Submitted by Heather Cole
We all know the story of what happened on November 30th 1966 in Barbados. The island became independent. The Union Jack, the flag of Great Britain was lowered and a Barbadian flag was raised as a symbol of national independence. However, some of the relics of colonialism were not folded up and tucked away like the British flag.
The Bible says that a man must leave an inheritance for his children’s children. Therefore whatever we store up in wealth is to be left for our grandchildren who are our second generation. The vast majority of Barbadians do not have enough for themselves to live comfortably on, far less have savings to set aside for their grandchildren. A generational inheritance is a blessing that allows young men and women to start their early adult life with less difficulty than their grandfathers. This inheritance could be used to pay for university tuition, build a house or even start a business. We have a generational inheritance problem in Barbados.
There was no inheritance to be left during slavery. At Emancipation, the British government compensated the planters for their loss. Nothing was given to the former slaves to start a new life. The British Government did not put any mechanisms in place for the economic, social and political development of the ex-slaves and they became second class citizens in their own country. However, a very small percentage of the black population, mainly the early entrepreneurs like the fishermen and blacksmiths were able to buy land which they were able to pass down to their children.
The harsh social and economic reality of the early 1900’s stalled the process of generational inheritance. The Moyne Commission recommended reforms to alleviate poverty after the Riots but did not address the lack of wealth or changes in government. It only pacified the people by recommending that they be allowed to vote. The Planter/Upper Class still owned the means of production and maintained a tight control over the legislature. This meant that the masses had no power to solve their economic, social or political problems.
It took an entire generation to witness change after the reforms that were recommended by the Moyne Commission. It came as Independence in most territories. What was meant to be freedom from outside control, freedom to make political decisions that were beneficial to the people, freedom to respond to the needs of the people, freedom to allow the people to acquire wealth, now appears to have been an illusion. All of the people should have benefitted economically from independence. The poor have not benefitted; indeed only a select few in Barbados have. One of its main goals should have been the creation of generational wealth for the masses.
The poor have not benefited politically from independence either. The Upper class still maintains control of the government. They now finance political campaigns and some of their funds are used to buy votes. Lack of governmental reform as a recommendation of the Moyne Commission has led to the creation of a self-servient Political Class in Barbados whose intent is to get rich serving the Upper Class while they pacifying the masses
Even Errol Walton Barrow, the father of Independence, great as he was has perhaps done to us the greatest disservice in the modern history of Barbados. Perhaps he thought that the conditions that led up to the riots of 1930’s era would never occur again. However hind sight is not foresight. He has lived and died not knowing of his greatest misgiving. It is that the Constitution of Barbados does not contain a single clause that allows for the empowerment of the masses if they were ever faced with the social, economic and political turmoil again that existed in the 1930’s. There is nothing in the Constitution that allows redress for ills when they are created by those that govern the people.
No thought was given to the meaning of the 1930’s riots that occurred only one generation earlier. There is no grandfather clause in the Constitution to protect the people. His independence did not create a government for the people or by the people; it was government of the people. It was as though our owners changed from the planter class to the political class. Even the role of the Governor General does not serve a meaningful purpose. That role should be one of a mediator between the ruling government and the people. At present the Governor can only take the side of the ruling government and is absolutely no help to the people. Had it been contained in the Constitution that the people can appeal to the Governor General with good cause that the government be removed, that position would be relevant today. The Constitution needs to be re written.
The tenure of this present government has exposed all that is wrong in Barbados. Political corruption, poor governance, lack of confidence in the political system, lack of justice, a floundering economy, continuous down-grades by international rating agencies, high inflation, high unemployment, , the escalating activity of trade unions fighting to preserve the rights of a dwindling labour force, rising crime levels, an increase in poverty, sub-standard levels of health care, an education system now in turmoil both at the tertiary and secondary levels and the inability of the masses to acquire wealth.
Realistically all the evidence that is before us supports the point of view that the Constitution created at Independence is flawed with more rights to the government than the people. The entire country is at risk of systemic failure which can lead to a total collapse because the ruling party has failed to meet its obligations socially, politically and economically and the people can do nothing about it except wait until their term is up or engage in protest action. There is no power of the people to recall.
The country needs change, revolutionary change. Almost two generations after Independence there is no generational wealth for the vast majority of Barbadians to pass down. Yet the present government is bent on securing generational wealth only for their children’s children. Why else would they be seeking to restore a 10% salary increase at this time when they have already fattened their pockets and the treasury is bare?
In the final analysis the two biggest failures of independence are staring us right in our face. It has not created wealth for the masses; if it did no man or woman in Barbados would be inclined to sell their vote. It did not empower the people to have a voice in the decisions that affect this country. We no longer need masters, or to be allowed to speak with a vote once every five years. We can think for ourselves. The Internet has given us a collective voice to partner with government to seek solutions for Barbados. We as a people must come together to rewrite the wrongs and correct the errors and create a new Constitution that is of the people, by the people and for the people. Seventy Nine years after the 1937 Riots and fifty years after Independence we are challenged with the same problems. How can we be celebrating 50 years of failure? Since we now have the ability, it is high time we resolve the problems and not pass them on to the next generation; leaving them to wonder why this present generation did nothing to prevent the country’s demise.