It is now exactly one week since official word came that Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe, was hospitalised.
Last Wednesday, we were also given the positive assurance from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart that Lowe was expected to be discharged on Thursday and should be back in office soon.
Since then, there have been no further official updates, just numerous unconfirmed reports and a high degree of rumourmongering to suggest that Lowe, who was warded in the intensive care unit at the state-run Queen Elizabeth Hospital, came out, went back in and is now out again continuing his medical recovery at home.
Unfortunately for this minister, it is the second time in as many years he has been forced away on account of ill health since taking office in 2008. Dr. Lowe was admitted to the intensive care unit in 2011 and was out of office for an extended period.
We certainly would want to wish him a full and speedy recovery and to associate our prayers and concerns with those of his many well-wishers.
But it is circumstances like these that have served to bring to the fore our immaturity as a nation.
While we continue to boast at every turn about the vibrancy of our democracy, it is actually quite shameful when you consider how little regard there is by officialdom to the public’s right to know.
The same situation existed back in 2010 when our now late prime minister David Thompson had to be hospitalised. We were treated to the same paucity of information as we are today on the condition of Dr. Lowe.
In fact, there were those who harshly criticised the media and accused us of being insensitive because we dared to ask for regular updates on the health of our dearly departed leader.
But surely, these are no ordinary citizens and the public’s right to be informed always has to be balanced against any seeming threats to national or other security.
We cannot speak to the seriousness of the minister’s condition (no official statement has been made to this effect) except to say it is such that it has warranted hospitalisation.
In the present scenario, the minister’s illness puts the Government in a very vulnerable position at best.
Therefore, should there be any further deterioration of his condition, a by-election would have to be contemplated and there is even the possibility of a general election given the very slender two-seat majority that the ruling Democratic Labour Party now holds in government.
Understandably, these are issues the Prime Minister would wish not to have to deal with right now with the economic and social climate in the country as they are.
Still, there needs to be greater public accountability.
In case there are those who would want to dismiss our concerns as political, the Barbados Labour Party’s record is equally abysmal in terms of meeting the need for public information.
For once, why can’t our politicians be like United States President Barack Obama who clearly understands that there is no hiding under a bushel in a time of national crisis? And like the American populace, we really must accept no less.
The irony of it all is that during political season, there is no shortage of interaction between politician and public.
But we really need them to get it through their heads that it is really outside of silly season that the governed generally needs to hear more, not less, from the mouths of the governing.