It is an admission by many Barbadians that debates in Parliament, including the Lower House and the Senate have become rather lacking in enthusiasm, to put it politely.
The fireworks that used to be a feature of the Senate during the tenure of former senator Caswell Franklyn and former Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley in the Lower Chamber, have dissipated.
Though there are a few occasions when everyone is not singing from the same hymn sheet, there are some speakers from whom the public can expect interesting perspectives on legislative amendments, new laws, or simply topical issues.
Among them is Government Senator Gregory Nicholls. Recently, he chided the Financial Services Commission (FSC) for possible regulatory over-reach into the management of credit unions.
He suggested that the regulator was being overzealous and weighing in on matters that he regarded as possibly outside the FSC’s regulatory ambit.
Senator Nicholls, who was a late appointee to the Senate the second time around, has proven to be a very worthy voice in the august chamber, and an important ally for the credit union movement and labour.
Earlier this month, he added his voice to the call for parity in the provision of deposit insurance to savers in the credit union movement and the non-banking financial sector.
During debate on the Financial Services Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2022, Senator Nicholls also referenced securities, mutual funds and similar instruments.
“As we develop the financial services sector, should we not look at creating and establishing a deposit insurance scheme so that Barbadians may feel more comfortable in putting out their money in the financial instruments that are being offered by these entities?”
While Government is yet to put the legal framework in place to allow the island’s credit unions to be covered by the Barbados Deposit Insurance Corporation facility, just as commercial bank customers are, the Senator presented a very compelling argument.
“I say to those in the credit union movement, you do as you are required because it really doesn’t make sense fighting up with your regulator. At the end of the day, we don’t have anything to fear because no credit union in Barbados has gone belly up.
“In fact, in the history of the financial services sector in Barbados it has not been the credit unions that have left thousands of Barbadians out to sea.
“It has not been the credit unions that have been giving unlawful political donations in millions of dollars that have featured in a most callous way in terms of the demise of one insurance company and the imprisonment of a former government minister,” the Senator and senior attorney stated.
This week, the Senator offered a very interesting proposal on how we can address the vexing and escalating problem of illegal firearm use on the island.
His was the introduction of whistleblower legislation as another tool in the battle. He suggested that there were figures operating in the shadows who were behind the infiltration of illegal guns on our streets and that whistleblower legislation could provide the protection needed for our enforcement authorities to root out the bad agents who were at the source of the gun trade.
“We can see the development of businesses in places in Barbados where the owners and proprietors of these businesses cannot show the income to match the large infrastructure and physical development of the properties going around all across Barbados.
“If you pass around Barbados, you see lots and lots of cars on a car lot sitting down in a normal community . . . in St Thomas next to a little house. Nuff, nuff cars on a lot and selling cars. How he get this money all of a sudden to bring in all of these cars to sell? The cost of a car is $30- 40 000 but the car lot full.
“The people in the community driving by in their cars or in buses and stuff, know that something isn’t right here.”
As the Senator explained, fish never rots from the tail first, always the head.
“Without those things (whistleblower legislation), we gine only lock up the young, poor black people in Barbados for a long time and people will benefit from being able to take down whom they perceive as the dons in other communities and run havoc about here.”
Though we are not certain how effective whistleblower legislation would be in the fight against gun crimes, given the insular nature of life in Barbados, it is a proposal that should be examined.