“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future” George Bernard Shaw.
Plain and simple, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration under Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is trying to reach the landmark of January 21, 2017 in efforts to duly celebrate the Father of Independence – National Hero and Right Excellent Errol Barrow – on his birthday but whilst in government. Despite talking of the economy turning the corner and saying that economically things are looking up, the lived realities are suggesting that Barbados is in the grips of a crisis which is effectively dismantling the economy and society. Leadership continues to be under scrutiny, and the policy arena appears to be muddled with problems leading to the perceptions of societal fear and other unbearable anxieties which are crawling under the skins of the population.
In fact, over the last few days in Barbados, several ludicrous statements were made by public officials in what seemed like an orchestrated attempt to confuse and bamboozle the polity. It so happened that these persons believed they have a right and duty to dim their presence in the eyes of the public against a background of numerous calamities and national problems that are getting worse instead of being solved. Many Barbadians are likely to suggest that effective leadership transcends taking responsibility rather than making excuses and harping on why positive actions cannot be taken. It is in that context, that one must wonder if the national interest is being subsumed under the heavy and soiled mat of the DLP and its priorities.
Elsewhere, one researcher suggests that “political responsibility is a concept through which we see ourselves and our world,” but as it stands these days, “it would appear that the political realm consists of political actors who seek to avoid the ascription of and/or the acceptance of political responsibility.” If this observation is true and indicative of things in Barbados then it reasons that the country is by far worse off than eight years ago.
The contention here is given that some members of the political class in Barbados, and in particular those sitting in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Stuart, have recently been singing a sorrowful parody that takes the ‘blame-game’ to new lows and exposes the incompetence for which many persons have previously alluded and mocked, then it is fair to say, that this DLP administration has shamed the very mirror image concept that was framed by its founder father and most celebrated politician. Maybe it is worth repeating the consideration that Barrow gave to this country and to those serving the interests of Barbados. He stated:
“What kind of mirror image do you have of yourself? Let me tell you what kind of mirror image I have of you, or what the Democratic Labour Party has of you. The Democratic Labour Party has an image that the people of Barbados would be able to run their own affairs, to pay for the cost of running their own country, to have an education system which is as good as what can be obtained in any industrialised country, anywhere in the world.”
Incidentally, it is well accepted in political science literature that ‘bad government is the inevitable result of a lack of accountability’ and ‘fertile ground is prepared for corruption’. All across Barbados we are hearing both of bad government and corruption. Maybe it is time that we take stock of ourselves and our nation instead of trying to make it from one term to the next while Bridgetown becomes a citadel of backwardness. Of course we know, that the good and the ills occurring are products of this society; but is that ample reason for the Attorney General to point fingers elsewhere rather than feel challenged to bring about positive change?
It makes sense to examine the mothers, fathers, and guardians that may have ignored their sons when they were going wrong. Similarly it may make sense to investigate the education system for shuttling out children that are consistently underperforming while the Minister gesticulates and practice ‘Jonesing’ around instead of introducing real progressive reforms. Yes, it also makes sense to ascertain what things have crept into our culture and have inundated us with a proliferation of things foreign, but which we accepted and allowed to our detriment; is it these things that are now attracting concern with the declining values system evidenced in Barbados? These are all issues and concerns for which we as a society must attempt to understand and to correct; but why as a policy maker and an executive government would a Minister facing these challenges throw his or her hands in the air?
One can presume that no Minister at this time is to be found in the uncanny position as Dr. David Estwick finds himself. Again, it seems convenient that the policymaker prefers not to be blamed. Instead, those persons not getting water on any regular basis but still having to pay for dry pipes should blame the management or other entities in the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), but stay clear of the sanctified Dr. Estwick. Whatever can we do in St. Joseph, St. Thomas, St. Lucy, St. John, and several other areas to provide the most basic of commodities and life – water?
So that regardless of the situation or the Ministry involved, the DLP Ministerial members are saying to the nation, just do not blame us or the Minister. Dr. Estwick, if one remembers, is on record of being critical of the very colleagues he sits with as a Cabinet member; but he now is seemingly adverse to the cries of the people and the plight of the poor in St. Joseph and across the country. Surely, Dr. Estwick is bigger than the minion status he occupies in Cabinet. Hence, his resignation can become token relief for the country folk, and he would easily appear noble to all Barbadians.
At this juncture, it is needless to talk about the prolonged garbage situation that has been rubbished by Dr. Lowe, or the behemoth called the Transport Board which has its own set of chaos and colossal failures. The point is that someone inclusive of the Prime Minister has to take responsibility for many of the wrongs plaguing our system of governance and the actions that are negatively impacting the Barbados society.
Ministers of Government must be held personally culpable for their own acts and omissions, and for those of their heads of department and their personal staff. This is the 21st century and we cannot allow this dissonance between the governing and the governed to continue unabated. Ministers have to be responsible for the department and agencies in which they have participated or of which they were aware or should have been aware of the relevant happenings.
If as suggested that the DLP is marking time until early next year, it may be in the national interest that the masses (all workers unite) shake them from their zone of excuses and blame immediately. There is still a flicker of hope, at this time, that the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is sufficiently confident to take the responsibility of rescuing and rebuilding Barbados. This is likely to be far more assertive than waiting out the DLP’s unimpressive second term in office which rivals only the period 2008 to 2013. The blame-game will only add confusion to the mix, and one would hardly think that any political party would set out to create the confusion for which Barbados is now immersed.
(Dr. George C. Brathwaite is a part-time lecturer in Political Science at the UWI-Cave Hill Campus, a researcher and political consultant, and up until recently, he was editor of Caribbean Times (Antigua). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org )