It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored … ye are a factious crew, and enemies to good government. … Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. … I commend ye, therefore, … to depart immediately out of this place; get you out! Make haste. Go! … In the name of God, Go!-Oliver Cromwell’s stinging dismissal of the members of the Rump Parliament
As a nation, we must face facts. The failure of the Integrity in Public Life Bill (2020) was not an isolated incident. Rather, it is the latest, and thus far, most heinous, episode in a two-year saga, designed by renegade ‘opposition’ forces to systematically destroy our democracy and destabilize our country.
Integrity in public life is not a fanciful expression. It is about giving shape to the hopes and aspirations of successive generations of Barbadians, who want honesty and financial probity to be the hallmark of their country’s governance; about restoring faith in apathetic young and middle-aged people who see the ‘system’ as being broken; and about securing the social and political bonds which bind together our nation, without which social cohesion collapses and soon the state.
In examining the threat posed by the renegades, it is useful to understand their tactics, deceit being the most favoured.
How could persons demand the inclusion of judicial officers in the Bill when all know that they are a peculiar species of public officer, always treated to separately?
How can the inclusion of civil servants be inappropriate? Are politicians the only persons with the facility for corruption or can corruption take place in both high and low places, from S1 to Z23? Why would a nation, ostensibly serious about corruption, wish only to ensure that some are not corrupt while others may do as they like?
Is it enough to take issue with the Bill for being too “intrusive” without understanding that by necessity, it must be so to close a well-known loophole, where relatives are used to hide ill-gotten gains. That is the price we have to pay for truly comprehensive and effective legislation.
Some assert that the Bill has not received sufficient ‘consultation’. How is that possible when nearly all are aware of its existence and when the previous version languished for a time on the Order Paper there was much ado about that delay? Now, two years on, some would like to delay the process even further!
Their last resort is the most tragic, for it is the hallmark of illiberal populists across the world: engendering a loss of trust for institutions. Indeed, since the unfortunate incident, epitomizing integrity, Senator Lisa Cummins apologized, with elegance and grace, not because she was a definite health risk, but because it could have been more appropriate for her to stay away.
Clearly, if some Senators feared for their safety, for whatever reason, they have a right to express that. However, what is grievous is the vituperative attacks on this country’s most senior medical doctor, under the cover of parliamentary privilege. At a time when this nation faces a pandemic, why would ‘public figures’ seek to maliciously discredit health professionals, whom the public must trust and listen to so that we can continue to wrestle with COVID? At a time when we face massive economic fallout, requiring a Herculean united effort to rebuild, who benefits from the sowing of needless division?
In the United States, when public figures discredit health professionals and spread falsehoods, many in the populace refuse to wear masks or follow other guidelines because of the irresponsible rhetoric of those in leadership. By seeking to destroy faith in institutions during a pandemic, these renegades sought to score cheap, political points at the expense of the health and welfare of citizens.
The actions in the Senate can have real consequences because it did not take place in a vacuum. The country was watching; young people were watching. How many will follow the dastardly example set, like has happened in the States?
Where is the integrity in these persons who wish to pass judgement on the integrity legislation?
Thankfully, government proceeded with a vote on the Bill so that the people of this country could finally recognize the existential threat posed by these renegades. We must protect our democracy which is under threat, not from genuine or useful opposition, but from individuals who are solely interested in destabilization.
All Barbadians must stand up and say to them: please, in the name of God, go!