Political scientist Cynthia Barrow-Giles believes political corruption and an imbalance of power are problems in Barbados that cannot be solved by switching to a republican form of Government.
The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill lecturer expressed this opinion Tuesday night as a panellist in a discussion on the topic, Should Barbados become a Republic – a Cross to Bear or Crown to Wear?
Though voicing firm support for the island abandoning the Crown and attaining the status of a republic, Barrow-Giles however said in the auditorium of the Ellerslie Secondary School that all is not well in this land.
“It is something that I believe in fundamentally that republicanism for Barbados cannot resolve some of the vexing problems that we have in this country,” she said. “The problems are not only merely economic, they are social.”
Other panelists in the Ellerslie School-organized discussion were talk show host Maureen Holder; historian Trevor Marshall and attorney-at-law Hal Gollop. Talk show host David Ellis moderated the session.
Barrow-Giles, whose lecture portfolio includes Comparative Government and Politics, said “there are some vexing political problems that no movement to republicanism can resolve”.
She charged: “There is corruption in this country but we hide behind it because this country thrives on secrecy.
Certain things, institutions, need to be put in place that would expose the corruption that takes place in the country.”
The author of a number of books, including, General Elections and Voting in the English Speaking Caribbean: 1992-2005, said, “I’ve heard the Prime Minister of Barbados say in 2013 – he said so again in 2014 – that there is vote buying taking place in this country.”
She added: “If there is vote buying taking place in this country, then we need to move to stamp out the vote buying. There is nothing which is being done in Barbados.
“There is some omnibus corruption Prevention of Corruption Act that sort of, in a way, deals with the issue of political party financing but we don’t speak about political party financing. We don’t speak about the influence peddling that takes place here.”
She offered Barbados some consolation that it is not alone in the Caribbean as regards inaction on vote buying and political influence peddling, but hailed Jamaica as the first regional territory to take a step in the direction of eliminating this form of corruption.
“I’m pleased to say that Jamaica, that we tend to criticise a lot, has in fact moved in December 2015 in the direction that all the other Caribbean countries, all the political leaders in the Caribbean have failed to go.”
Suggesting that the Jamaica Act might have gone overboard, “perhaps it is a little too stringent”, she however said: “They certainly passed an Act which will place the Caribbean for the first time among the ranks of other democracies globally, who have recognised that you need to regulate political parties”.
Returning specifically to this island’s affairs, Barrow-Giles asked: “Why it is that Barbados is seen by so many international organisations as being a model democracy for the Caribbean?
“It is supposed to be ostensibly one of the least corrupt countries in the Caribbean, yet in terms of a modern constitution and a modern government arrangement in this country, there is an absence of what I call fundamental and critical institutions which would ensure that there will be no corruption, well limited corruption.”
She said there are problems with Barbados’ national indicator. “There are gaps in that indicator, in that system. The prime minister has too much power. What can we do?”
“The Governor General is political,” she contended, adding that this constitutional head of state “has tremendous political authority, political power that we sometimes don’t consider”.
She said: “We need to look at the fact that we have no integrity legislation in Barbados, although I think it is part of the omnibus Prevention of Corruption Act”. (GA)