The 1st century Christian apostle James, in a New Testament epistle, addressed to “all God’s people scattered over the whole world”, warns about the danger of an unbridled tongue.
“It is evil and uncontrollable, full of deadly poison,” he observed. “We use it to give thanks to our Lord and Father and also to curse other people who are created in the likeness of God. Words of thanksgiving and cursing pour out from the same mouth.”
Minister of Education Ronald Jones is a politician whose speeches sometimes are delivered with the zeal of an evangelist, laced with snippets taken from the Good Book. However, one is sometimes forced to wonder if the Member of Parliament for Christ Church East Central MP has ever seriously reflected on the import of James’ observations.
For it seems that the more Mr Jones opens his mouth sometimes, the more he lands himself in trouble. His strained relations with teachers, some of whom he once represented as a former president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), stand as testimony of a tendency to rub some people the wrong way.
Mr Jones was at it again last Sunday evening when he addressed a meeting of the St Andrew constituency branch of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP). This time, it was a group of persons seeking election to the executive of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) who were on the receiving end of his tongue.
While he did not call the NUPW by name, the audience was in no doubt about whom he was referring to Mr Jones’ beef is with what he alleged is their affiliation with the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP). He told the branch meeting: “We know that they meet. Every one of those persons on a particular side is [a] member of the BLP — strong and diabolical supporters of the BLP . . . . They could as well call themselves Team BLP.”
His characterization of NUPW executive members as “diabolical” was inappropriate and unfortunate.
Vocabulary.com explains: “Diabolical is related to the Spanish word diablo, which means “devil”. In many religions and mythologies, you can’t get any more evil than a devil, so diabolical is a powerful term, stronger than even despicable . . . .”
Mr Jones, therefore, has demonized the group simply for exercising their constitutional right to freedom of association with the BLP if that is indeed the case. As a matter of interest, one wonders how he would describe the other portion of the NUPW, which is reportedly linked to the DLP. Perhaps “saintly” would be the description.
It is not the first time that the minister has associated some Barbadians with the devil. Readers may recall that back in late 2011, he had found himself in hot water for saying, in reference to deviance among school children: “Until many of our young people are cleansed of demons that are in their souls, we will continue to get that type of behaviour.”
One conclusion which can be drawn, therefore, is that the minister seems to have a fixation with ascribing demonic influence to others.
At any rate, though, why should Mr Jones have a problem with persons affiliated with the BLP seeking or occupying leadership positions within the NUPW? Can he provide evidence to prove that he had no partisan affiliation when he was president of the BUT? Has he forgotten that the DLP has a history where known members for many years occupied the top echelons of the trade union movement in both the NUPW and the Barbados Workers Union?
The implication of Jones’ statement leads any right-thinking person to logically conclude that it is alright for union leaders to be in bed with the DLP but it is somehow wrong when it comes to the BLP. Needless to say, such thinking is inherently dangerous, can cause unnecessary division in small societies such as ours and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Caribbean history shows that political parties in many instances were born out of trade unions. In other words, they are birds of the same feather.
However, times have changed in a fundamental way and a question which needs to be seriously debated is whether it would not be better for trade unions today to be independent of political parties. At least, it may help to improve their credibility, given the worrying falloff in membership. As the Bible reminds us, no man can simultaneously serve two masters because one will be loved and the other despised.