“Let me tell Mr Peters and Mr Leslie Haynes that there is nobody from Nigeria that can silence Chris Sinckler in Barbados. Can’t happen! I born here. My navel string buried here and nobody gine come from Nigeria and try to bully me into silence in Barbados. They would have to kill me first! Can’t happen!,” Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, responding during a Democratic Labour Party meeting at Carlisle House, The City, on Sunday to a pre-action protocol letter sent to him by the local attorney for Nigerian businessman Benedict Peters.
After making the statement, Mr Sinckler also made a point of telling the Nigerian billionaire and his legal representative that “this is Democratic Labour Party territory and we are not allowing them to silence us, because we have to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, before tearing up a copy of the legal document sent to him by Mr Peters’ attorney.
We may not always agree with everything Mr Sinckler says, but on the point of us having a right to ask questions with a view to knowing “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, we are certainly at one with him.
And having, also like him, been threatened with legal action for merely seeking to find out the truth in an editorial last week about Mr Peters’ involvement, if any, in Barbados, we are also of one mind with our Minister of Finance in terms of how we respond to ridiculous and downright stupid threats.
In fact, it makes us question sometimes the level of legal instruction that some of our most senior attorneys have been exposed to.
For since when is it illegal to ask a question in Barbados, particularly of the leader of the Barbados Labour Party Ms Mia Mottley who aspires to be our next Prime Minister?
Is this no longer a democratic country and is it not the duty of the fourth estate to keep those who aspire to leadership to account?
We vividly recall that on the last occasion that we dared ask Ms Mottley to come clean on her legal qualifications, we were threatened will all manner of legal fire and brimstone.
Now, lo and behold, a week after Ms Mottley was asked by us “to set the national record straight on the BLP’s relationship, if any at all, with Mr Peters and indeed Boko Horam”, another poisonous package of weak legal smoke arrives, couched in cowardly threats and making malicious claims that were never once made by us. If you doubt us, visit our website and re-read our May 7 editorial entitled We need not court trouble with any Boko Haram for yourself.
Pray tell, what is wrong, particularly for any self-respecting journalist to ask Ms Mottley “who is funding her political campaign and how does she intend to finance promises to immediately purchase 50 garbage trucks, repeal the dreaded National Social Responsibility Levy, give public servants a pay increase, hike old age pensions and restore free tertiary education if given the reins of Government after the May 24 general election?”
Is that now a grave sin for which journalists are now to be punished with life in a legal hell?
Seriously, is this what we have to look forward to in the future?
We hope to God not!
For it has to be said that while we hold no brief for anyone and have come to characterize the choice facing the Barbadian electorate this mother-of-all election battles as one between “the devil and the deep blue sea”, never once over the past decade – despite all the questions and criticisms that have generously been thrown his way and with all the might of our prolific pen – never once has our Prime Minister Freundel Stuart sought to threaten or intimidate us, or as far as we are aware, any other domestic media house for that matter. Therefore, if only in this instance Ms Mottley may want to take a leaf out of Mr Stuart’s book.
In the meantime, like Mr Sinckler, we would want Mr Peters, Mr Haynes all and sundry to know that we will not be silenced in Barbados. Our navel strings are buried here – very deeply so – and we will not be bullied by anyone – whether they be Bee, Dee or any complexion in between.
After all this is a democratic country with an educated population for whom freedom of speech – like the right to vote – has been won for us by our forefathers at a very dear price and we intend to make full use of our civil gifts whether we are revered or not.