COLUMN – A republic that crosses the divide
Two recent pronouncements by two prominent political leaders bring into sharp focus the society that we Barbadians collectively find ourselves living in this 21st century.
The first is by Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart about making Barbados a republic, and the second is by Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley about plans to embark on a programme she hopes will “at least help Barbadians to feel better about themselves despite the economic challenges”. Both pronouncements are aimed at making Barbados a better place to live in –– or, at least, I sincerely hope so.
The Prime Minister spoke about making Barbados a republic and removing the Queen as the Head of State of Barbados –– a symbolic move that hopefully allows Barbadians to have more pride in themselves.
Ms Mottley for her part, as reported in Barbados TODAY, stated:
She is calling on church groups, trade unions, other organizations, as well as the Freundel Stuart administration to join her as she prepares to “cross party lines” in an effort to carry out her plan . . . . There were also too many stories in Barbados about people not being able to cope, and she wanted that matter to be addressed.
“We need to make sure that nobody goes to sleep hungry . . . and while there is no direct symbiotic relationship between crime and unemployment, the truth is we all know that a person is more likely to take risks when they are desperate . . . .
“And between churches, organizations, civic and political and families, we need to do better to make sure that
as we find our way back to prosperity we are ensuring that no one falls off the edge.”
While the Prime Minister’s pronouncement has evoked some debate about the pros and cons of Barbados becoming a republic, the Opposition Leader’s plan is something that all Barbadians can subscribe too. What both pronouncements must do is to bridge the political divide and to look thoroughly at our society and where we stand today.
Simply saying we will become a republic is easy, but will it really change anything in our society if we do, besides the fact that we can boast of having a Barbadian as our Constitutional Head of State? The opportunity being given during this process towards becoming a republic must be used to systematically and carefully examine our society and all that happens in it, both positive and negative.
Ms Mottley’s call comes therefore at a most opportune time when Barbadians can openly and frankly discuss not only becoming a republic, but what each and everyone of its citizens must do to make Barbados a republic that would be shining example to all in the region, and indeed the world.
People-centred initiatives must be the fuel that will drive our society forward. Embracing all Barbadians and making all accountable for the development and success of our small island state is an objective that all leaders must adopt, promote and work tirelessly at. Individually we cannot sit back and expect the next person to do the job or make the difference. I must make a difference –– even in a small way.
If every individual makes a conscience decision to do the right thing, promote the right action, correct a wrong deed, then hopefully we can bring about a society and a nation that will be the envy of the world. Small countries like ours have the capacity to do so because the fact that we are small makes such goals so much easier to achieve.
Our efforts don’t have to be grand. Simple, small sacrifices along the way will all add up in the end. And the reality is that such actions are not “rocket science”. It is basic common sense that if we all recognize their worth we can go out and achieve getting them done.
Our moral conscience must kick in when we see something going wrong, or when there needs to be action to bring about something positive. And those whose moral conscience has gone into recession, we must help along; for leaving them behind can only result in all of us being affected.
And I suspect that is where we find ourselves today –– a society in which the growing trend is really only to be concerned about oneself. We must arrest this. We must accept the call, regardless of who is making it, to make a difference for our country in a positive way. And we must accept that call, regardless of who we are, how much money we have, what is our political affiliation, what job we hold, what race we are of, or indeed
what our religious persuasion is.
Accepting the call to make Barbados cleaner by doing our part in removing garbage from around us and by not ourselves littering; accepting the call to ensure while we go to bed at night with a bellyful, our neighbour doesn’t go to sleep hungry; accepting the call that every child be given opportunity through the ability to read and compute; accepting the call to be fair and just in our dealings; accepting the call that what we love for ourselves we love for our fellow human being will all make for a people prepared to respond in the affirmative. for the very good of our society.
I sincerely applaud all those in our society who are making that effort, individually or through small or large organizations. Our collective support must be given to ensuring their success.
If we sincerely want a Republic of Barbados, then it simply cannot just be by name. It must be by model, which it will make us –– as well as the rest of world –– proud to be associated with.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace and secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)