Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley urges Barbadians to reflect and get back to the basics of caring for the elderly and developing strong families as they celebrate Independence.
Below is the full text of the message:
Even in the course of our natural lives we find it necessary as well as prudent to stop and take stock of where we are.
Are we still on course to reach our goals? Are we in fact making the requisite progress? Are we properly equipped and resourced for the rest of the journey?
As we do, sometimes we recognize that such a pause instructs us that there are some basic things to which we ought to give urgent attention.
This 54th year of our observance of Independence is again a time for thanksgiving and celebration.
We give thanks to the Almighty for blessings numbered and un-numbered on our great nation. We thank Him for sparing mercies from the ravages of storms again this year. We give thanks for the goodness of His hand that fed and provided for us. We are appreciative of the blessing of relative tranquility across our national landscape. We recognize His favour attendant upon our advancement among the nations of our region and of the world.
We are equally blessed in the positive contribution to national growth and wellbeing of leadership at the level of Government, the Church, Industry, Labour, Judicial and other Institutions, the Community and the Home. We acclaim the Almighty who has been our guide for past three hundred years. We honour Him who has been our help in ages past and who constitutes our Hope for years to come.
A pause for thought instructs that it would be in our interest as a country to go back to some important basics: (1) Caring for our Elderly; (2) Fostering family; and (3) Appreciating the value of good parenting.
Recent media exposes and public comments from our medical professionals once again highlighted that to too great an extent we have insufficiently paid attention to the truism that the measure of a nation’s maturity is in part to be reflected in how it treats its elderly and senior citizens.
In this 54th independent year of our national development, there is too oft repeated evidence of systemic failure that allows too many of our elderly to fall through the cracks. We lament the incapacity of the state to adequately provide for this community where needed. We regret the equal incapacity of the church and other NGO’s to address more robustly and consistently the problems attaching to this community. We abhor the persistent twin evils of abandonment by family and the abuse of this group in various ways by those whom they trust or those upon whom they are of necessity dependent.
A pause for thought suggests that the viability of the family unit is under threat. This threat emanates from the severe negative impact of our massive economic slide upon households. It emanates from a perceptible deterioration in the moral fabric of our country and in the rising tide of alternative lifestyles borrowed from foreign cultures.
These threaten the moral life of our nation and imperil our value set as a people. We must be sustained in the view that the family is the foundational unit of our society. Anything which imperils the institution of the family potentially undermines our communities and our nation.
A pause for thought raises the query as to whether we do enough formally or otherwise to inform the process and practice of parenting. The view is popular and well-founded that much of the social deviance and decline in the incidence of right behaviour among our youth population can be traced to the home unit.
One of the major dynamics operating in the home unit is that of parenting. Yet with the recession of the extended family, the increasing incidence of early parenting, the impact of negative foreign cultural influence on young minds, we still seem satisfied to leave the important matter of good parenting to chance. I insist that we need to construct a formal framework around the business of preparing persons for parenting roles.
Beyond the basics above outlined this 54th anniversary moment finds us facing down two very serious issues: Pervasive crime and the fear it now genders in our communities, and the plight of the working class in Barbados.
Crime of the violent type, and particularly so gun-related crime, constitutes a major threat to our national well-being in several obvious ways. There must be a more evident resolve to deal with this matter.
Though this must not be made a matter that is politicized, it is within the context of the political process and policy formulation that economic, judicial and legal, community-related and family-oriented initiatives must be birthed and imbued with such efficacy that there is a concerted and cohesive national effort to wrestle this mushrooming problem to the ground.
The plight of the working class in Barbados at this time is a cause for disturbing concern. The industrial relations space is now characterized by economic decline of significant proportions. The reality of excessive high levels of unemployment and little job opportunity prospects. State capacity for employment creation and public servants’ remuneration is severely constrained by IMF strictures. With respect to private capital, there is declining investment interest and or capacity. Additionally, some degree of disposition on the part of capital to take advantage of labour in the current circumstances is quite apparent. Further and very unfortunate is the questionable commitment or ability of labour leadership.
In short, we are at this time faced with the need to address the three big issues: household deprivation due to unemployment and under-employment; the stress upon and threats to the viability of our Social Security System; and the shifting balance of power in the relationship between capital and labour in Barbados in favour of capital, both domestic and foreign.
Our problems are weighty and urgent. National consensus must be derived both in terms of an understanding of the issues that plague us and our resolved response to them.
Of course, all of this takes place while we face both the present and potential havoc of COVID 19. We give God thanks again that we have not had to endure and experience the worst of its wrath here as have others elsewhere.
A tremendous debt of gratitude is owed to our governmental officials, medical professionals and other front-line entities and individuals who have led the charge in our fight to deny this virus the opportunity of greater injury to our country and people.
Personally, it is my view that by and large Barbadians have responded appropriately to the calls for caution in so far as the spread of this virus is a concern. That is appreciated. We need to remain vigilant and discipline yet.
But there are those who have suffered in various ways; a few have also lost their lives. The Opposition People’s Party expresses sympathy and solidarity with all concerned.
At 54 an individual is mature and middle-aged. At 54 a small developing state is still quite in the formative stages of development. That development must be pursued and experienced in today’s world in the face of challenges brought on by global arena economic dynamics; the vagaries of climate change and weather impact upon our eco-systems; cultural penetration and special interests agendas.
These are largely external winds that buffet us. Our resolve to fight them is imperative. The easier battles lie at home. These we must address. We must get back to the basics.
Our 55th year as a nation will even further test our resolve and resilience as a people. Let us join hands with the Almighty and with each other as we face the tough tomorrows.
On behalf of my family, on behalf of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development, on behalf of the office of the Opposition may I wish you all a Happy Independence Day.