Tropical Storm Matthew has passed and one of the issues that has developed has been the conduct of Minister of Housing and Lands, Denis Kellman.
On Wednesday Barbados was under a storm watch; the day when the island was mostly affected by Matthew’s visit. Thankfully, despite some families being adversely affected by its passage, Matthew did not bring the type of damage occasioned by other more severe systems that have previously impacted this region.
Barbadians with any modicum of commonsense hopefully knew or appreciated that they had to take direction from the experts at the Department of Emergency Management. The official warning from the experts at the DEM came before Wednesday and gave our citizens adequate time for their various forms of preparation.
Meteorologists are not magicians, nor are they deities. They make predictions on potentially unpredictable systems and give instructions for the benefit of the safety and security of citizens. Sometimes their predictions of impending destructive weather systems do not materialize and we should be grateful. Most times their predictions do eventuate and we should be similarly grateful for their warnings.
Of course, there are Barbadians who posit the folly that ‘God is a Bajan’; nothing will happen to their island; and pay no heed to advisories. Others, frequently ignore the warnings, and in the midst of a system, dare the elements in ignorant adventure and foolish frolic. And there are some who believe that Barbadians pray more than any other, are more religious than any other, and therefore the disasters that descend on other countries will never occur here. Ignorance is indeed bliss.
There was a shutdown of the island on Wednesday. Schools were closed. Businesses were closed. Only essential services had cause to be open and manned by employees. The purpose of the precaution was to keep citizens indoors and hopefully minimize the chances of any injury.
In an ideal world, we would have hoped that the advice of the DEM would have been followed to the letter. But this is not an ideal world and there will be some who will exercise their democratic right to be stupid. On Wednesday there were a number of acts of stupidity. That nothing adverse occurred as a result of disobedient stupidity is no cause for comfort, indifference or excuses.
In such circumstances as prevailed on Wednesday we expected our leaders to be the examples to follow. We did not expect them to flout the instructions of the experts they themselves put in place in the service of the country. This has nothing to do with whether a law was broken or not, by ignoring the advice of experts. This pertains to being guided by commonsense and adhering to advice that could be the difference between life and death.
On Wednesday, Mr Kellman’s brand of leadership was to ignore the advice of the DEM, open his restaurant, bar and grocery establishment at Half Moon Fort, St Lucy, and also accommodate employees and patrons away from their homes. He broke no laws but his commerce superseded all commonsense.
And while Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite was bemoaning the “irresponsible” behaviour of some business persons that mimicked Mr Kellman, the St Lucy MP – and others – were finding excuses that would have made Balaam’s companion bray in acquiescence.
Mr Kellman contended that Mr Brathwaite’s criticism did not relate to him because he was simply accommodating “some people like any normal country shop would”. That such a comment emanated from Mr Kellman’s mouth is perhaps worse than his ignoring the instructions of the experts. Perhaps, he should repeat the comment to himself.
If it is problem getting Barbadians to appreciate the importance of following the instructions of the experts in these situations, Mr Kellman has gone to the head of the class as a major example of the problem. And just for a few dollars more.
We do not suggest any resemblance between Mr Kellman and Shakespeare’s Shylock, but we would suggest that not every case might be one of all’s well that end’s well. Suffice to say, for all those who ignored the official warnings on Wednesday and sought pecuniary gain, the flesh imperilled the next time could be your own.