The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Enhancing the Freedom of Democratic Expression

One immediate consequence of the annihilation of the Democratic Labour Party in the last general election in May has been to create a vacuum in the populist democratic discourse that requires for its optimal existence the publication of an alternative view to the official dogma.

I am already aware that there exists what I called in a recent column, “a semblance of opposition” in the form of a Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House, and his two Senatorial appointments in the Upper Chamber but, apart from one member of this grouping, who I know for certain will not allow anyone to think for him on any issue, this opposition does not appear to enjoy as yet a sufficient degree of distance from the governing administration to be regarded as a consistent source of alternative views.

In any case, I am speaking of a more radical (in the true sense of that word) alternative point of view; one bred out of the instinctual populist analysis that would take each official political assertion with a grain of salt and synthesize it for accordance with what the commentator considers best for the country.

Granted, these are early days yet, and the governing Barbados Labour Party administration is still in its “honeymoon” period, and thereby entitled to some concession from the citizenry in respect of any errors of judgment that it may commit.

What ought not to happen, however, in a democracy is that this sentiment should result in any alternative view being considered as heretic and its proponent being instinctively deemed a pariah whose views do not deserve a hearing.

Already, I can sense that there are those who are uncomfortable with any criticism of this administration and more so, if that critique comes from a member of, or one considered to be a supporter of the outgone Democratic Labour Party [DLP] administration. Frequently, on the various social media, one encounters the expression of sentiments that suggest that any view critical of an initiative by the current administration is to be abhorred on the basis that on May 25 of this year, the electorate determined that there should be no opposition to the BLP government and moreover, that the DLP should have no further say in the affairs of state.

The first of these propositions runs counter to our traditional understanding of the democratic praxis and, as recent events have demonstrated, the framers of our Constitution never contemplated the occurrence of such a scenario. That it has eventuated may be owed to factors not immediately relevant to this discussion, but it is at least doubtful whether the result of the election unequivocally indicated the preference of the populace for a one-party state, where “no [other]damn dog barks”.

While the latter contention may be electorally true, at least at a parliamentary level, that rejection should be perceived rather as one qua DLP parliamentarian/candidate and not qua Barbadian citizen, so that even a member of that party that was rejected by his or her constituency should still retain the civic entitlement to air publicly his or her views on the prudential administration of the state. It would be unnecessarily churlish, un-Barbadian and undemocratic to believe otherwise.

In this connection, our Constitution does not expressly guarantee the right to freedom of political expression, as does section 4(e) of the Trinidad & Tobago Republican Constitution 1976 that declares the existence of the right “to join political parties and to express political views”. Rather, ours contents itself with a general right of freedom of expression which would doubtless also include the freedom to air political views, both in the narrower and broader senses of the word “political”.

Nonetheless, this freedom of expression is not unrestricted and is expressly made subject in section 21 (2)(a) to any law “that is reasonably required for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons…” There are some other express restrictions besides but it is principally upon the law that seeks to protect the reputations of other persons that I should wish to focus my essay.

There is a quaint myth among some Barbadians that our defamation laws are incontrovertibly “archaic”. This perception or rather misperception is owed to the fact that the type of imputations that pass unsanctioned in the US for example would cause the publisher to be mulct in substantial damages in this jurisdiction. In fine, this is owed to the fact that we do not enjoy the public figure defence that obtains in some jurisdictions there. According to this, the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press required a rule that prohibits a public official from recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood relating to his or her official conduct unless the claimant proves that the statement was made with actual malice, that is with knowledge that it was knowingly false or made with reckless disregard as to its falsity.

No such defence is expressly provided in our Defamation Act 1996, although that is not the fault of the drafters of that Act, since, even in the state of New York, the defence is a judicial, and not a statutory creation. It may thus be argued that given the form and nature of our constitutional right to free expression, one that pays due regard to the reputations of others, it should hamstring any similar judicial initiative here.

Owing to the need to meet an arranged deadline, I must end here for today. Next week, I propose to continue this discussion on the extent of our freedom of speech and its effect on our defamation laws and to introduce discussion of freedom of information that, I will submit, is a necessary corollary to an enhanced freedom of democratic expression.

109 comments

  • “You being such a good house slave, why don’t you remove your lips from Rawdon Adam ‘s backside and ask him how many stats courses he failed?”

    Ouch!!!!

    Like

  • Walter Blackman

    Gabriel July 29, 2018 8:39 PM

    “Walter
    I agree with you to look for work where you are likely to get it…………”

    Gabriel July 30, 2018 9:34 AM

    Walter
    You are nothing but a coward.With all that ‘learning’,all that chat,you do not have the passion to change anything……….Bare talk.No risk taker.No commitment,no burning inner hunger to make a difference.Gaul blineuh.It is wunna so that foes let down the Team Change.Run yuh so and so coward……..”.

    Gabriel,
    Classic Bajan hypocrisy and deceit at work. By the way, in your mind, is Rawdon Adams the exact opposite of me?

    Like

  • I don’t know anything about Rawdon other than his familial connection but if he has the political acumen and is a financial guru as said,then I think he is biding his time like his dad did.I look forward to hear him speak in the Senate.At this time I cannot do a comparison.I have your BU record and your talk show deliberations to act upon.In my opinion you fall short.Any fire in your gut is in your imagaination.It is not in your deeds and you do not have what it takes to lead anybody or anything political here.If you threw your lot in with the Dems it shows your lack of judgement to associate with nothingarians and scum like lowdown and those corrupt people.You are a failure Walter because you allowed people to dictate your state of mind and make you feel doubtful of yourself because they made you believe you were dealt a bad hand.Stick to your profession,you are qualified there.

    Like

  • Walter Blackman

    Gabriel July 30, 2018 1:07 PM

    “I have your BU record and your talk show deliberations to act upon.In my opinion you fall short.
    You are a failure Walter……..”

    Gabriel,
    My involvement with talk shows, and my presence here on BU have been motivated by a desire to educate and interact. Given my objectives, you have determined that I am a failure.

    Having recognized that you seem to gather or understand very little when i interact with you, or try to educate you, I am forced to agree with your assessment.

    Liked by 1 person

  • pieceuhderockyeahright

    Well Well well

    Enter The 30-0 punch silly boxer who SHOULD ARTAXERXES BE SO INCLINED, the records would reveal had much to say about his victory lap and why and why he going did when elected.

    De ole man joins with Gabriel ONLY ON THIS ONE not with your Commisiong buddy AND SAY THAT I CATEGORICALL ENDORSE YOUR ASSESSMENT OF WALTER.

    I would not be so unkind to call him a coward for to be such THERE WOULD HAVE HAD TO HAVE BEEN A FRAY and at 30-0 there really was none

    One would better liken him to being the wilted erectile dysfunction member that failed to stand up to the challenges of being a real advocate for the people

    Some serpents have no backbone and the Walterian serpentia never had none

    He wanted a ready made shirt and waltzed into a built to last coffin.

    His type is gone forever thànk heaven

    Like

  • Huh! An annonymice using a pseudonym calling a man who uses his real name a coward?
    Mouse, know yourself?

    Like

  • It is much simpler than you think>

    A bright young man steps forward to make the difference. In a two-party system, making a choice is tossing a coin. He said heads and the coin came up tails. A bad choice at a very bad time,

    I would urge Walter to ignore much of what goes on here. These are master provocateurs and goaders.
    I doubt they care little about yesterday, but they will try to get you to make statements that will be detrimental to any future in politics.

    Let this storm pass.

    Like

  • My last statement on this…
    Some here are nothing more than gatekeepers. The run out with a NOT WELCOME sign for some and talk of ‘dynasty’, ‘pedigree’ and ‘bloodline’ for others. These are not yard-fowls but are pit-bulls positioned at the gate to deny entry to young political aspirants who may gain momentum. They are locked into making one family a dynasty and grinding potential political competition into dust.

    I know nothing of Walter but what I see on BU. I was/am impressed with the high level of contributions he made to the blog.

    I am not B or D, but I left Barbados thinking that EWB was God’s gift to Barbados. My opinion has changed since; but given a choice (2013,2014) of BLP or DLP, I would have been tempted to select DLP. And whilst the recent election and history reveals the true nature of those then calling themselves the DLP, it would have been hard prior to 2014 to see them as they truly are.

    Even now, I still struggle to understand how FS and crew could have have gone so far off course. I cannot find sense in many of the actions they undertook. After all, their actions were often like a mirror image of what the other party did. However, their behavior during the past few years was not stellar.

    From the time Walter indicated a preference for one of the parties, we saw some of his ‘fans’ become his worst critics. Now we have anonymice accusing him of being a coward. To me that is funny.

    Life, sure is funny.

    Like

  • pieceuhderockyeahright

    @ James Greene

    You asked what I meant when I said ” …“no contract shall be extended to any party BEYOND THE LIFETIME OF THE ADMINISTRATION THAT APPOINTED IT

    Let me use the example of Cranston Browne of the NCF

    When FUMBLES got kicked to the curb Cranston ‘s contract should have auto expired with the tenure of the administration that engaged him.

    So as with the ENGAGEMENT of Charles Long Jong of whom the Prime Minister is saying when she leaves he leaves, so too should it be with all appointees of an administration.

    You serve at the discretion of the administration that appoints you for these types of ENGAGEMENTS.

    This is not to say that IN THE EVENT THAT YOUR “REAL TIME METRICS INDICATE THST YOU ARE AN EFFECTIVE EMPLOYEE” the incoming administration might not choose to extend your services

    @ Sargeant

    The statement thst I make about real time metrics does not conflict nor tangle up its employment when it comes to the bosses or ministers.

    BECAUSE EACH BOSS OR MINISTER WILL BE TIED TO THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR SUBORDINATES!!!

    So in the Case of day the Minister in the Ministry of Home Affairs Edmund Hinkson.

    For Eddie to Keep his MINISTRY there is a performance metric associated wish his administrative oversight.

    Mia should not be running 26 ministries for 15 years

    EACH one of dem fellers gots to carry their own weight!!!

    Or she drops them.

    Can I share something with you Sargeant?

    In all seriousness my position on this cabinet and these consultants is this.

    To streamline this effed up system she really has no choice for 3 reasons.

    Mia ran 30 seats of which de ole man will go on record to say 6 are competent soldiers.

    The others are incompetent.

    She knows this and BECAUSE SHE GENUINELY WANTS TO LEAVE A LEGACY, notwithstanding the natural disposition of any incoming leader to want to be there long, longest, she understands what has to be done.

    You ever have been appointed the squad leader of a recon team and been given Rambo pretenders?

    The mere nature of Recon goes counter to their nature’s and you have to threaten a fellow with your officer’s weapon so that he and the rest of the Rambos toe the badword line.

    The thing thst Madamoiselle Prime Minister Mottley is coping with is best conveyed by this Chinese saying “It is a foolish man who buys a house because of a coat of paint”

    She nor you nor I CANNOT “see” the hearts of men.

    So her challenge is to balance a HR mix precariously like building a house of cards bit with people.

    To hire consultants who impressed upon her their ability to do a job AND TO HAVE HER FINGER ON THE PULSES OF EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE HIRELINGS all the time to make sure they are doing as they represented that they could do when she engaged them

    That Sargeant IS A REAL HARD JOB TO DO WITH IDIOTS UNDER YOUR COMMAND!!

    And do not fool you facts sir.

    Doing all this in the climate of the theft by the former DLP administration while begging for money from the IMF IS NOT EASY.

    Add to that this social meddling from the Barbados Underground website by the nationalists, the sycophants, the genuinely interested, the proxies of The Demonic Larceny Party(I teif dat from a feller here) the DLP themselves is difficult too.

    It is not easy being Prime Minister Mottley but as long as she keeps them ministers and cuntsultants and tzars in line with her vision, embraces GOD as her guide, AND RELINQUISHES ANY AND ALL DESIRES TO REIN IN dissenting voices & REIGN ON in Barbados, all will be well.

    Pray diligently for your own Come to JESUS moment and the sanctification for the first while eondetfulmeans nothing without the second.

    Like

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