With every passing day, Barbadians are sensing the utter futility of our political situation. In January, 2008, we got rid of Owen Arthur and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration because they were doing little or nothing to advance our nation, and we voted in the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
The DLP, in turn, has gone on to preside over a seven-and-a-half-year period of bumbling, visionless inactivity and decline.
The latest “political crime” of the current DLP Government has been the imposition of tuition fees on students of the Barbados Community College (BCC). Apparently, having carried out a demolition job on the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, with some 4,200 Barbadians being forced to abandon UWI studies, Messers Jones, Stuart, Sinckler, Inniss and the other ministers of Government are intent on achieving a similar outcome at BCC!
Surely, by now, Barbadians must be able to perceive that there is a deep and fundamental flaw in our very system of political and economic governance. Simply put, the system of political and economic governance which we have in Barbados has outlived its usefulness, and is now producing very little of substance.
The two political parties of the system –– the DLP and the BLP –– have gradually sunk into intellectual lethargy, and are lacking in visionary ideas and productive initiative and energy. And the same can be said about the Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI), and the other elite business organizations and large private sector firms that control our economy.
The current system is one in which small, incestuous in-groups run things, and in which the vast majority of working people and middle-class people are consigned to the margins of decision-making and control. It had its origin in the colonial era, and was prettied up, placed within a Westminister-type, two-party, winner-take-all framework, and bestowed upon us by the British at the time of our Independence in 1966.
Well, if this system worked for us 30 or 40 years ago, it is certainly not working for us now, and it needs to be modified! The time has therefore come for Barbados to make the next major step forward in its evolution as a nation.
And that next major step must be one in the direction of the masses of the Barbadian people getting much more involved in national
decision-making and administration, and assuming more direct control of the major institutions of our society and economy.
This is a prescription which I confidently advance, in light of the fact that the so-called ordinary, working-class and middle-class people of Barbados have attained a level of education, sophistication, technical expertise and experience in complicated, cooperative labour processes that has equipped them to undertake a more direct hands-on role in controlling and administering their own country.
It is ludicrous to continue to think that the administration of Barbados should be left up to the handful of partisan loyalists who control the BLP and DLP, the 30 men and women who sit in the House of Assembly, and the narrow social caste that controls the major private sector corporations, while tens of thousands
of intellectually equipped and capable citizens are consigned to the margins of power.
If Barbados is to go forward, the two party winner-take-all political system must be transformed into a multiparty, proportional representational system; political organization must be extended well beyond the restrictive two-party structure; and the people must be given the right to “recall” and remove non-functioning parliamentarians. Our Parliament must also be transformed into a broader and much more inclusive national chamber that contains within it representatives of the collective wisdom and experience of the Barbadian people, including the working class.
Furthermore, an effective, elected, people-controlled system of Local Government must replace the existing partisan Constituency Council system, and Local Government committees comprised of so-called “ordinary citizens” must assume important oversight functions in relation to Government institutions that provide critical services to the people
And in the private sector, a national Employee Share Ownership Programme (ESOP) must be implemented to convert long-standing workers into part-owners of the businesses they work for, while the Social Partnership must be democratized, opened up to genuine people participation, and further expanded.
These are but a few of the modifications that need to be made to our system of political and economic governance if Barbados is to get out of the rut that it is currently in, and to embark upon the next phase of its historical journey.
These are all fundamental policies of the People’s Empowerment Party (PEP), and were expressed in our 2008 general
(David Comissiong, attorney-at-law, is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)