Say whatever else you like, our Prime Minister has a way with words,
which some of his political colleagues would be better of trying earnestly to
emulate. His detractors will say it was merely an exercise in magniloquence.
We say it was a magnificent use of euphemism. The literary devices
available in this wonderful language of ours called English are evidently never
lost on Freundel Stuart.
Mr Stuart, speaking to the Press last weekend on the outcome of his
meeting with the somewhat suddenly discharged members of the Drainage
Unit, in his usual mellifluent tone, remarked that things had gone “relatively
well” despite that some of the obviously displeased workers had expressed
themselves “quite energetically” and “quite vigorously”.
Said the Prime Minister: “We expected that; but it was done within the
context of decorum and decency, and an understanding of where Barbados is;
where the world is; and, of course, that these decisions have to be taken.”
Well, it would have been quite unnatural for there not to have been
“energetic” and “vigorous” powwow from the booted to the boss,
especially when the dismissed have been acknowledged everywhere for their
distinguished work. The Prime Minister himself was moved to described
these former Drainage Unit workers as a “remarkable set of people” who
gave of their best. We say, their very best!
The irony of it all is that the job this “remarkable” lot has done over
the last five years or so is still very much required. Even the Prime Minister
admits that the challenges the Drainage Unit was established in 2008 to tackle
are still very much here.
Those threats to or tests of our environment by flooding remain constant
and demand sustained monitoring and control. We shudder to think of the
consequence of a simultaneous firing of the Drainage Unit team with a deluge
and disaster as we have seen in our neighbouring St Vincent and St Lucia.
Flooding is the most common environmental hazard –– worldwide; and
the bad habits of disposal of refuse (blocking drains among other things)
and the tinkering with our natural watercourses in the name of housing
development do not help. Continual preventative and remedial work by such
as the Drainage Unit is necessary.
The Constituency Councils, supposedly a heartbeat away from the people
and their environs, must be able to attest to that.
Even so, the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage, whose remit
it was to oversee this National Environmental Enhancement Programme
(NEEP), must have been aware that contractural arrangements were coming
to at end at this time, and that a review of contracts and source funding for
the continuation of this necessary work was dutifully required. We may be
sympathetic towards the Minister of Drainage on account of his bouts of
illness, but that is no excuse for obvious bungling by the ministry proper on
this matter before us.
It presents how essential a deputy is –– or acting minister.
Strangely enough, Minister of Drainage Dr Dennis Lowe did not appear
to be headliner at the meeting with the workers over whom he is head.
Maybe he was not physically well enough to take on the “energetic” and
“vigorous” discussion that would come, or in the frame of mind for the drill
in syllogism and practice in euphemisms. Whatever the reason for Dr Lowe’s
lukewarmness, it conjures up no flattering image.
Still, we must give credit to Prime Minister Stuart for his deductive
reasoning in having with him also at the meeting with the Drainage Unit
workers Minister of Labour and Social Security Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo and
Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett. Enter the humane face!
Mr Stuart has implied too that NEEP, in essence, won’t be going anywhere
far off; that the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage has already started
on a restructuring programme, “putting it on a completely different footing
where funding can be accessed for it, with a little more convenience than at
present”. It seems a tad shrouded in secrecy, but offers hope, it appears, for
a majority of members of the currently disbanded Drainage Unit.
These brave souls who literally weathered Tropical Storm Tomas in
2010 ensuring City drains were cleared while we stayed snugly indoors; who
dared to face the creepy crawlies, centipedes, spiders, strange lizards and
armies of giant African snails and millipedes on clearing the bush and brush
we would simply pass by; who put their lives at risk next to hustling traffic
on the highway (and even had one among them killed) to give us a clear and
beautiful view deserve nothing less than appropriate reparation.
They deserve as well our utmost appreciation and respect!