Outrageous Treatment of ALMA PARRIS Students and PARENTS Must be CHALLENGED
Submitted by David Comissiong, President, Clement Payne Movement
If it is true that the students of the Alma Parris Memorial Secondary School and their parents were NOT consulted in any way BEFORE Minister Ronald Jones and the Ministry of Education made the decision to close down the Alma Parris Memorial Secondary School and to unilaterally assign the students to a variety of other learning institutions, I would strongly advise the parents to join together in a collective body and to engage the services of an Attorney-at-Law to challenge the decision in the Law Court.
It is totally ridiculous and unacceptable that in 21st Century Barbados a Government Minister and/or a Government Ministry could believe that they are entitled to make a decision that so fundamentally impacts on a class of citizens of the country, and that they are under no obligation to consult those citizens.
Not only is this backward, “stone age” thinking, but it is also in conflict with the LAW of Barbados, and should therefore be rigorously challenged, even if it means having to go to the Law Courts.
The fact of the matter is that under the “Common Law” that operates in Barbados a “public authority” is bound by a duty to act fairly towards those members of the public that it serves, and one component of that Common Law duty to act fairly is the duty to consult .
This Common Law principle was expressed by Lord Wilson in the 2014 English case of “R (on the application of Moseley) v London Borough of Haringey” as follows:-
” A public authority’s duty to consult those interested before taking a decision can arise in a variety of ways. Most commonly, as here, the duty is generated by statute. Not infrequently, however, it is generated by the duty cast by the common law upon a public authority to act fairly. The search for the demands of fairness in this context is often illumined by the doctrine of legitimate expectation; such was the source, for example, of its duty to consult the residents of a care home for the elderly before deciding whether to close it in R v Devon County Council, ex parte Baker (1995) 1 All ER 73. “
The time has come when Barbadians– particularly working class Barbadians who are so often treated with a contempt that would never be meted out to the wealthy— must no longer put up with this backward, arrogant, and patronizing behaviour on the part of State officials who are not only supposed to be their servants, but who are also supposed to be accountable to them.
I witnessed this type of behaviour before with the manner in which the said Minister Ronald Jones and the senior officials of his Ministry closed down the historic Society Primary school— the oldest primary school in the entire English speaking Caribbean. As with the case of the Alma Parris school, there was no consultation with the parents of the students before the decision to close Society school was made.
The parents of the Society students and old scholars of the school initially did the right thing by coming together to form a Committee to protest the closure of the school, but we erred by not taking the matter to Court. Our Committee made the mistake of accepting assurances given to us by Jones — assurances that were never kept !
It is time that somebody sends a very serious message to Jones about his callous and patronizing attitude towards the very people that he is duty-bound to serve!
In fact, it is high time that we make the entire Barbadian political class understand that Barbados must function as a “participatory Democracy”– that Barbados must be a society in which the sovereign power of the people is respected, and in which the people are permitted to exercise their rightful role by being involved in the national decision-making processes. And central to such democratic participatory involvement is CONSULTATION.