Open up the licensing system for mass media organisations!
Opposition leader Mia Mottley made the call as she wrapped up the first in a new phase of People’s Assembly meetings last night.
“We feel that there has to be more freedom of expression facilitated by the liberalisation of telecommunications as well as the information and the radio and TV channels, because the Internet is making a mockery of the restrictive policy on information in this country.
“We feel that if we can do all of this by fostering a culture of transparency and fairness, eventually fear will evaporate from the land,” she said.
The Barbados Labour Party leader, who recently led a march to Government Headquarters to press for repeal of the controversial Municipal Solid Waste Tax, also warned that more protest action was to come.
“The mobilising cause on the last occasion was the solid waste tax, but the truth is . . . that is but the first walk in a long journey towards the restoration of hope in this country,” she told those gathered at the Plantation Theatre on St Lawrence Main Road, Christ Church.
“What the walk said to us is that there are people from all kinds of backgrounds, with all kinds of loyalties, and no loyalties at all, who feel that there are things worth fighting for in this country, because they simply do not like the direction in which it is going.”
The panel of speakers at the meeting comprised economist and consultant Ryan Straughn and a number of overseas-based Barbadians. These included former Toronto Consul General Kay McConney, who now heads a human capital development company in Canada; security and policy consultant to US federal government Henderson Griffith; and Dean of Associated Sciences at Valencia College, Florida, Dr Dale Husbands.
While the Municipal Solid Waste Tax remains an issue, Mottley, said other concerns include restrictions on telecommunications for mass media, and the associated cost of education. She also asserted that too many people were fearful of voicing their opinions.
“The one thing that is strangling this nation is the notion of fear, and unless we remove fear from all aspects of the governance of this country, we would not be able to harness the resources that we have locally and abroad to fight the battles that are ahead of us.
“But we cannot restore hope unless we quell fear from our landscape. And the only way we can get rid of fear is by people standing up one by one and saying, ‘we can speak’.”
The first phase of the People’s Assembly meetings started back in January and ran for just over three months.
Mottley said the second phase, which is scheduled to run until October, must play the role of igniting in Barbadians, “the belief that if given the opportunity to share perspective, to share ideas, experiences and to discuss, that we can come out, not just with a blueprint, but with the commitment and passion that it is we as a people . . . that will be required to move this country to the next level, and to restore hope”.
Mottley signaled that the next People’s Assembly later this month will focus on education, “because as we get ready to deal with back to school at the primary and the secondary level, it is one of the most difficult experiences for many households to manage”.
She said that despite education being free at these levels, “the absence of books and the need for uniforms at the primary level, and uniforms at the secondary level, and CXC project material, all of those other things make the cost of education a difficult cost for households to bear, even in good economic times, far less when thousands have been laid off in the private and public sector”.
Mottley described as a “defining regrettable moment in our history”, the implementation of tuition fees at the University of the West Indies as of September, saying Barbadians have not, “completed the journey of bringing our people out fully to the point where they can take care of their lives”.