First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)
The bizarre case of Cheryl Miller has been unfolding in Trinidad and Tobago over the last two weeks to the amazement of many. It seems incredible that in 2012 a government employee could be whisked away by authorities and committed to a mental institution. Yet this is what happened to Cheryl Miller, an employee of the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development. Rational thinking would suggest if there is a problem at the office that the next of kin would be alerted to determine next steps.
Thankfully by a court order Cheryl Miller was released from St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital this evening (7/04/2012).
It is unclear what happened at the ministry on the day which led to Miller’s committal to St. Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital. According to the buzz Cheryl Miller, a public servant, may have found some infelicities (she is an accounts clerk) and when she reported it to the Permanent Secretary and or Minister and got a poor response she made her voice heard. Maybe she had a bad hair day and had a ‘few words’ for her supervisor. The bottomline is that in either of the scenarios the end result should not be Miller finding herself in a mental hospital. One does not have to wait until the dust is settled in this case to surmise that there has been a wanton abuse of power by a government dispenses through its agent the Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development. One is not committed to a mental institution without harm to personal reputation.
The case of Cheryl Miller comes at a time when Barbados is advocating for transparency legislation with little success. While Barbadians like to believe we live in a democracy, it is apparent that a small percentage of the population is responsible for greatly influencing most decisions. A legislative framework which would lend rigour to citizen advocacy is a necessary safety net. The Miller case shows there is a very low fence which protects John Citizen from abuse of the power of the state.
Barbadians need to awake from a state of thinking that the success of the country is located in how the GDP indicator move. We have to become more aware of the need to participate in our democracy in a meaningful way to ensure rights and freedoms are protected. It happened in T&T and there is no reason why Barbados may not be next if we do nothing.