The following is the full text of the Independence Day Message by Dennis, DePeiza General Secretary of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados.
In the midst of a global health pandemic, Barbados celebrates its 54th anniversary as a sovereign and independent nation. As a Christian society, the nation offers its thanks and praises to God Almighty for his blessings at this time, and those bestowed on it since the acquisition of political independence in the year 1966.
At a time when the resilience of the people of this nation is being tested as a consequence of domestic challenges and global adversities, Barbadians can be proud of the fact that they have been exercising discipline and fortitude when it is warranted and matters most. This speaks volumes to who we are as a people. It is a demonstration of the character of our people, who by their actions are prepared to uplift our national motto of ‘Pride and Industry.’
For the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), the significance of the political independence of the nation is embedded in the human, civil and workers’ rights which its citizens enjoy, and the embracing of the democratic practices, principles and ideals which characterize our system of governance.
The celebration of this island’s 54th anniversary of independence, would be incomplete if there was not a recognition of the struggles for the freedoms which Barbadians now enjoy. History teaches that these have emerged from the social upheaval which was experienced throughout the Caribbean in the 1930’s. It was the voice and struggles of the poor, impoverished and disenfranchised working-class people, that combined to bring about the needed social, economic and political changes.
For people of colour, the granting of universal adult suffrage was a significant achievement. In 1951 when the first General Elections were held, Barbadians were afforded the opportunity to exercise the right to vote.
Today, we must remind Barbadians that the granting of universal adult suffrage is not only a privilege but a right to be exercised. Moreover, it must be seen a hallmark of our democracy which must be celebrated and preserved.
As the nation continues to advance as an independent nation, Barbadians are cautioned not to take their constitutional rights and civil liberties for granted. As a people we must remain vigilant, if only for the purpose of ensuring that these are not in any way altered, or manipulated. We must demand that our political and civil society leaders respect the practice of democracy, the right to freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom of association and freedom of religious tolerance.
As Barbados celebrates its political independence, it is important that the contribution of the labour movement to this achievement is highlighted. It is a fact that the struggle for adult suffrage started with the organization of labour after the workers’ insurrection of the 1930’s.
It was with the establishment of the trade union movement in Barbados in 1945, that the fight for the right to vote was eventually intensified and won. In the post-independence era, the labour movement of Barbados has continued unabated in working to safeguard and protect workers’ rights, promote human rights, civil rights and liberties.
Let us as a people acknowledge the continued role of the Labour movement as a watch dog and change agent in an independent Barbados.
As we go forward, it is for working class people to remain united under the umbrella of labour, and to do so as the “strict guardians of our heritage and firm craftsmen of our fate.”