Submitted by Brudah-Bim
I have been completely stumped at the fact that well over forty years after her supposed “independence” from the Crown, that Barbados is still in fact a solid member of the British Commonwealth. This has proven to be a huge detriment to the nation’s ability to move forward as it has yet to sufficiently carve out an identity that is very much so distinct and different from that of our former colonizer. Instead, we have opted to stay within the shadows of “Great Britain” often at our own expense.
At what cost do we as a tiny island nation aspire to emulate the socioeconomic capacities of our former colonial government without even bothering to strategize how to continue to feed our own population in the next 30-50 years sufficiently and independently? At what cost do we as a society envelop “customs” which entails the development of expensive tastes without the drive for hard work so that the fruits of our labours can be fully savoured?
And at whose cost when we as a nation-society would rather take the words of elected non-visionaries and wealthy foreigners as “sound and solid ideas” for our country to opt for its “survival” along the lines of already diminishing clouted industries dedicated to “service” under principles that are archaic, irrelevant, and outdated?
“What do we get?”
To answer you in short and directly, you get three of the following respectively:
An emptily-founded “class system” where one is distinguished by title as opposed to his/her own merit.
A mentality that grips a nation in which all aspire for the finest of goods without having the drive to develop their own nation’s brand; thus eroding our very work ethic.
A system of inertia that literally grips the entire country on a Social, Economic, as well as Political level.
Forty-Six years on into our independence, and the socioeconomic dynamics of Colonial Barbados seems to have permeated over into post-independence Barbados, but merely on a more complex and covert scale. I will abstain from going further into detail as I am sure that many of us have an idea of how that came to be and how it manifests itself. Not to mention that it would take us off onto a different tangent.
Where I am fundamentally getting at is that if we Bajans are to even remotely start considering ourselves to be a state level society, then we should be doing more in order to determine our statehood as opposed to trying to emulate others. That said, I am calling for a massive overhaul not just in our nation’s economy, healthcare, and education system, but the entire political process in general. a government that prides itself in adopting an archaic colonial style of governance otherwise known as the “Westminster system” should be aware that it is in fact not a government at all but in fact a shell of an old governance style that has little to no relevance in our society. In short, one’s glove does not and cannot fit all.
Not to mention that the Westminster system enables for the clouding of government transparency and centralizes power (and subsequently funds) to only a minority of the populace. This erodes the likelihood of government accountability and could help to enable corruption.
What Barbados needs at this point (and I stress needs) is to look within itself and motion to develop a system that works according to our society’s needs, principles, and ideals. Our nation’s motto is “Pride and Industry”, yet how can we have pride when our own government has severely lagged in enabling for there to be strategic industry flourishing within our shores?
I posit that we Bajans ditch this political system which enables plutocracy and holds nil relevance to our societal standards and finally stand up and innovate one that is more suited for our country. Instead of adopting policies merely to “keep up” with the rest of the world, we need to adopt a system which enables for maximum prioritization in preemptive motioning for our country’s long term future.
Changing the Legislation Movement
Instead of having a Bicameral (double chambered parliament ie. lower vs. upper house), two party parliamentary system; might I suggest that we adopt a tricameral (triple chambered parliament) that has a multi-party parliamentary system. SO Instead of having simply a Lower house and upper house in parliament; I argue that we infuse a Senate (upper house), a chamber of Councilors (lower house), along with a third chamber called the “Chamber of Labour”, in which representatives of labour unions that span across all employment/job spectrums in Barbados are represented on an equal spectrum. The way how these representatives will be elected is through elections held on a national scale according to their respective unions. It should be absolutely forbidden for elected representatives of labour unions and guilds to establish any clear affinities with a political party, or to receive finances from any political party and/or politician (As they would be paid through dues and government stipends). The responsibility of representatives from the Chamber of Labour entails advocating or vetoing clauses passed by either the Upper and/or Lower houses by arguing how it will affect the people accordingly to their labour fields.
For instance, if the government proposes to cut funding for subsidies in the agricultural sector of the economy, the representative of the agricultural labour union would first have to consult with other representatives from of labor divisions first, and convince them to vote against the bill made by the upper and lower houses by positing arguments on how such decisions would affect people according to those respective labour unions/job fields. So let’s say the minimum quota for forming a solid coalition of various labour unions/guilds within the chamber of labour was 3 votes. That means that the representative of the agricultural labour union has to not only post his vote but 3 other votes as well in order for the bill to be halted and further deliberated on within the chamber. The most obvious responsibility of the agricultural representative is to make strategic appeals to 3 other representatives by explaining how the decision would affect constituents of their respective labour unions as well. So representatives from the Transport Union Bureau, Retailer’s guild, and Restauranteur’s society (all hypothetical labour unions) should be the most obvious strategic votes that the agriculture representative should aim for as they are all involved with the functioning of the agriculture sector.
With the total four forming a coalition to block the bill, they must now altogether deliberate amongst the rest of the Chamber of Labour and explain why they have reservations on a certain matter and then proceed with a possible redrafting of the bill in order to suit the demands of the 4 hesitant representatives while still retaining the support of the other labour unions and guilds. The upper house and lower house cannot make a decision on a bill without clearance from the Chamber of labour, and should there be an inconclusive decision on the bill; the parliament is only allowed to either scrap the entire bill or hold a national referendum pertaining to the bill.
Changing the face(s) of the Executive Body
Part of what helps to further advance a state of inertia is if it is placed upon a single individual assigned to lead a nation. We all know that the ideals of a sole individual often causes controversies because they are usually not inclusive of other perspectives. Which causes for there to all the more reason in order to maximize a society’s democratic process. By having an elected board comprised of an uneven amount of members (ideally 7 or 9) who serve as an executive body that is representative of the nation helps to ensure that the democratic process is in fact upheld within Barbados. Should there be an executive council of let’s say 7 members on an equal footing (there are no superiors or inferiors), all from different parts of the national legislative body, and have different affiliations within the parliament; it could prove to help even out the priorities and prospects of the nations hence provide us with a clearer goal. So if one member of the executive council wishes to make a decision on a matter, they cannot do so without first consulting with the rest of the council and deliberating with them. The way how decisions would be made by the executive body would be by way of “majority rules”. A key rule to the composition of the executive counsel is that there should be at least a minimum of one member represented from each of the three parliamentary chambers in the executive council and no more than two can come from the same constituency (ie. parish).
Upholding Transparency: Establishing Direct Democracy
A lesser known body is the Ombudsmen. The Ombudsmen would play a quintessential role in this new democracy for all facets of the government is subject to a series of random screenings, inquiries, and audits by this body. There will be an undisclosed amount of quota the Ombudsmen would have to fulfill every term-year by conducting such (as some would call) “invasive surveillance” for all parts of the government. The First principle of this body is to offer a mode of trust to the people while acknowledging that it cannot trust the government, nor itself! That said, the Ombudsmen will consist of an intricate web of networks and bureaus within itself in order to help further enhance the quality of the proposed democratic process and maximizing government accountability. The Ombudsmen will have no sole leader as the ombudsmen must reflect the functioning of the government processes in order to keep up with ensuring democracy to the highest degree. The head of the Ombudsmen will be headed by a council of 5 elected (again, by the PEOPLE) officials who will oversee the functions of the entire body. There will be one division pertaining to the governance of labor unions, another for political parties, another for the executive branch, the other for the Judiciary branch (the supreme court), another for the legislative body (on all levels including community, Parish, and national). There will also be a separate platform for Corporate and Business Mishandlings overseen by a division known as the “Auditor General’s Office” to ensure that corporations, business, INCLUDING non-profit organizations are compliant with the nation’s laws and statutes.
Staff of the Ombudsmen would be discouraged from developing any ties to political parties and/or politicians for it would be enough grounds for all of there financial accounts to be audited by the ombudsmen more frequently (as they would already submit to random audits through employment contract) on the grounds that they are OF the organization hence are subject to its protocols. This even applies onwards up to the head council, who will have to sacrifice great financial privacy during their term for the sake ensuring the maximum level of democracy. The Ombudsmen’s main objective is to immediately act on the request of whistle-blowers (that must be made anonymously) by ordering a subpena to randomly audit an agency or organization of the government. These whistle-blowers would typically be involved with the government however If a citizen has reason to suspect that a government agency or corporate business doesn’t have its act together, then they can form a petition of 50-150 (depending on the constituency) other individuals with their signatures and file it to the Ombudsmen in order for there to be an immediate random audit and screening of the place of discrepancy.
Ensuring the Status Quo
The judiciary Branch shall not be spared of this overhaul either. The Supreme court should be comprised of an uneven amount (lets say 11) of justices in order to uphold the demand of democracy. The Supreme court justices cannot have any affinities with political parties and/or politicians; Nor can the supreme court justices be appointed by the government. Let’s say that there is a need for all 11 seats to be filled, the supreme court justices will be decided by an election conducted by the Barbados Bar Association (B.B.A.), in which members elect 11 candidates to fill the 11 seats. Their candidacy is determined by track record in maintaining maximum neutrality and limited to no clear bias, effectiveness and speed in delivering justice, seniority, and good personal judicial rapport (ie. no arrests). A candidate is forbidden to serve in the courts if they have already served in a government office, for the sake of upholding that neutrality. The supreme court cannot issue decisions without first being consulted by a cabinet of 9 individuals known as the “supreme jury”. The cabinet is appointed by the supreme court justices themselves by election upon recommendation of the Barbados Bar Association. The main purpose of the “supreme Jury” is to act mainly as an advisory board in which the justices would consult for a second ‘opinion’ rather than a second ‘decision’. The Supreme Jury serves only one term of 3 years but each individual cabinet member can be eligible for re-election under the discretion of the Supreme Court Justices.
That said, whereas what I am offering is not necessarily a “solution” per se, I do believe that what I am ultimately offering here is a first step to engaging the Bajan people on what principles and platforms we should initiate in order to establish a democratic system that would prove to be air tight in its functioning and delivery of BAJAN DEMOCRACY. All CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISMS ARE WELCOME!