as citizens of Barbados, to carefully read the Constitution of our country and come to the understanding that the Leader of the Opposition and her corps of Opposition parliamentarians occupy constitutionally established offices that we, the citizens and taxpayers of Barbados, pay for out of our hard-earned tax dollars.
Furthermore, if we come to a proper understanding of our system of Government, we will recognize that Ms Mottley is our Leader of the Opposition; that the group of Opposition Members of Parliament is our Parliamentary Opposition; and that we are entitled to demand of them that they carry out their constitutionally mandated functions and hold themselves accountable to us. In other words, we are paying them to do a job for us and on our behalf, and so we are entitled to engage with them and make legitimate demands of them.
Thus, if the Members of Parliament who comprise our governing administration are dysfunctional and have failed us, we are entitled, within the logic of our constitutional system, to demand that our Opposition Leader and parliamentarians step into the breach and, as far as possible, come to the rescue of the nation.
If, for example, our Government refuses to engage in any meaningful way with us, the people of Barbados, we are entitled to demand that our Opposition Leader and parliamentarians step into the breach and carry out a campaign of systematic engagement with the various sectors of our society –– and in particular with the non-elite sectors of our country –– with a view to constructing a rescue plan for our beleaguered country.
Ms Mottley must speak, not only to the Chamber of Commerce (at its monthly luncheon), but also to the vendors, craftspeople, small farmers, Rastafari community, credit unionists, pan-Africanists, trade unionists, small businesses, students, and the list goes on. If the Governmental administration is refusing to learn from the bottom up about our people’s responses to the current crisis and their ideas about how we should be proceeding as a nation, then our Opposition Leader and parliamentarians must carry out this critical task.
Let 2015 be the year in which Barbadians begin to seriously talk to each other about a national mission and a concrete plan of action to extricate us from the clutches of our dysfunctional Government, and to take us beyond the economic stasis of the past seven years.
Forward, Barbados ! Forward ever! Backward never!
(David Comissiong, an attorney-at-law, is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)