Submitted by Sandra Husbands
Barbados it is time for something new. Of what use for Barbados to shift from DLP to BLP to DLP and back again unless this time it brings forth new models and new attitudes. I want to congratulate Grenville in taking action, to move beyond apathy to making a difference in forming a third party – [see link]. However is this sufficient to do the job?
Is that new shift enough, when the thinking and conditions which formed our political and social culture are still carried in the minds, actions, attitudes and expectations of the people, unconsciously feeding and inviting the inequities and corruption in our land.
What is it in our Barbadian nature which unconsciously cements these conditions? One element of our nature is loyalty but it is a blind loyalty, like fruit that is overripe, it spoils, not because it is intrinsically evil but excess ferments its own penalty – harbouring mediocrity, tolerating disrespect, neglect and abuse to the impoverishment of our very lives until we are emptied. Loyalty must be buttressed with integrity so we do not do damage to our intelligence to excuse the unacceptable. Time for something new.
Citizens must no longer surrender to a political party or a ‘supreme leader’ so they can sleep between elections, stay away from the polls when vexed, vote from habit or put their vote out for sale. We are building a society, which is not the sole responsibility of the few but rather that the elected few facilitate and promote the wider engagement of citizens in the process of our governance for collective economic and social prosperity. Citizens need to be informed, ask the questions, contribute to the discourse and not fear the contention of ideas. Then and only then will political parties be pressured to censure themselves, because the only way to get elected is to meet the standard desired, demanded, and defended by engaged citizens. Less than this, citizens signal, ‘if you buy me a drink’, come to my house, flatter me with political attention, make me brek my sides wid’ laughter at a political meeting, I will vote for you. The new message to political parties will be insistence on knowing the policies and how will it be achieved (read the manifestos, your binding contract and discuss these when we canvass you). The citizen’s message must be clear –‘we will lock you up if you mess with our money, and recall you if you are beyond ridiculous, and we will be heard and consulted on what is being done every year. You will not be given our gov’t because it is your turn’. It is time for something new.
Organs, structures and powers which allow this active civil engagement must be developed. It will require constitutional changes. To start the conversation, one change I will proffer is constituency councils, will become parish councils, with elected officials from churches, social groups, PTA’s, clubs, associations where there is lively and responsible engagement and information. New action groups can be formed around socio-economic issues and be part of the councils. Citizens views about policy and projects can be factored into the governance process. The parish councils will be represented at the social partnership. New administrations will not be allowed to unravel previous projects which flowed from the collective agreement of the people without their input. New administrations will perform the next installment to further project advancement, and bring new ideas and projects to the table. Should the Auditor General and PAC report to the social partnership? Should an expanded social partnership if there was no justification for inaction on matters arising from the Auditor –General’s report or PAC, be vested with the power of the recall? Members of the social partnership will be changed on a rotation basis to bring in new engagement and hold experience to make our collective strong so the necessary repairs and oversight needed by any political system occurs. TIME FOR SOMETHING NEW. But new structures, powers and procedures of whatever form they take will mean nothing until our citizens think differently about themselves and engage their politics differently. Maybe this is why this period of hardship, the uncovering of the depths of vice which permeates our political and economic structures; the inefficiencies of our systems and the barrenness of our current leaders is God’s indirect gift to us. It shakes the blind loyalty, dissipates the lethargy, breaks the fear to give us the space to have TIME FOR SOMETHING NEW.