A Bold Change in Policy

Jeff Cumberbatch - New Chairman of the FTC

Jeff Cumberbatch – New Chairman of the FTC

BU shares the Jeff Cumberbatch Barbados Advocate column – Senior Lecturer in law at the University of the West Indies since 1983, a Columnist with the Barbados Advocate

MUSINGS: A bold change in policy

It is only natural that local policymakers should carry out their functions these days with a […]certain degree of circumspection, given the near palpable ennui of an electorate that appears to be at least doubtful that the way out of our current

socio-economic plight lies in a partisan political solution. Of course, in ordinary times, this disinterest might have inured to the benefit of those not constitutionally charged with the creation of policy, that is the Opposition, but the present sentiment of popular political disinterest seems to be rather deep-seated, to such an extent that it may be tentatively argued that one of the more anticipated outcomes of any future general election may be an ascertainment of that percentage of the electorate that chooses not to exercise its franchise, as much as that who decides to do so in favour of either of the major groupings.

That having been said, the proposal of substantially unpopular policy is still likely to evoke some discontent, even though the innate passivity of the Barbadian citizen would restrict evidence of its disapproval to the expression of dissenting views under the secure cloak of anonymity afforded by the ballot box, the radio talk shows, the popular blogs, letters to the editor or other similar fora provided for the ventilation of popular opinion.

In this regard, we might contrast this relatively useless form of civic dissent with its seemingly more effective incarnation in other parts of the world. For instance, it is reported in this morning’s [Saturday] issue of the Barbados Advocate that the South African government has been forced to rule out increases in university tuition fees for students that it had proposed for the next academic year after a week of partially violent protests by students, who claimed that the increases would have prevented the immediate continuation of their studies.

It will be recalled that a similar local policy was effected last year with only minimal shows of dissent, albeit peaceful, by those whom it might directly have disadvantaged. It is just not in our nature to be violently aggressive in opposition to governmental measures or, indeed, any policy that meets with our distaste.

Clearly, this makes for a more tranquil and more secure existence; one to which we have become acculturated and are thus not prepared to change in spite of its immediate ineffective-ness. It might be submitted that this constitutes an integral aspect of the idea of Barbados. We prefer to abide by the ancient Greek dictum that the mills of the gods grind slowly -one that we have managed to convert in local parlance to “God’s corn mill grinds slow but sure”. It bears reminder that this essay is not at all to suggest that we change our current philosophy.

At the same time however, it should be necessary to commend the courage of instituting a policy that is reasonably foreseeable to meet with substantial dissent, especially when that policy reverses an earlier one that had met with popular approval; when it permits a guarantee of privilege in an environment that is generally hostile to an assertion of rights; and that does so in favour of a sector of society that is generally considered to be undeserving of any licence and best subjected to the nature of discipline that according to the idle boast of some, has kept earlier generations firmly on the straight and narrow path of existence.

I refer of course to the recently announced policy of the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation that there should be a controlled permission for the use of mobile or cell phones in schools by pupils, according to the Minister, “not in any wanton way, but to ensure the use of technology with a sensible set of policies…”.

Of course, given the formidable title of this Ministry, especially its last-mentioned portfolio, the notion that many of its policies under that head should meet with universal local approval is an unlikely phenomenon. After all, innovation scarcely seems compatible with the DNA of the ordinary Barbadian who is more likely to be comforted by the latter-day Panglossian belief that things are for the best as they currently are and that any innovation may only invoke unnecessary trouble. Again, this is expressed locally and perhaps irreverently in the oft-cited saw, “Better to trust the devil you know than the one that you don’t” or something similar.

Hence, any suggestion of a reform, especially of one of the legal status quo, is likely to be met with an incantation of the extreme nightmare scenario as a form of dissent in rebuttal. Decriminalise marijuana? -A certain way of ensuring the actualisation of the images of drug-crazed, wild-eyed hooligans running amok in our streets or pickled-brain ne’er-do-wells slouching in some psychiatric ward.

Decriminalise homosexual acts between consenting adults in private? -Why that is likely to turn everyone into a homosexual and ensure the inevitable demise of the species! Reform the laws on prostitution? ¨Do you want this nation to become now a haven for immorality? The more discerning reader might note that the degree of horror expressed at the proposal bears little or no relation to the official efforts expended in enforcing the current rule.

Hence officially to permit cell phones in schools is likely to conjure up phantasms of children indulging in all kinds of deviant conduct, purely for the purpose of recording them on film for subsequent exhibition and public consumption on social media; and none at all of the supervised reference to reliable sources for information of any kind; none of permitting readier accessibility to concerned parents in an era when the mysterious disappearance of especially young females and unprovoked violence against those from other schools appears to be de rigueur; and none of the possible stultifying effects of having a future generation regard technology not as a useful tool but rather as one to be feared or demonised because of its possible misuse.

In my view, what we need now is to craft an appropriate protocol to regulate the use of the cell phone in the school environment. Of course, as there is now with the school rules against certain hairstyles, and with those against breaches of common sense, short skirts, jewellery and low-waist trousers for males, there can be no guarantee of total compliance. The best that might be hoped for is to trust to the common sense of our youth not to use the phones at unauthorised times and in prohibited places; to recognise that misuse of the phones is an unavoidable consequence of their existence; and that these devices are not likely to disappear from our lives anytime soon.

I wish the policy well.

PS: My sincere condolences to two of my current students who, amazingly and tragically, became widows this week within a mere two days of each other. May both husbands, coincidentally also sometime students, and one a former schoolmate, rest in peace.

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83 Comments on “A Bold Change in Policy”

  1. Dompey October 25, 2015 at 4:21 PM #


    It will require much more than to put forth these three names in an effort to erect an effective third party.

    What we must first determining is whether or not these three men have what it takes to win a general election, or the ability to inspire and motivate others to win a general election which would bring about the anticipatory change, in the current state of affairs in Barbados.

    Piece, I trust your judgment that these three men are qualified on both the moral and intellectual level, and are therefore fit for high office, but are you certain that they have the testicular fortitude, the know it how, and the can do spirit to deal with issues of national crisis.

    And does the public record reflects the kind of individuals we are electing to govern the affairs of our country?


  2. pieceuhderockyeahright October 25, 2015 at 6:41 PM #

    @ Domps,

    De ole man jes get back heah from service and notice dat only you remain.

    And since I still feeling churchey I did tempted to tell you “go, and be stupid no more,” but dat would be akin to blasphemy and I doan want Zoe nor dat nex fellow tuh bring down heaven pun me so I gine lef um alone Domps

    But Domps you notice sumting??

    When we did talking bout inanimate cell-phones and things inanimus nuff people did heah, percolating and espousing bout the wisdom of and demerits of policy and a Blackberry

    De ole man start tuh talk bout whu gine change de macro policy and bring real change in all dese issues and jes so de fellers disappear…

    Domps I gine axe you sumting you recently mek a comment which mek de ole man believe dat you is a Christian.

    I wonder if you and I might got any reason tuh tink bout annuder verse in that Good Book which says “When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?”

    Gents Wunna is de most verbal uh de BUians here assembled why Wunna suddenly gone quiet?


  3. Sargeant October 25, 2015 at 10:17 PM #

    “A Bold Change in Policy”

    Not sure who is responsible for the headline but according to the dictionary “bold” is described as – “fearless before danger” and “ showing or reflecting a courageous daring spirit and contempt of danger” etc. What is “bold’ about reversing an order that the Minister himself imposed? Cell phones are as ubiquitous in Barbados as Saturday Pudding ‘N’ Souse my octogenarian mother has one, rather than impose a ban in the first place rules could have been drafted covering the use of cell phones in Schools but Bajan Gov’ts like to “ban” its seen as an easy solution to any issue.


  4. BAFBFP October 26, 2015 at 8:31 AM #

    Bagnall Point this Friday 6:00 pm Pelican Village. The best actors in Barbados will be reading a script that exposes Political Parties for what they really are. It is free. Do not miss it. The most instructive 45 mins that you will ever spend.


  5. Hants October 26, 2015 at 7:17 PM #

    @ Jeff,

    The Lendl Simmons case.

    “The judge noted that in Trinidad, no action can be founded based on the failure to respect the privacy of a person. “Given the rapid pace with which the face and fabric of the society has changed and cognizant of the infinite reach of social media, it cannot be denied that the privacy of the person is under attack and there is dire need for the enactment of statute to afford protection for citizen’s personal privacy”.



  6. Sargeant October 26, 2015 at 9:31 PM #


    The Express’ report re the Judge’s comments was more comprehensive, wondering what the effect of this ruling on social media including the blogs.



  7. Well Well & Consequences October 27, 2015 at 6:43 AM #

    Yes Hants, it’s one thing to type the info, quite another to provide documentation, particularly for something personal that involves confidentiality, that is why certain exposures must be properly timed.

    Not making fun of the young lady because I am sure what that young idiot did was distressful enough, but her last name really spices things up.


  8. Well Well & Consequences October 27, 2015 at 4:30 PM #


    We discussed this just yesterday.


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