Monday and Tuesday of last week were celebrated as public holidays in Barbados, although I am still unclear as to the reason for this phenomenon. I mean, last Sunday was not itself a holiday so that it could not be claimed that since Monday was already an official holiday, Emancipation Day, the Tuesday was declared one as well to compensate for the Sunday, as is usually done.
According to the First Schedule to the Public Holidays Act, Cap. 352, both “the 1st of August being Emancipation Day” and “the first Monday in August” are listed as public holidays, notably in that order, so I imagine that their coincidence on this occasion did not serve to have the two celebrated on the single day, Monday, that satisfied both their descriptions but rather caused their separation, even though it would have been arguably hard to justify Tuesday, August 2, 2016 standing alone as a public holiday at all, since it was neither August 1 nor the first Monday in August!
In any case, section 3 (2)(a) of the same statute empowers the Governor General, presumably acting under the advice of Cabinet or a member thereof, to appoint any other day in any year to be a public holiday in Barbados, so that once this had been duly done, the legal prerequisite was satisfied. In any case, the ouster clause in section 32 (5) of the Constitution would presumably put paid, except in rather limited circumstances, to any argument as to the bona fides of this exercise.
“Where the Governor-General is directed to exercise any function in accordance with the recommendation or advice of, or with the concurrence of, or after consultation with, any person or authority, the question whether he has so exercised that function shall not be enquired into in any court…”
Not that I am complaining one whit, even though there are no classes currently scheduled for the students in my Faculty, and the relatively rare concept of a free day for a legal scholar certainly does not depend upon its official proclamation by the competent authorities. As it turned out, I did not treat that day as a public holiday.
Complaints of varying kinds, did come however from at least two sources concerning the official treatment of the coincidence. The Barbados Employers Confederation seemed aghast that, given the likely impediment to economic growth, there could be the loss of two consecutive workdays in one week.
According to the executive director of that organization, there was a demonstrable need for the rationalization of public holidays in Barbados “to remove the disruption in scheduling work when public holidays fall within the workweek”. The BEC has proposed that “except for Christmas and Independence days, other holidays should be celebrated on Mondays or Fridays”.
This initial proposal, while perhaps attractive to employers, fails, for one, to take account of the significance of the dates of some of these holidays to their observance as public holidays.
There is the allied suggestion that Errol Barrow Day, National Heroes’ Day, Emancipation Day, and the Day of National Significance ( in fact not a public holiday) be rolled into the first Monday in August. This proposal, apart from ignoring that these holidays, excluding National Heroes’ Day, are celebrated precisely when they are because of the date of the birth of the eponymous character in the first case and the date of the coming into force of the statutory end of the slave trade in the other, means that these celebrations would inevitably clash with the date appointed for the Grand Kadooment street parade of the bands; with the consequence that their national populist significance would be drastically reduced and that we might be forced to contemplate the identical scenario to this year where there would be a coincidence not merely of two public holidays but of one and now a compound other.
Moreover, with the prospect of the 24-hour workday looming in Barbados, the suggestion of a reduction in national downtime at this juncture seems misplaced in favour of the plainly contestable view that industrial productivity increases the longer and more often one is at work.
Certainly with our 12 public holidays we do not approximate to Trinidad & Tobago that has seemingly embraced its national thesis that “every creed and race finds an equal place” by officially celebrating as public holidays such religious themes as Shouter Baptist Day, Corpus Christi, Eid-ul-Fitr, and Divali, and of course, Good Friday, Easter Monday Christmas Day and Boxing Day ; together with the self explanatory Indian Arrival Day, for a total of 14 public holidays. Guyana, according to my research , outdoes all the other CARICOM member states with 16 such days.
The second complaint did not relate so much to the doubling of the public holidays as to the consequent trivializing of the significant Emancipation Day observance by permitting the costumed street parade to take place on that day. August 1. According to my learned friend, David Comissiong, speaking to the gathering at the Emancipation Statute on Monday, the authorities could have rescheduled Grand Kadooment until the Tuesday so as not to permit its clashing with the “historically fixed” Emancipation Day. As he rightfully stated, “Kadooment Day is not historically determined. It has been determined by the Government of Barbados that it should be the first Monday in August, but that can be changed… primacy should be given to Emancipation Day”.
While David does have a cogent and incontrovertible historical point, it is at least doubtful, given the comparative degrees of participation by locals in the respective events, that it is likely to find much resonance with a populace enamoured of the revelry of Kadooment,
Barbadians should be mindful that the identical issues will arise again in 2022, when August 1 will again fall on a Monday.