Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados TODAY Inc.
by Hyacinth Greenidge
Three of the most precious elements of a thriving democracy are the freedom of expression, the freedom of association and the freedom of movement. These are rights which Barbadians would do well to protect and not allow their political alliances to cloud their judgement when they see these rights being usurped.
The advent of COVID-19 has seen the curtailment or denial of the right of association and movement by Government under managed circumstances, as a means to fight against the spread of the coronavirus. I support this Government’s efforts to fight the pandemic and if certain restrictions of these rights are necessary and permissible by law, then I am completely supportive of the Mia Mottley administration.
However, where my support has to be withdrawn is when the laws are applied and it is apparent that some persons receive preferential treatment within the law. We have seen this with some shops being allowed to open in curfew times while others within shouting distance had to be closed.
The explanation for that as far as I am concerned has nothing to do with health or safety but is merely political patronage. This is wrong on every level.
I am sure that those more than 40 individuals who lost their lives to Covid-19 in Barbados over the past 15 to 16 months were both Dees and Bees.
The question of vaccines has become a most contentious issue. Indeed, I pen this letter today in response to an indication from a leading player in the private sector who has suggested a couple hours ago that he was willing to test making vaccination mandatory for employees in a court of a law. Now I have had both jabs, my significant other has not, as we have varying views on the rationale of taking a vaccine that is largely unproven and is basically not a cure for the virus.
But there have been sufficient deaths around the globe, intimidatory tactics by employers and politicians, persuasive arguments by doctors, scientists, interest groups, et al, that I have been constructively bullied into taking the vaccine and I am sure that there are others who would prefer not to venture into the unknown but have been bombarded to such a degree by external forces that they believe they are doing a grave injustice to their fellowman by not taking the vaccine.
I find the timing of the private sector comments interesting and I am wondering if this is a feeler being undertaken by the private sector at the behest of Government. This could very well be a case of the Government testing the waters through the private sector.
With a general election due in fewer than two years I do not believe that the Government would go down this road to draw the ire of thousands of citizens who do not trust the efficacy of the vaccine. But there is nothing wrong in sitting back and gauging responses if the private sector puts the notion out there. Of course, this is mere speculation on my part.
But of greater concern for me is the diminishing right to express oneself in this country without fear of intimidation. I have no affiliation to either of the main political parties in Barbados, indeed I have supported both at the polls, one with a bit more frequency than the other.
However, I must state that one cannot miss the element of fear to speak openly that has attached itself to the present ruling party in several of its other manifestations. From the days of Tom Adams running Ralph Gonsalves out of Barbados to the present, this Barbados Labour Party does not like criticism and moves very swiftly to either cajole critics, include them, or simply crush them.
I have watched several media conferences over the past months and 99 per cent of the journalists who question Prime Minister Mia Mottley or her ministers when she is present, appear weak-kneed and ask some of the most juvenile questions imaginable. She roughs them up, ignores certain questions, and the more she does it, the more into their shells they recoil. There is an abundance of questions that need to be asked but are never asked.
There are a number of issues to be addressed but are never probed, I guess because of the threat of lawsuits or because media persons are in bed with the Government, whether print, electronic or broadcast. The importance which these elements hold in shaping people’s opinions on the one hand, and keeping the populace in the dark on the other, can be arrived at by the numerous media and quasi-media people who are under the employ of the Government or manning several nebulous positions that just serve to monitor and control public opinion.
If one wants to appreciate how spineless the media has become, one simply has to explore some of the following issues that still remain up in the air and no one has had the fortitude to demand answers from the Government.
Senator Lucille Moe has been away from Barbados for months, said to be active elsewhere in the Caribbean, but no one has put the Senate President or Prime Minister on the spot as to her status and the payment of the stipend she is entitled to be getting monthly.
And what about Mr Gline Clarke? Has he been receiving a salary and benefits for the position he had not taken up when last checked? To date no journalist has had the fortitude to question the specifics about what Mr Kevin Greenidge [no relation to me], Mr Clyde Mascoll, Mr Avinash Persaud, Mr Justin Ram, MP Marsha Caddle, MP Ryan Straughan, White Oaks Advisory, and God knows how many more, do for Barbados’ economy, other than add to the wages bill. If I have an ailment, I go to the doctor, he diagnoses the problem and gives me the possible remedy.
But we have a legion of people who seemingly are being paid monthly to make diagnoses but the problems aren’t going anywhere. It would help if taxpayers knew specifically what each of these people was being paid to do and at what stage do their stint as consultants end. But no one asks these questions.
Meanwhile, thousands of Barbadians are unemployed to the extent that officialdom is afraid to say whether it is really 60-plus per cent out of work as whispered, or 17 per cent as jested.
I appreciate the restrictions on movement and association as a health measure but when people are afraid to speak or ask questions because of fear, then something is dreadfully wrong in this country. We have surrendered our freedom of speech. Indeed, many Barbadians seem to have become numb or number. I contributed to the creation of this situation in the year 2018 and I look forward with great expectation to correcting it whenever the chance is given to me.
This column was offered as Letter to the Editor.