The Fruendel Stuart Legacy: From Retro Colonialism to Dictatorship
Submitted by Heather Cole
Father forgive him
He knows what he has done.
There was no was world war, no war in the Western hemisphere and the global recession ended in 2010. There was also no natural disaster or mass migration, yet a home-grown recession brought the manifestation of the austerity of war that has defied logic when used to explain what has occurred in Barbados. At a first glance it took the island on a backward path that can only be described as retro colonialism. However, after careful analysis this situation of retro colonialism was used as a camouflage for the creation of an authoritarian dictatorship during the past 8 years under the Fruendel Stuart Administration. The method used to achieve this result was the political, economic and social destruction of the state and its institutions in post- independence Barbados.
From slavery to independence, colonialism was exported by England to Barbados. A strange phenomenon occurred in Barbados where the government of a self- ruling country opted to recreate the austerity of war by other means on its own people. It has destroyed the middleclass leaving the “new planter class” and their protégées at the top and the poor at the bottom.
Laws were changed to suit the structure of the retro colonial society. For example, the attempt to introduce the finger print technology with the absurdity of it requirements and the Amendment to the Police Act so that it could be used as a tool to repress, alienate and segregate the population.
This new form of Colonialism brought with it the destruction of the state. The state or crown and public ownership is being eliminated with wealth, means of production and land ownership consolidated in the hands of a few. We have witnessed this with the attempt of deregulation in the sale of BNOTC, the sale Blue Horizon and Coverley and Paradise.
Corruption has raised its ugly head even in our Parliament. Progressive thought has disappeared from government of the people and blame, accountability, moral shaming and transparency have become extinct. The science of dumbing down of the population has led to less persons with university education, a low skilled workforce, a low wage-earning population where wealth is not passed down but remains concentrated in the hands of a few. It breeds not independence but loyalty and aggression from those who get paid to keep this in place.
The Labour Movement is in limbo. We have witnessed the reversing of the provision of social services and welfare and the use of national insurance funds. We have also seen actions that have unmasked the reality of nepotism, mafias and corrupt family dynasties that we did not know existed. Bearing the overtones of the former colonial nostalgia this retro colonialism imposes its own discipline to erode sovereign power.
The democratic governance of Barbados rests upon its Constitution which was created at independence in 1966. History will recall that during the period in review that the Constitution of Barbados was undergoing a stress test that it was never created to withstand. One wonders if this test has created fissures that can be mended or if it has created deep fault lines that may destroy the very bedrock upon which our democracy stands.
The stress test on Constitution did not start on March 6, 2018. It started on elections day 2013 when rumors and evidence of vote buying were abounding. It was a fraudulent election and nothing was done to correct it. It emboldened the Ministers of Government to become more openly corrupt. Like a cancer, it spread to all functioning organs in the body making the patient’s prognosis critical. What occurred under Mr. Stuart’s watch is a clear case of abuse and disregard for the Constitution.
From inception, an election date has been announced upon the dissolution of Parliament by successive governments. Fruendel Stuart’s refusal to announce the date of the general election on the dissolution of Parliament created a constitutional crisis, as the Constitution does not allow for such to occur under normal circumstances. The founding fathers and writers of the Constitution never anticipated that a Prime Minister would refuse to call an election and that he and his ministers would remain in office conducting the country’s affairs and making plans as though Parliament had not dissolved.
Mr. Stuart is no gentleman if his party acceded to power because of a fraudulent general election in 2013 when buying and selling of votes occurred. However, even worse than that, was the manifestation of government being openly controlled by a few minority business men, awarding them lucrative contracts and sweetheart deals, breaking the financial rules and there was nothing in the Constitution to prevent this.
One never anticipated that the last act of Mr. Stuart could bloom into a crisis that now leads to the reexamination of the Constitution. Has it surpassed its shelf life? Should another document be created or the old amended? Technically the Constitution does not offer a remedy if this situation presents itself again.
At best Mr. Stuart, has tried to legitimize his act of loitering by claiming a 5-year term and ignoring the dissolution of Parliament resulting in political limbo without accountability. The public and the Opposition are not aware of his actions during that 51-day period. One wonders if no elections had been called within the 90 period if civil disobedience would have occurred as public opinion has branded him as the worst Prime Minister in the history of Barbados. His dismal performance as Prime Minister and his refusal to speak with the Barbadian people has destroyed public confidence in the Democratic Labour Party.
The Constitution must be amended to include a power of recall for Ministers of Government; it must prevent any Minister from sitting in office and exercising power or working on the behalf of Government after the dissolution of Parliament and prior to an election; there must be consequences for breaking the financial rules; a date upon which general elections are to be held; stringent rules, regulations and punishment for the buying and selling of votes and other acts of electoral fraud; and the audited assets of all those seeking political office must be declared, followed with a yearly published audit.
Perhaps, what has manifested itself is proof that the island has surpassed the era of the Westminster System and must clearly adopt a Republican System or a hybrid of both the Westminster and the Republican Systems.
Ultimately, Mr. Stuart’s legacy or lack thereof is testimony to the fact that there must be changes made to the Constitution with regards to the holding of general elections. Without providing a proper excuse his actions of holding on to power can now be seen as quite devious with the recent revelation that the sale of the Hilton hotel was due to be signed off on a mere three days before the general election date of May 24th 2018.
Under Mr. Stuart, government went from crisis to crisis but there was no crisis management. He placed the government on autopilot and looked on while his undisciplined Ministers did as they pleased without admonishment from him. The scandals were many, involvement in the Cahill scam, the four seasons hotel, theft of pensioner’s funds, involvement in a stolen car theft racket, missing funds from the Revenue Authority, the death of an Englishman, the abuse of the Town and County Planning Department and one can go on and on. Only on one of these scandals did the Prime Minster make an address that became publicly known. It was with regards to the Cahill scam. He stated that it could not could happen unless he said so. However, he lied as a few weeks later correspondence was found that he had signed off on this matter 6 months prior.
He may also be remembered for the circus like event that overtook the general election period in 2018. A record number of 8 political parties and several independent candidates announced their intent and were nominated to contest the general elections. It was departure from the norm of the two-party system. Hence, Mr. Stuart destroyed the norm, forcing persons from all walks of life to seek to rescue the island. All the opposing contenders saw a need for the political representation of the people of Barbados that was missing under his tenure as Prime Minister.
If it was not known during the 8 years that his party was in power, it became apparent at the launch of his party’s political campaign that Mr. Stuart had literally killed the 80-old institution named the Democratic Labour Party. It was clearly seen by everyone that the party was no longer the party that was founded by Errol Walton Barrow. The proud party of Errol Walton Barrow was obliterated at the event that unfolded. The bar was set at an all-time low. Mr. Barrow must have come back to life, shuddered and died again. Instead of delivering on his party’s accomplishments, the entire evening used to belittle the Opposition Leader. It was revolting to the stomach. One could not believe that this was a meeting of the highest officers of the land who were exhibiting such vulgar behavior.
During this period, the government of Barbados seems to have been on a quest to build an inwardly driven enclave based on high taxation with little exports and a dependence on tourism. However, with a huge import bill this was always a recipe for disaster, as it squandered its foreign reserves. This had started from David Thompson’s short stint as Prime Minister and Fruendel Stuart continued the trend, eventually being unable to cover their deficit, he continuously borrowed money on the external market.
How can one destroy a thriving economy in ten years? Many will never have bragging rights on this but Fuendel Stuart will. We will never hear all the stories of what thousands of Barbadians have done to survive over the past 10 years after losing their jobs, homes and savings but they are testament of the fact that the government who they gave the mandate to govern could not financially support it people.
No one knows where the $ US 16 Billon that was left by the Owen Arthur Administration has disappeared to. Without the oversight on all government departments, the Auditor General has been unable to provide this information. This spendthrift government started a trend to borrow from Peter to Paul. They did not borrow to create any development projects. As they ran more and more into the red on the balance sheet, expanding the deficit, the credit rating which is also a measure of their ability to default or their ability to repay their loans got worse. Then the downgrades started. The 22 Downgrades that have occurred under Mr. Stuart’s watch reduced governments ability to borrow on international markets at favourable terms; that is low interest repayment rates. The island’s credit worthiness has therefore been decimated by the Chris Sinckler, Minister of Finance.
22 Downgrades under the same management team is not the environment that attracts foreign investors. With a high foreign debt ratio and not enough funds, the government of Barbados chopped about 3000 jobs in the public sector and then began to tax Barbadians at a rate never before seen in this island. No less than 30 new taxes in the past 5 years. Then there was the printing of money which in itself created inflation. There was the increase in Vat t0 17% and recently the dreaded NSRL. However, the government’s next step was the selling off the Crown’s assets at prices less than their market value.
As the economy started to spin out of control, the foreign exchange cover started to dwindle. Having been taught to avoid a foreign exchange cover of less than 12 weeks, it is unheard of that the island has 4 weeks supply of foreign exchange to buy food. There have been rumors of devaluation and capital flight. This further caused local and foreign investors from investing in projects which can help resuscitate the economy. Mr. Sinckler and by extension Mr. Stuart’s crippling of the economy did not stop there it affected the private sector as well and many in the private sector loss their jobs.
The government of Barbados also broke one of its Manifesto promises. It stated that it would give 40% of its contract to small contractors. It did not instead, it awarded most of it contracts to 5 minority business men. The financial rules were not kept during this process and what occurred seems to have been nothing but quid pro quo.
Under Mr. Stuart’s tenure, his government seem bent on destroying the Brand Barbados. That the sugar Industry could be allowed to wallow in the dust while government refused to pay the farmers is a shame. On the South Coast for the past 3 years, sewage has been flowing freely destroying not only reputation of an entire section of Barbados but the product that we offer to visitors of the island. It also puts the health of Barbadians at risk, destroys the livelihood of restaurant and boutique owners as well as the small hotels. The government did not take this matter seriously as raw sewage constantly fills the street and flows into the sea. It has been a national disgrace.
A good name is better than gold. Barbados’ performance in the international business sector was stellar until it reached the black list and then the grey list under this government. This should never have occurred given the resources that government has. It failed to ensure and maintain its compliance to articles that it signed.
Under Mr. Stuart’s tenure there was financial scandal after financial scandal too. There the Clico scandal which ended with government using tax payers’ money to bail out that entity but to this day tax payers have not been informed on the audit of the former Clico lands. A few days ago Mr. Sinckler remarked that the lands would be going back into agriculture. He never stated who was given this project or if the lands had been sold. The NIS funds have been used in the Four Seasons Project and have not been repaid, over a million dollars was passed from government to unknown persons with regards to the Cahill Plant that never came into existence. Mark Maloney now has the conveyance for 4 Seasons and no money has been found to have been received by government, one person was caught with funds at the airport which appeared to have been obtained from the Barbados Revenue Authority and that person remains on bail. Mark Maloney has been given every government contract that he has dreamt up in the tune of 2 Billion dollars from the public purse and Barbadians have nothing to show for this value. Under Fruendel Stuart’s watch, the disappearance of funds from the public purse have put the livelihood of every Barbadian at risk of not accessing services from the common pool into which all taxpayers contribute.
Health care in any society is critical to life and its development. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital with a chronic lack of supplies and equipment is operating on an emergency basis. The poor and the middle class simply cannot afford the cost of traveling abroad to obtain medical services. God help us if a natural disaster or an outbreak of some disease occurs.
There is no longer the management of waste, so how can one fulfill our duty to preserve and pass down our environment that is so unique but yet fragile to the next generation? The once a month collection cycle is unsanitary. The stench of garbage should not be the norm that it has become. One wonders if Mr. Stuart decided to punish the island for the outcry that it made against the building of the Cahill Plasma Gasification Plant on the island. The obnoxious idea of building such a plant using untested technology in Barbados would have put the health of every person who lives on this island, flora and fauna and the marine life that surround us at risk to radiation, cancer and deformity.
In December 2018, the government of Barbados had a stockpile of 1500 houses which were unoccupied while many Barbadians who became unemployed needed shelter. To date one is not aware that this situation has changed. While vagrancy in Bridgetown is on the rise. One wonders if the plight of the vagrants in Bridgetown and that of the poor have not been was a merit to provide them with this housing.
It appears that under Mr. Stuart’s leadership that the meaning of national housing seemed to have been forgotten or only viewed through a very narrow focus to encompass only those seeking public housing. There is no other way for one to describe this as the government stood idly by and watched thousands of persons from the middle class lose their homes and did absolutely nothing about it. Unemployment in both the public and private sector was the case but like a gun, government pulled the trigger. Prime Minister and the government of Barbados has therefore been responsible for the decimation of the middleclass. This could have been arrested if the government had carefully considered it actions of sending home about 3,000 from the labour force and putting measures in place to prevent foreclosures. The easiest remedy was to update the archaic mortgage laws.
It was under Mr. Stuart’s tenure that violence put the nation’s school children at risk. Never in the history of Barbados and with such frequency has this occurred. It is unfortunate that the government did not put a single measure in place to resolve this crisis. All that occurred was talk, a lot of long talk.
This violence was just a reflection of what was occurring in the wider society of Barbados. One never thought that they would live to see the day when the young people in Barbados would be afraid to leave their homes at night, to walk alone in certain districts, to sit outside the village shop and in a hurry to get back home before outside gets dark. Some neighborhoods have become ghost towns after dark; not a person to be seen outside. One is not aware that the government is even interested in resolving this situation because there was a remark that gang members were killing each other. One believes that government has not done enough to stop the gun trade and the trade in illegal drugs.
Without a legal system that functions there is no real justice in any society. Over the past 10 year, we have borne witness to a legal system that does not work and is in dire need of overhaul. It is not only evidence that goes missing, witnesses who are conveniently swayed to change their minds, the length of time that it takes for the matter to be heard in the court, it is not only the excessive delays before the matter reaches conclusion, it is not only some lawyers who willfully abuse the system, it is not only some lawyers who themselves are beyond frustration with the system, it is not only who gets prosecuted or who does not get prosecuted; it is not only the magistrates and judges whose decisions leaves us with our mouths opened; but the very buildings are sick contributing to the malady. For 8 long years, Mr. Stuart and his Attorney General have not come up with any solutions or implemented changes or significantly amended any pieces of legislation to offer remedy to Barbadians.
In 8 years, the physical infrastructure of Barbados has deteriorated. The eye appeal of bygone years is not there. Some buildings have become dilapidated, others sick and are no longer in use. From its outskirts, Bridgetown is in dire need of a facelift. The entire roads network needs to be replaced not patched. Public transportation is in crisis. On the government side there are not enough buses for the poor people to get to and from work. The system for privately owned minibuses that are used for public transportation is in dire need of overhaul. No amount of uniforms and policing will resolve the problem that forces the drivers and conductors to hustle for a dollar. Under the Prime Minister’s watch, the Minister of Transport has not bought any buses or brought any remedy to the table to resolve the transportation problems of Barbados. It now appears to also be a case of willful indifference that has caused such neglect.
Water is a necessity and we cannot live without it. Any crisis that involves the management of water should be handled swiftly. Here again the infrastructure needed to be fixed, pumping stations cleared and cleaned. Old pipes replaced not left to rust above ground. Under Mr. Stuart watch, government ignored the need to provide citizens with water until a crisis occurred. The Prime Minister did not see it fit to visit any of the northern or eastern folk to understand their fears.
The Prime Minister renegaded on a campaign promise from his 2013 Manifesto by which he informed that Barbadians who were accepted that the University of the West Indies would do so without having to pay tuition fees. Clearly the Prime Minister lied because this did not occur. The children of the working class had to shelve their plans of attending the University because they could not afford to attend. The impact on his legacy was that he over turned an accomplishment for which Errol Walton Barrow the first Prime Minister of Barbados and the founder of his Democratic Labour Party was renown. Mr. Barrow must have rolled over in his grave.
These acts that would positively affect the lives of the masses seemed not to have been on the governments agenda.
With the breakdown of every functioning part of government, the economy and the society it was as though Barbados had reverted to the colonial era. Barbados began to resemble a failed state. We were all so focused on the failed state with the camouflage in our faces that very few stopped to look behind the camouflage. Six occurrences behind the camouflage should have made us exceedingly angry and perhaps scared. I only heard of the first and most important one a few nights ago when Ralph Thorne spoke of the utterings of the Prime Minister with regards to the media at CBC. It was that the Prime Minister was using the media to control the minds of the citizens of Barbados. It is now make perfect sense why local programing abruptly changed to political propaganda. The second was the purchase of the finger print technology and its intended use to track the movement of the people in the name of national security. The third was amendment of the police act which was an attempt to turn the country into a police state. The fourth was abuse of the Constitution when the Prime Minister refused to call an election until after he has accomplished whatever deeds were outstanding as he loitered on the steps of Parliament. The fifth was the Electoral and boundaries Commission defiance of the law as it tried to prevent Commonwealth citizens from voting in the general elections. The six occurrence was the dumbing down of the population by refusing to offer free university education
Dictatorships do not happen by accident the well-oiled machinery has already been rolled out in Barbados. It starts with the systemic dismantling of the state as it is known, to be replace by whatever supports the agenda of the dictator. Hence Mr. Stuart’s dismantling of the state that has taken us back to pre-independence times in Barbados. Unless halted Mr. Stuart will be well on his way to cementing a dictatorship. This Administration would not openly call itself a dictatorship but its actions state otherwise. As one look into the future there is nothing to prevent the Amendment of the Police Act from being used as a tool to crack down on the opposition if this Administration regains power.
It was not a democratically elected government that regained power in Barbados in 2013. Hence one should not have expected them to perform as a democratic government should. The only governments in the world who have obtained the people’s mandate through fraud or abuse of the electoral process are Dictatorships; both totalitarian, authoritarian regimes. Essentially during the past 8 years under the leadership of Fruendel Stuart, we have all witnessing the death of Democracy in Barbados. Perhaps the general election due to be held on May 24th, 2018 is not a fight between the DLP and the BLP but about Authoritarian rule versus Democracy.