The Caswell Franklyn Column – Government Shows Contempt for Ordinary Worker

Recently, a bill to amend the Constitution failed to muster the necessary two-thirds majority to ensure its passage in the House of Assembly. If that bill were enacted, the compulsory retirement age of persons, holding the offices of Auditor-General and Director of Public Prosecutions, would have been increased from 62 to 67 years of age.

As I understand it, both parties support the idea of increasing the retirement age for those two office holders, in order to bring them in line with the stated policy for the rest of the public service. So why did the amendment fail? The simple answer is that even though the Opposition did not oppose the amendment in principle, its members abstained thereby depriving the bill of the twenty votes needed to ensure its passage.

I did not listen to the debate, and am therefore forced to rely solely on media reports. I would prefer to rely on Hansard (the official verbatim report of proceedings in parliament). Unfortunately, October 24, 2011 was the last time Hansard was published in the Official Gazette and that was the report of the proceedings that took place on October 16, 2007. I am told that in England, the parliament that we mimic, Hansard is available the day after the debate. But I digress, this is a topic for another time.

A sensible government would not have proceeded with that debate unless it was assured of the numbers to pass the bill. Mind you, media reports suggested that the Opposition had communicated to the Government, in advance of the debate, that it was not going to support the amendment at that time, even though it had no quarrel with the object of the bill.

As I understand it, the BLP reasoned that Government’s priorities were misplaced. Why rush to parliament to pass legislation that would benefit only two persons, when Government needed to clarify the law it claims allows it to retire all other public service workers at 60 years?

There was no rush: both incumbents are 58 years old and to benefit them that legislation could have been brought to the House any time in the next four years. But it seems that Government is trashing around to find business to put before the House because it has a very poor legislative agenda.

The Barbados Labour Party took some abuse, from the Government and from its former leader the Right Honourable Owen Arthur, for its stance on the amendment. The criticisms from Government, though puerile, were expected. On the other hand, the criticisms or abuse by Mr. Arthur did more to diminish him in the eyes of the public than any effect it would have had on the recipient.

To my mind, his apparent dislike of the Opposition Leader has so consumed him that it is rendering his contributions in the House to be irrational. If he feels so strongly that Ms Mottley is unfit to assume the high office of Prime Minister, he has a duty to be forthcoming with the people he once led. His continued venomous attacks on her without more make it appear as though, hell hath no fury like Owen Arthur scorned. Again, I digress.

Over the years, I have been relentless in my criticism of the BLP for being a labour party in name only. This time the Opposition, by abstaining to vote, has finally stood up for the workers of this country.

Last year, Government forced several workers, at the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation, to retire at 60 years of age. It even went to court to vigorously defend its right to do so. And while that decision is pending, it had the unashamed temerity to introduce a bill that would have seen the retirement age of two persons increased from 62 to 67.

Like the Opposition, I am beseeching Government to look out for the best interests of all Barbadians and not just a privileged few.

Response to JAMAICA GLEANER: EDITORIAL – Barbadian Press Blunder

Submitted by Fair Play
The Gleaner said to have "fraternal relations" with the Nation newspaper.

The Gleaner said to have “fraternal relations” with the Nation newspaper.

Yesterday, The Jamaica Gleaner newspaper rushed to the defence and support of the Nation newspaper, with which, by its own admission, it has “fraternal relations”. However, right thinking Barbadians, as well as those knowledgeable Jamaicans living here, should point out to the Gleaner that, unlike some other countries – that will remain nameless – the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Barbados is a strictly independent one. So, to raise the bogeyman of political interference is total poppycock, and does not befit a reputable newspaper as The Gleaner. Wrong is wrong, regardless of who does it. Enough said on that score.

Now, the same Gleaner newspaper ought to remember that, just a few decades ago, one of its outstanding editors, the late J C Proute, warned its readers against such lecherous and off-colour reporting.  In one of his weekly columns, and subsequently during a guest lecture at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) in 1980, JC termed such acts “journalistic gaucherie”.

The Gleaner’s spurious argument that “the faces of the minors engaged in the sexual act (were) blurred and unrecognisable”, hence it was ok to publish the picture, is nonsensical. The salient point is that photo was accompanied by (juxtaposed against) the most graphic, detailed and explicit account of the sex act. Nothing was left to the imagination. PLAIN PORNOGRAPHY!

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Police Service Commission Should Have Passed Darwin Dottin’s File to the Director of Public Prosecutions to Seek His Arrest

Former Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin

Former Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin

The top story of the week stoked by the local media is that a newspaper snagged a video which was circulating on Facebook for over a month and posted a blurred image of two teens having sex in a classroom full in the knowledge they were being video recorded. BU has no doubt the public outcry provoked by this incident like all the others before will pass with nothing material done to address the factors at the root of juvenile and parental delinquency in our society. It must be said that the newspaper at the centre of the incident must have experienced a spike in sales.

This is one week  since the Police Service Commission Report to Retire Commissioner Darwin Dottin was released by BU and ignored by traditional media. How can anyone take the local media and the bevy of talk show hosts seriously when in one breath they pontificate about the moral issue emanating from the sex video, and rightly so, but ignore an issue which attacks a key plank in our governance system.  What separates Barbados from the rest has been our ability to maintain law and order on our little island. Despite all of our challenges Barbadians have always prided themselves in being a peaceful and law abiding nation.

While Barbados was consumed this week by the sex video saga the global media reacted to news that the USA (Big Brother) hacked the phones of prominent persons across the globe. All part of adhering to national security. And in Britain there was the news that the long awaited trial of Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson is set to begin, a case where two journalists are alleged to have hacked the phone records of members of parliament, members of the royal family and others – Phone hacking: Court told of tabloids’ ‘decade of deceit.

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Acting Crown Counsel Elwood Watts Asks High Court to Block the Appointment of Attorney at Law Alison Burke

Chief Justice Marston Gibson, heads the Judicial and Legal Services Commission

The following extracted from the Sunday Sun September 23, 2012:

“A High Court is being asked to block the appointment of a Crown Counsel in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). In an unprecedented legal development, attorney at law Elwood Watts, who acted as Crown Counsel in the DPP’s office for the past six years, is seeking an injunction against the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, chaired by Chief Justice Marston Gibson and includes Appeal Court Justice Sandra Mason and High Court Justice Maureen Crane-Scott.

Attorney at law Alison Burke, who was recently admitted to the Bar, was to take up the permanent appointment as Crown Counsel effective September 1. But in his court filings challenging the decision of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission to ratify Burke’s appointment, Watts has complained that the position of Crown Counsel was never advertised as required by law. As a result, the former police sergeant who has been on secondment to the DPP’s office, said he never had a chance to secure the appointment.

Reports indicated that Burke, who was attached to the Ministry of Health as a staff nurse prior to her appointment, never had any experience in court proceedings. A date is to be set for hearing of the injunction.”

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Notes From a Native Son: Is Barbados a Failed State?

Hal Austin

Chief justice Marston Gibson has recently slapped down the Barbados Bar Association, the lawyers’ trade union, for its impertinence in questioning how he does his job. It did not come a minute too soon. There is a culture of elitism in Barbados in which some professionally and socially well-connected people feel, as if by nature, they have a right to be excepted from the normal courtesies. It is an arrogance which has emerged to substitute for substance in other areas of their lives, such as the poverty of progressive ideas and of cultural understanding.

But, and it is relevant to the issues I want to raise in this blog, within the legal profession there is an absence of any significant liberal tradition in Caribbean (Barbadian) legal thought. I have raised this issue before to much disdain. Like the societies they regulate, what passes for legal thought is based on a Victorian social conservatism, which pre-dated human rights theory, and in which outdated practices such as hanging still play a central role in the legal imagination and, as a direct result, the idea of criminal justice.

Two dominant influences shape our deeply conservative criminal law tradition: the so-called Westminster model (lawmaking), based on the UK’s parliamentary tradition, and the common law model, based again on the England and Wales tradition of statute and case law. Linking both these traditions is the doctrine of the rule of law, the principles rooted in the Magna Carta, which stipulate that the state must have legitimate grounds for depriving a citizen of her/her liberty and right to property. One hybrid political position best exemplifies this tradition, that of attorney general.

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