A Never Ending Process to Change the Political Landscape

Is politics nothing other than the art of deliberately lying?

⁃ Voltaire

There is a conversation being had across the globe. In the USA, UK, Barbados to name a few. It is about the integrity of the politician and the system that produces the politician. Oftentimes public commentators in this space and elsewhere offer facile analyses to what is a complex matter. It is no coincidence the political class is being pilloried by electors across countries and we continue to observe an unprecedented level of apathy and cynicism.

Our system – in theory – encourages any individual to offer themselves as a candidate for elective politics. When we criticize politicians we criticize ourselves. But is it that simple an observation to make?

The easy observation is that the process to select and elect political candidates who aspire to be members of parliament is inadequate. As the saying goes, “you only get out what you put in”. Why is the existing system to select political candidates inadequate to ensure the best opportunity to select a different type of politician?

Whether in the US, UK or Barbados it is obvious the ‘system’ is not engineered to encourage candidates from the blue collar segment of society to have a high chance of winning at the polls. The explanation maybe a simple one even if the solution is challenging to solve. There is a reason why individuals who are financially self sufficient like lawyers, doctors and self employed professionals run for political office. These self employed players have the flexibility to allocate time to canvassing, financial independence to grow favour with constituents and to avoid the strictures of being an employee. There is the knock on benefits of building social and professional networks and understanding the workings of the system to feather aspirations (the subject of another engagement) of professions.

The establishment in the case of Barbados solidifies the status quo by appointing individuals to the Senate from a similar class of background. Let us agree those selected must have a skillset to be competent to be a legislator BUT if the blue collar segment of the population is significant, room must be carved out in our system to ensure the best representation is reflected in the legislation.

As mentioned this is not simply a Barbados problem. Understanding the dysfunctional political system cannot be accurately distilled by the use of cliches like duopoly, tieffin politicians and other hyperbolic language used by some social commentators. It is a complex matter. We have to take heart from the fact change is constant and a process. It will occur as it always does – through honest to God advocacy by the PEOPLE.

A Heather Cole Column – Historic 30-0 Win for BLP: Constitutional Constraint or Opportunity?

There has been much discussion over the past 5 days about the 30 – 0 victory of the Barbados Labour Party over the for Democratic Labour Party government and other newer political parties at the General Elections which were held on May 24, 2018. It was a historic and resounding victory for the Barbados Labour Party as they not only received the mandate to govern unopposed but the first female Prime Minister of Barbados, Ms. Mia Amor Mottley was elected.

With the decimation of the main opposition, most persons resorted to the Constitution for guidance. The founding fathers clearly did not anticipate that such a situation would occur. Hence, the Constitution does not provide any guidance on this issue. It only states that the democratic process to produce a government would consist of the winning party which obtains most seats and an Opposition which won the remaining seats and that both would constitute the government. No exceptions are mentioned. There being no opposition, only members of Parliament of the current Administration can sit in the lower House of Parliament.

Some may be of the view that this 30-0 win is a constraint on the democratic system as there are no longer any checks and balances on the system or transparency and that the Constitution should be amended to make provision for some semblance of an opposition as the new government will do as it pleases without oversight. Most importantly there is a worry about the preservation of democracy if the island is a 2-party system.

The Constitution does not advocate the use of Senators in lieu of there being no Opposition elected as part of government. The Prime Minister was therefore very gracious to seek to amend the Constitution to allow Members from the Democratic Labour Party which polled the second highest percentage of votes to be appointed to the Senate. Another alternative that could have been pursued was to simply increase the pool of independent senators. Whether one likes it or not, this may end up being the case because for the majority of the population the credibility of the Democratic Labour ceases to exist and the majority of the people may not even want them to walk up the steps of Parliament again.

One can be of a different view that a unique opportunity has presented itself making the 30-0 victory a blessing in disguise. With over 50 years of self-governance behind us and going as far as we can with a 2-party system, the time as come to go to the next level in democracy. That is to empower the people to fully participate in the governance of Barbados.

It was indeed heartening when for the first time in history of electoral politics in Barbados that a draft Manifesto was presented to the people by the Barbados Labor Party for their thoughts, discussion, comment and input. One wonders why this never occurred before. Perhaps at the beginning of our independence when the majority were only educated to 7th standard they needed the government alone to decide their needs and what was best for the country. However, after 50 years of independence and the majority having obtained secondary education and a thousands of university graduates, one wonders why a Manifesto coming from the people was not on the table until this election.

It would be a waste given the heightened political discussions that emanated throughout the island since the dissolution of Parliament on March 6th, 2018 for most people to revert to lives void of politician participation. Without an Opposition, the responsibility also falls on the electorate to maintain the democracy. It is for the good of the country as we seek to rebuild Barbados not only economically and socially but politically as well.

A 30-0 majority further provides the opportunity for greater input of Barbadians in the process of governance; whether it be in oversight, checks and balances, in decision making and by referendum and constituency councils. Members were selected for the constituency councils under the previous Administration, but they have failed to perform.

To this end the Government Information Service can be used as a tool to provide a body of knowledge to educate all citizens and residents, preparing them for active participation by providing the training for the empowerment of the people. The Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation and the Internet can be used as the medium to ensure that this becomes a reality.

One hopes that this 30-0 historic victory will signal the end of an era when the people only participated politically by casting ballots every five years and heralds the commencement of revolutionary changes as part of the rebuilding process making Barbados a participatory democracy. One can argue that with active continuous participation that not only will the people have a greater interest in their governance, participate more in the polls and reduce the numbers who do not vote but more importantly that we all can truly sing the part of the national anthem which states that we are “strict guardians of our heritage, firm craftsmen of our fate.”

The People Have Spoken … or have they?

Submitted by Tee White

Following the unprecedented Barbados Labour Party (BLP) 30-0 victory over the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in the general elections, an often heard statement from both winning and losing candidates is that the people have spoken. But does an analysis of the election results support this claim?

According to CaribbeanElections website, there were 255,833 people registered to vote in the 2018 election. Combining data from VOB and Caribbean Elections, I have calculated that 153, 547 people actually cast a valid ballot. Of these, 112,249 cast a vote for the winning BLP. In other words, 44% of registered voters voted for the BLP while 56% did not. This could hardly be described as “the people have spoken”.

If David’s statement that “A manifesto is a bunch of promises designed to woo an ignorant electorate. The real business begins as far as managing the economy” is accurate, then the situation is even more dire. Since not only are we dealing with a government elected by a minority of the population but there is also the very real likelihood that many of those who voted for the winning party have been deliberately misled. It is difficult to understand why in the light of this reality, we continue to insist that we have in our country a democratic political system, by which I understand government of the people, by the people and for the people. Would it not be more accurate to acknowledge that we have a fundamentally undemocratic political system that we have inherited from slavery and colonialism but to which our fore-parents through numerous sacrifices have added some political rights that we enjoy, including universal adult suffrage?

From a constitutional point of view, sovereignty, or supreme power in this system, lies in the hands of the queen of England. Through the royal prerogative, she has the absolute power via her representative, the Governor General, to dismiss any government elected in Barbados and even to dismiss the entire parliament, as happened in Australia in 1975. Added to this is the fact that the promises made by the parties vying for power have no legal force and so once Bajans have marked their x on the ballot paper, there is nothing they can do to force a government to carry out its promises nor prevent it from doing things which it never mentioned in its election campaign. Through these arrangements and others, ordinary Bajans are left disempowered and marginalised from the decision making in the country.

Something else is needed. In the same way that previous generations of Bajans had to work out how to end the iniquitous system of slavery and then how to win various political and social rights, including formal political independence, our generation is faced with the task of shaping political arrangements in our country that empower the mass of the people and end our marginalisation from political power. We do not need to emulate anybody else’s model as we can think for ourselves. What if we ended the system of party government and political parties existed solely to politicise the society and to advocate for different approaches to solving the problems we face? What if the electorate itself set the government’s programme before each election through extensive discussion of the issues that needed to be dealt with, in this way becoming informed about the reality of the situation and the complexity of the problems that needed to be solved? What if the programme once agreed had the force of law and the government’s performance was continuously evaluated against the targets set within it? What if the candidates themselves were chosen not by political parties but by citizens bearing in mind the skills sets and experience that successful completion of the government’s programme would require? What if elected representatives were held to account for their performance by accountability committees made up of citizens with interest and expertise in particular areas? What if all government finances operated under a system of extreme transparency in which each citizen had a right to information on how all public money was collected and spent?

Just putting it out there.

BARBADOS: Pathocracy or Democracy?

Submitted by Terence Blackett
“If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.” – George Monbiot

plantocracy_democracyIn the book, Political Ponerology, author Andrew Lobaczewski (1921 – 2007) studies the architects, primogenitors and supporters of psychosocial repressive/oppressive political regimes.His methodological approach examines the variables that lead to the promulgation and proliferation of man’s inhumanity to other men and the politics of subliminal intrigue used as a weapon to silence protest, dissent or peaceful revolutionary change. Continue reading

Waste Dispute and Governance

The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail. ― Thomas Jefferson

Dispute with Waste Haulers enter second week.

Dispute with Waste Haulers enter second week.

The dispute between the Waste Haulers is about to enter a second week and as the impact of the tipping fee on the public becomes clearer Continue reading

Greece, Spain and Barbados – When a Government/Party Really Seeks to Represent Its People

Submitted by Pachamama

Prime Minister Stuart - when words mean nothing

Prime Minister Stuart – when words mean nothing

It is impossible to understand the current cultural wasteland in the Caribbean unless it is properly located within its wider regional and international contexts. In Barbados, for example, only a Pyrrhic victory is possible by rightfully positioning the local political and economic elites at the centre of the circular firing squad which passes for public discourses. Our basic truth is that the future of the Caribbean, as has the past and present, is being decided elsewhere.

On the 25th January the people of Greece elected a near absolute majoritarian Syriza government. In an election pregnant with meanings for those who contend that no government anywhere truly represents its people’s interests, as a primary consideration. In opposition to the Troika’s colonial mandates, Syriza was serious about its promises to the people of Greece. Our reference to a circular ‘logic’ may even extend to the birthplace of western ‘civilization’ as this alleged ‘mother’ is now being raped by her children.

Continue reading