If it were up to St James South MP Donville Inniss, all Cabinet ministers would be required to hold regular press conferences and be open to fielding questions from members of the media about the performance of their ministries.
However, addressing a meeting of his constituency branch last evening, Inniss lamented that such was not presently the case, while stating quite matter-of-factly that “Government’s communication with the country leaves a lot to be desired.
“I am satisfied that we [the Freundel Stuart administration] have under the circumstances embarked upon the right policies and programmes. However, if we do not have the ongoing conversations with the people and the country explaining why we are doing what we are doing, then confusion would reign,” Inniss told the gathering at his West Terrace St James office.
“Our own party members and supporters would get angry with us and the Opposition certainly would have a feeding frenzy,” he added.
While acknowledging that fear may be preventing some of his ministerial colleagues from engaging with the public, Inniss, who is the current Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, maintained that the ruling Democratic Labour Party administration needed to communicate more effectively with the country.
“For me, from where I sit, it is not difficult, because if you believe in what you are doing then you just go out there and speak to the country.”
A former Minister of Health, Inniss also recalled that during the period in which he held that portfolio he had felt very strongly that certain reforms should take place, such as the banning of smoking in public places, and reform of the Barbados Drug Service to put it on a more sustainable path.
“I went out there and spoke with the country. I explained the challenges the country was facing, the options available to the country and the recommended decisions. We got a lot of criticism for the reforms, but at the end of the day when the decisions were taken, even the critics quickly conformed and recognized the value and moved on to something else,” Inniss explained, while warning that “effective communication does not mean speaking every day.
“It does not mean being in the newspaper everyday or on the radio everyday. It means ensuring that you arm yourself with the information and that you make yourself available to engage with the country. Quite frankly I would like to see Ministers having more press conferences, and I am not speaking about any staged events, but sitting down with the open media fielding questions. Anybody can ask me anything about anything in my ministry as long as it is not a national security or a confidential matter, I ought to be able to answer.
“If I come up with a new policy as a minister, I ought to be able to explain to the country why we are doing what we are doing,” Inniss explained.
He contended that as ministers of Government, as politicians, as candidates we must make an effort to have those conversations with the people.
“I summarize that we in Barbados are moving from a mode of entitlement to one where people must take greater responsibility for their actions and their circumstances,” Inniss added.