When a political administration can play games with something as sacred as the suffering (and in some cases martyrdom) of the 450 Barbadian patriots who participated in the 1937 People’s Rebellion, and who were convicted of criminal offences, fined and imprisoned by the racist colonial authorities of the day, we must know that politics in Barbados has sunk to an all time low!
For surely, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart had to be playing a “game” when he got up in the House of Assembly last Friday – the 16th of February 2018 – and dramatically announced that the Democratic Labour Party Cabinet had decided that they “are going” to pardon the hundreds of Barbadians who were convicted of criminal offences in the 1937 rebellion, and that, in Stuart’s words, “this is a great leap forward for the country”.
And I say that Mr Stuart had to be playing a “game” because surely he and the members of his Cabinet would have to be aware that these said 450 Barbadian patriots have already been pardoned some 20 years ago – in July 1998 – by the then Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands!
Mr Stuart and his colleagues had to be aware of this because the whole process of engineering these 450 pardons was such a very open and highly publicized matter.
Indeed, the process began in the year 1995, with the City of Bridgetown constituency branch of the National Democratic Party (NDP), under the stewardship of one David Comissiong, presenting a resolution to the NDP’s Annual General Conference, mandating the NDP’s sole parliamentary representative Dr Richie Haynes to file a motion in the House of Assembly calling for the pardoning of the 450 martyrs of 1937.
The second phase of the process consisted of Dr Haynes actually presenting a resolution in the House of Assembly on October 24, 1995, calling upon the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) government of the day to “take steps to secure a pardon for those patriots who were convicted of offences relating to the riots”.
And not only was Dr Haynes’ resolution accepted and endorsed by the House of Assembly, but the BLP Cabinet took up the matter and gave their formal executive approval.
The matter was then referred to Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands and his Privy Council to formalize the pardons.
And finally, on Sunday, July 26, 1998, at a mass public rally that was held in Golden Square in Bridgetown to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the 1937 rebellion and to also unveil a brand new “monument to the martyrs” that had been erected in Golden Square, then Deputy Prime Minister Billie Miller read out a letter from Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands announcing the pardons for all 450 of the convicted patriots. It should also be noted that all of this was reported on the front page of the Nation newspaper!
Is it really possible that people who claim to be so interested in this matter could have no knowledge whatsoever of all of these important public events? Or is it that in this “silly season” of electoral politics anything and everything is fair game?
Whatever the answer to that question may be, I think that it is absolutely critical that the record be set straight on a matter of such fundamental historical importance to our country.