The Alexandra Commission of Inquiry headed by retired Justice Frederick Waterman was established by the Prime Minister as a means to resolve the long running conflict between former principal Jeff Broomes and the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU). The Ministry of Education at the conclusion of the Inquiry transferred 18 teachers AND Jeff Broomes who was appointed principal of Parkinson School. Less than two years later Uncle Jeff is at the centre of another dispute at his latest school. It is too early for the fair minded to take sides even if the protagonists are the same.
What happened to the surveillance equipment used by CWC?
The big news in the USA and UK is about their Governments tapping into the internet service providers and having access to all the emails, Skype calls, photos etc., that go through Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and the other technology companies.
What about Barbados?
Will our Government tell us what access it has to our private data? No, of course not. Will our press seek out the truth as happened in the USA and UK? I don’t think so. So it is left to us, the public, to piece together the facts about what goes on behind the scenes in Barbados. Here is my starter for ten.
There have been rumours in the past of phone tapping relating to Jeff Broomes, Hal Gollop and a senior officer in the BPF. Although the Hal Gollop case was referred to the police, unsurprisingly I don’t remember seeing any conclusion to this or the other cases.
It is fairly common knowledge that some security systems were put in place at the time of the World Cup Cricket in 2007 although the headline was focused on a “blimp” which apparently no longer works. It is also known that there is a Command and Control centre in the District A Police Station grounds although what it does is not clear. One of the floors was rumoured to have been fitted out by or for an Israeli company. An Israeli company was also linked to the cameras which appeared on the south coast a while ago. Whether that is the same company is not clear, although the odds are that it is likely to be.
So is Big Brother listening in? What other information do you know?
In arriving at a just determination, when a plethora of evidence must be examined by a properly constituted tribunal, it is often best to decide first on what can be agreed on. In the Alexandra issue it is agreed – or appears – that the problems there started before the term of this DLP Government. However, when elected to government problems should be solved which you inherited, that is the nature of being elected to govern. So the problems despite their history must be solved by this administration.
In the first instance Prime Minister Freundel Stuart stood back and was criticised for so doing. With a cabinet consisting of Ministers with portfolios in charge of respective departments, they are expected to discharge their responsibilities. A Prime Minister should not be seen as a dictator, he must allow his ministers an opportunity to make decisions. When the problem of Alexandra appeared intractable the Prime Minister agreed to meet with BSTU and if the speech made by them after the meeting is to be believed, they were listened to. In politics being cordially welcomed and politely listened to does not always mean an agreement with your stated position.
The Prime Minister decided having listened to the complex issues involved, to go the route of a Commission Of Inquiry. Here (On BU) there was “some” disagreement with this course of action. However, this decision gave the electorate to whom the Government is ultimately responsible an opportunity to learn first hand of the issues involved and form an impression – on the plausibility of evidence – of the major players giving evidence before the Commission.
The wonderful sight of teacher and pupil reunited at the Alexandra School – Photo credit Barbados Advocate
He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough – Lao Tzu
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is defined as all “the final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time”. Can BU draw a parallel and define the well being of a country by the quality of key decisions made by the ‘leaders’ in a given period?
The debate which continues to gain traction in Barbados is about the Alexandra dispute and related issues. It has displaced discussion about the upcoming general election, and significantly, a conversation about the state of the economy. If one were to ask any educated Barbadian what issue should be occupying the attention of the country, the answer should be ‘managing the economy’. It does not mean that all the issues at play in the country should be ignored, just that the exigencies of now require priority planning how we allocate resources.
Tension at the Alexandra School has peaked and troughed since 2005, surely an indictment on the management system with oversight for education. Many problems currently being wrestled by the government have straddled both political parties and different personnel in the public service. What it exposes is a rotten core which drives decision making in Barbados.
Karen Best, former BUT President and current Deputy Chief Education Officer
Minister Jones, visibly shaken and angry, termed the no-show a “gross insult” and the low point of industrial relations practice in the trade union history of Barbados. Mrs Karen Best, president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), reportedly said she had never seen anything like it in industrial relations. Her [Best] comments clearly indicate her union will not support the BSTU. For the first time that I can remember, there is a split among five unions – the BSTU and Barbados Workers Union (BWU) on one side, the BUT, BAPPSS and NUPW on the other
It seems to be finally hitting home to Barbadians – especially the political partisans – that the Alexandra School dispute (AX) is not so easy to resolve after all. The Frederick Waterman headed commission of inquiry was suppose to wash away the problem which all have to admit predates this government coming to office.
One view of the AX matter which BU has not put under full scrutiny is the incestuous nature of the relationships of key decision makers and participants in the AX plot. Barbados we know is a small country and there is an inevitability about how personal relationships can shape public perception about how decisions are taken.
Key players in the AX Mess are Principal Jeff Broomes, Minister Ronald Jones, and Deputy Chief Education Officer Karen Best who are ALL products of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT). To complete the BUT connection we should declare that current President of the Barbados Union of Teachers is Pedro Shepherd who recently challenged for the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) nomination in St. Michael South East.
Of special interest to BU is the recent appointment of Karen Best who has responsibility for schools.
‘Ingredients’ for a cabal you think? It gets better.
The supposed conclusion to the long-running Alexandra debacle appears to have caused more problems than it would have solved. Some might argue, and I am tempted to agree, that the resolution imposed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) has solved nothing. It would appear that the PSC attempted to settle the internecine warfare that was being waged for years by awarding neither side a victory.
The cowardly solution has resulted in over twenty teachers, including all but one of Alexandra’s management team, being transferred and scattered throughout the Teaching Service. It has proven to be unpopular with a majority of those involved in this unsightly mess. Also, it would appear that the PSC did not consider or paid blatant disregard to the harm their actions would be inflicting on the students who are about to take examinations. The teachers will get over the effects of the transfers with time; but the harm inflicted on the children is potentially devastating on those 4th, 5th and 6th form students whose future could very well be affected.
The harm to the education system and the children aside, the justice system in this country could be irreparably damaged by the fallout from the ill-advised actions of the PSC. The Waterman Commission made recommendations for limited transfers, but unfortunately, the PSC went overboard and transferred/punished most, if not all, of the teachers that appeared before the commission of inquiry as witnesses.