At some point, society wakes up and asks“how did we get here?” We wake up in 2017 and everyone wants to know why children have guns and are killing people.
Back in the early 1990’s, the people in power denied that there were gangs and an arms trade in Barbados and the society aided and abetted them because this is Barbados and we thought that we’re not like Trinidad or Jamaica.
They politicized the issue and, a generation later, people are getting murdered at ATMs for miniscule amounts of money. Barbadians should learn that “pride goeth before destruction.” We love to quote the Bible, so figure out which passage that quote comes from.
Twenty to thirty thousand people took to the streets on Monday, 24th July 2017 to express their displeasure, agony, dissatisfaction or whatever you want to call it with the government of the day. Incidentally, a government comprised of members of the same party as the government in 1991 when they marched “up down and all around de town” in response to the eight per cent pay cut and being told to “take it or lump it.” Here we are again almost a generation later having not learned anything.
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur who appears politically to have been the biggest beneficiary of the 1991 unrest, sees it fit to pour cold water on the whole thing and state that a government can only be changed on the floor of Parliament. No less a personage than the Attorney General, the highest-ranking lawyer in this country, described the march as“madness.”
Dennis Kellman uses the cover of Parliament to call an ordinary citizen an“enemy of the state” and an “enemy of the people” for seeking judicial intervention in relation to a real or perceived breach of the law. The same Mr. Kellman describes the unions as being “anti-Barbados” for bringing about or participating in the march.
Robert Morris, at a Democratic Labour Party lunchtime talk,tells the head of the Barbados Private Sector Association to “watch himself.” The same Robert Morris claims that the unions belong to the BLP, conveniently forgetting his union association when he was a DLP parliamentarian. Apparently it wasn’t a problem then.
Ronald Jones talked about“cracking heads” and “shooting people.” Some undercover yardfowl is sending around WhatsApp messages threatening a black supermarket owner for joining in the march. I haven’t heard about the police investigating that using the powers under the Computer Misuse Act. Were I not a cynic who didn’t expect any better, I might have been disappointed by the “undemocratic” drivel being spouted.
There are two aspects to this march, one of which the“powers that be” are conveniently overlooking or are not seeing, possibly due to what the goodly attorney general laments as not “getting good value for money in terms of education.” I neither know, nor care about the political persuasions of the people who organized it or marched. The single most important thing about this march from a legal and societal perspective is the exercise of their fundamental rights and freedoms by ordinary Barbadians of all classes, creeds and colours in what is still a democracy.
Make no mistake, the“mouthings” of these politicians and assorted yardfowls show that democracy itself is under threat. These are the first pebbles before the avalanche. The rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association are set out one after the other in sections 20 and 21 of the Constitution.
Section 20(1) states that “Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the freedom of expression, and for the purposes of this section the said freedom includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference and freedom from interference with his correspondence or other means of communication.”
Section 21(1) states that “except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to political parties or belong to trade unions or other associations for the protection of his interests.” All interests, not just the ones the government considers acceptable.
Pride causes us to look at Jamaica with its political tribalism and say“not here.” Will that pride lead us to our own destruction? A generation from now, what retrenchment of our fundamental rights and freedoms will we be faced with because elected politicians don’t want to hear what we have to say and don’t want to see 30,000 personal expressions of discontent? Thank God that there is no two-thirds majority in Parliament or we might not have had to wait for a generation.
These people do not even see the irony in laying wreaths every year at the Cenotaph commemorating the death of citizens who fought and died for democracy in“the white man’s” war. These people do not even see the irony in commemorating the 1937 Riots every year. These people do not see the irony in celebrating Emancipation Day and leaving wreaths at Bussa’s feet.
Tyranny takes many forms and must be responded to swiftly and effectively lest a generation later we wake up and ask “how did we get here?”