The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – More Than an Economy…

Jeff Cumberbatch – Chairman of the FTC and Deputy Dean, Law Faculty, UWI, Cave Hill

“Barbados is not only an economy. It is a society. We must never forget this. – David Thompson (late Prime Minister of Barbados (2008-2010)

The week just past was one in which neither partisan politics nor the rickety state of our economy appeared to play a significant role in national discourse. Nary a whisper about the likelihood of devaluation, nor about the electoral chances of the aspiring individually dubbed “third” parties; nothing as to the composition of the forces of opposition massed against the current governing administration, scarcely a sigh of the thesis that the answer to all our woes might be found in the soonest dissolution of Parliament and the consequent issuance of the gubernatorial writ for a general election. Indeed, it was if politics and the economy had taken a holiday.

But, as nature is reputed to abhor a vacuum, so too seemingly does local public discussion and we witnessed the emergence of no fewer than three issues, all pertaining not to the hackneyed partisan politics and the economy; but rather to the obverse side of the coin that is Barbados – the society. It was former Prime Minister, the late David Thompson, who once famously averred that Barbados was not only an economy but also a society; implicitly asserting that overemphasis on the first might ineluctably be to the detriment of the latter and that we should never forget this.

The three issues to which I refer may each embody a cautionary tale for the type of society we might want to fashion for ourselves. First, there was the issue of whether our children should be instructed in contemporary health, human sexuality and family life in the school. This was not in itself the teachable moment however; after all, this is an issue about which some people may reasonably differ, depending on their individual perceptions of the roles of the school and of the home in certain aspects of the education of their charges.

However, as a society, we might want to eschew the blanket prohibition of inquiry by others and their right to material information through the employment of fear mongering and appeals to stigma-infused nightmare scenarios. Hence, for one opponent of the proposal, the instruction would be merely a form of child abuse and likely to have the consequence of turning our children into homosexuals. Is this the level of reasoning to which we aspire as a progressive, educated, twenty-first century Commonwealth Caribbean society? Or would we rather have employed a measure rational thinking supported by some degree of empiricism in order to persuade others of our point? For those equally opposed to the teaching of this subject in the classroom, this “reasoning” might have some level of allure, but when an argument is attended by a base appeal to myth, phobias and emotive mislabelling of the subject matter, then we may ask whether we are any further along the road than deciding matters by reading the entrails of a freshly slaughtered animal or reading the leaves left in the bottom of a teapot.

The second issue relates to last week’s “March for Respect” as it was termed by the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union [BSTU]. As I wrote last week, the provisions of international labour law, to which Barbados is signatory entitles the workers’ organization, without interference by the public authorities, “to organize its administration and activities and to formulate its own programmes”. So long as it is not in breach of the law, the organization is free to pursue whatever strategy it thinks might best achieve its objectives as the representative body of its membership, even though a march followed by inaction reminds somewhat of a damp squib.

Still, there is one aspect of the immediate dispute, the teachers’ claim to payment of remuneration for the marking of the school-based assessments [SBAs] prepared by the examinees of the Caribbean Examination Council from their schools that might contain a teachable moment. While I cannot knowledgeably comment on the merits of either the claim nor its rejoinder by the local Ministry of Education, as I am unaware of the details of either, it appears to me that this dispute could very well prove interminable, much to the disfavor of the students and the chagrin of their parents and the public. The optimal solution seems to lie in the soonest impartial arbitration of the dispute by an individual or individuals agreed to by both parties, but Barbados has been content so far to “resolve” its industrial disputes purely by social dialogue and without the use of an arbitral body of any kind. Should we continue this state of affairs or has the time now come for compulsory industrial dispute resolution by an established institution or by an ad hoc body, as may currently obtain?

The third issue is the call of the Director of Public Prosecutions two Fridays ago for the abolition of the traditional trial by jury in Barbados. Oddly enough, this call is premised on curtailing the incidence of delay and the consequent substantial backlog in criminal trials. The Director is right when he states that the right to a trial by jury is not a constitutional entitlement but, as noted by the Bar Association in its response, “scrapping jury trials would not necessarily cut down the “mountain” of cases clogging the judicial system”, especially since the delays in the system are front-loaded in that the delays tend to occur before the start of the hearing.

Further, while the right to trial by jury might not be an express Constitutional guarantee in the strict sense; it nevertheless forms part of that penumbra of unexpressed natural justice rights that are to be implied into the guarantee of a trial by a fair and impartial tribunal. One other such would be the rule against duplicity of charges so that the accused knows the precise charge against him or her to be defended. The larger idea is that the members of the jury, as men and women of the world, are far better situated to discover the truth of a matter than the judge, who can claim no special training in that regard.

This is clearly a matter for dispassionate debate by the public as part of the future ordering of our society. Would we have the trial of an accused by a lone judge or panel of judges both as determiners of the truth and also appliers of the law or shall we maintain the age-old and mostly inaccurate notion of trial by our peers as presumably obtains with the existing jury system?

15 thoughts on “The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – More Than an Economy…

  1. Jeff

    Solving industrial disputes using an arbitrator in the Barbadian context has proven to be worse than the voluntary system that unions cling to for dear life.

    You do not have to look far for examples: the pathetic attempt of the ill conceived, or rather poorly structured Employment Rights Tribunal does not engender any confidence in unions to want to duplicate that system elsewhere; also, the Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Enquiry) Act provides for arbitration but in that case one of the disputing parties must refer the matter to the Governor-General, who preferred to go around disrupting primary schools to performing this duty.

  2. The court system in Barbados is the actual root of our problems.
    To suggest that industrial disputes be directed to the court is the same as saying that the party in power be allowed to decide whatever they wish.

    -The law, as written in Barbados, is just a lotta shiite – that is open to any kind of convenient interpretation.
    -The people who administer the law are the lowest of the lowe when it comes to ethics, morals and fairness
    -The teachers (Jeff & Co) of the law refuse to accept any responsibility for the lawyers’ ethical behaviour
    – The police are fed up with the clear and obvious miscarriages of justice
    – the public have no confidence in the system.

    It is dog eat dog….. and right now, the albino dogs are ruling the kennel.

    Shiite…!!! we may as well be in a jungle……. and judging from the crime, shooting, stealing, bribery and graft….. we are…!!

  3. @Bush Tea

    Not JUNGLE but ZOO, that’s what those bars are on your window when u out look out through in the morning, there keeping you IN, not keeping the THIEVES OUT.

  4. “The larger idea is that the members of the jury, as men and women of the world, are far better situated to discover the truth of a matter than the judge, who can claim no special training in that regard.”

    Actually, members of juries lack training in all things legal, unless they are lawyers, paralegals etc and are only there to give an impartial and fair verdict.

    The real problems in the judiciary start with the attorneys general over the decades who themselves lack ethics and refuse to practice or enforce the little they were taught in law school….therefore they will never create, implement and enforce legislation to make the requisite changes……or help the judges wuth the tools they need to rein in unethical lawyers.

    …….as I have seen first hand there are a gaggle of unethical, mediocre lawyers who traverse the Supreme Court on a daily basis and live to frustrate the court system and those relying on a quick end to cases, instigating delay after delay, playing the judges using lies and subterfuge to keep cases langusihing in the system indefinitely, whether it’s for their insurance company masters in order to avoid paying compensation to injured people or they are taking fees and bribes from both plaintiff and defendant……the results are all the same….their self serving personal greed has destroyed the integrity of the court system, the whole judiciary rendering the entity impotent.

    They can all do better but they dont want to, it is a personal choice borne of greed and evil.

  5. WALLS

    Fifty six years ago they built the Berlin Wall
    Years ago it looked as if it would stay there
    We have just eventually witnessed its downfall
    Years later freedom fighters got their share
    Then all the Germans cried the wall must go
    Leave the remnants as a monument just for show

    The despicable Berlin Wall divided Germany
    Separating brothers and sisters from their chums
    For it was built with the blood of many
    Replaced by a system which denies all freedoms
    So it was only just a matter of time
    When the freedom bells would chime

    The East Germans couldn’t believe their eyes
    Some bravely came for a joy ride to the West
    Lifting their champagne glasses to the skies
    Some thought it was another communist test
    Some walked or brought their kids in cars
    And freedom shone in their eyes like stars

    They hacked at it with chisels and hammers
    All along including Check Point Charley
    A gate of that monstrosity of concrete and wires
    Singing and dancing and having a party
    Seeing at first hand that the propaganda were sheer lies
    As the free world looked on with long tears in their eyes

    But when a peaceful people have been subjected
    For 28 years with an ungodly system
    Where daily doses of propaganda were injected
    Its difficult not to have a problem
    For they have to learn so much about democracy
    And accept their newly found freedom gradually

    In South Africa too there is a distinct wall
    Called Apartheid between the blacks and the white
    There its against the law to have a colored pal
    That wall teaches wrongly that might is right
    Is also crumbling with global criticism and actions
    Pressure through boycotts, protests and sanctions

    In Canada also we have a wall a rather very emotional one
    Between the rest of Canada and the province of Quebec
    The discorded Meech Lake Accord3 needed King Solomon
    As some say let them go, if they want what the heck
    Without Meech Lake the Quebeckers threatened they want out
    And the rest of Canada doesn’t know what all the fuss is about

    There are many, many, many walls all around us
    Some made by barbed-wire and some are invisible
    And they are put up by people whom we trus’
    Who leave us emotionally and financially cripple
    Some leaving you holding an empty purse
    Or making you want to just swear or curse

    In many a home there is a wall
    Separating bitter couples so far apart
    That they only wait or stall
    And think of one another as a sore wart
    Holding on just for the kids’ sake
    Hoping the other be burnt at the stake

    In many houses there is a thin wall between love and hate
    Where once loved ones say cruel things they never mean
    Yet willing to do anything and everything to hurt their mate
    But deep down wishing how better things could have been
    Some of these walls sometimes got mended
    Or the parties suffer when all is ended

    Then there is a whole other set of walls
    In many countries among the people, foes and strangers
    Who have one common denominator with their pals
    They push and peddle poison and kill others
    They reinforced their wall with guns and thugs
    Which wouldn’t fall unless users say No to drugs

    The worst of all walls is the wall of poverty
    Between the haves and the never have-nots
    Some countries are so poor its a catastrophe
    Living in shelters, park-benches and branch-huts
    Whilst the rich and famous refuse to show any concern
    Whilst the miserable revolt, protest and wait their turn

    As in the rain forests of Brazil which supply
    The world’s largest last source of life’s oxygen
    Being depleted despite the environmentalists cry
    Worsened by corruption, greed of big business men
    Creating a larger hole in the ozone layer
    Daily making the earth hotter and hotter

    This is the biggest wall facing the earth’s population
    Stronger than the Berlin Wall or the Wall of China
    Continued polluting it would cause our own extinction
    Time is running out, we have to protect the ozone layer
    Doing it now is the only answer for our own benefit
    Or we would die like the dinosaurs if we neglect it.

    Only again to raise its very ugly head
    In countries like Korea and Vietnam
    Resulting in millions wounded and dead
    And the Communists humbled Uncle Sam
    Today we know not who are the real mate
    As revealed in the Middle East and Irangate

    The world goes on ’til there’s another scandal
    Who are the enemies or the peacemakers
    Get to hear or read it from some fearless journal
    Trying to out maneuver just like takers
    And the people may never know or may
    Giving us another embarrassing expose`1.

  6. Hmmmm……all of this may well be neither here nor there in the greater scheme of things…..the world is waiting to see the outcome of the Trump posturing over N.Korea and Syria with Putin.

    The future may very well boil down to bringing fallow agriculture lands back under production,setting up canning&manufacturing industries using solar technologies.

    A lot of the diaspora will heading here as we will be one of the safest places on earth.

  7. The three issues to which I refer may each embody a cautionary tale for the type of society we might want to fashion for ourselves. First, there was the issue of whether our children should be instructed in contemporary health, human sexuality and family life in the school. This was not in itself the teachable moment however; after all, this is an issue about which some people may reasonably differ, depending on their individual perceptions of the roles of the school and of the home in certain aspects of the education of their charges.

    The parent should be given preference in the decision making of what and how the message is delivered to the child on issues of sexuality along with given an option not to participate
    It is therefore the duty of the school administration to respect the rights of the parent as well as the child on the dispensation on these sensitive issue

  8. Why do we have to pick-up everything that the USA and the so-called progessive liberals in other developed nations espoused? Why can’t we fashioned our own cultural value system based on our uniqness, idiosyncracies, stage of development, and level of maturity? Instead of adopting all these foreign values with dire consequences.

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