A Conflicted Dale Marshall

In recent days Attorney General Dale Marshall has been in the news relating to several matters. Two items piqued the blogmaster’s interest.

In summary he said he had been following the issue concerning the wall at Joe’s River in St. Joseph, the constituency he represents. And that he was forced to decline public comment on the matter because future developments may involve aspects of his ministry.

See relevant extract of Attorney General Marshall commenting on the issue.

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The George Brathwaite Column – Anti-corruption Mix and Fix

The worst disease in the world today is corruption. And there is a cure: transparency” – (Bono).

Over the last two years, this writer has consistently made the point that sound public administration must embrace the ideals and mechanisms that facilitate good administrative and business practices. In recent years, increased allegations of corruption and maladministration were levelled against the Barbados Government and agencies functioning under its purview. Surely, the last Barbados government would have attracted a ‘fair share’ of the accusations although claims of corruption have always lingered in the shadows of preceding administrations. It is without making any hypocritical twists, that Barbadians must ponder on the information being pedalled into popular discourse.

Prior to the last general elections, Barbadians were often critical of the Freundel Stuart-led administration’s silence on important issues. People were uneasy with non-forthcoming information, and the way contracts were entered upon while taxpayers’ monies were spent or wasted during times of belt-tightening by local workers and households. Amidst rumours and speculation of corruption, it became self-evident that the then administration was more willing to operate in silence than shower the media and the governed with information. Who would dare forget the refusal by Stuart’s administration to disclose critical aspects of the mysterious Cahill Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)?

The Nation Newspaper’s editorial of 18 August 2015 iterated the popular sentiment that it was “hard to fathom the deafening silence of Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and the Government as a whole. It is as if they have determined that they will outlast objectors with their silence.” Withholding information from the public is a political tactic, but it does not encourage transparency. It is not conducive to reducing the risk of corruption. Indeed, lack of information or resorting to misinformation is indicative that things are not in reality what they are being made out to be. For example, a ludicrous statement made by Freundel Stuart in April 2017 asserted that Barbados remained “socially balanced, economically viable, environmentally sound” and is characterised by “good and transparent government.” That declaration was laughable given what was being hidden in plain sight – the shattered economy, society, and government.

It is inconceivable that going into the third decade of the 21st century, any responsible government would function stealthily when Barbados is already gripped in an age of openness. Naturally, the Government may try to control the flow of information; however, populations are demanding greater transparency and accountability. It is in this context that accurate and timely information can be the impetus for obtaining appreciative standards of good governance. Freedom of Information, Integrity in Public Life, and other legislative fixes inclusive of addressing procurement practices must be on the table. One anticipates that the Mottley-led administration will implement best practices, especially because Barbadians are vocal in their need to have corrected, the several wrongs that made daily living much harder during the final years of the last administration.

From the day to day running of government departments and statutory bodies, to the procurement of contractual services, Barbadians largely believed (and still do) that the provision of public services has been undermined by the corrupt practices of bribery and nepotism. The Auditor General identified gross discrepancies and the non-reporting of substantial sums of money. Also, and not for the first time, it was recommended that “audit issues, once presented, should be addressed in a timely manner, to ensure that such issues do not recur in subsequent years.” Generally, rumours suggested negligence or at worst, persons had a hand or two in the country’s cookie jar. Additionally, whisperings of injurious transactions costing the treasury millions appeared unrecoverable. Large sums remained untraceable without recourse to a forensic audit. Inside disclosures coupled with non-lodged leakages such as those emerging from the last Public Accounts Committee (PAC) all indicated the necessity for enhanced transparency and accountability. Barbadians were mesmerised that no public officer accepted responsibility nor was anyone sitting in ‘Dodds’ because of any misdeed.

Simple mistake, negligence, or mischiefs of the past reveal the urgency for which there must be the creation and implementation of new preventive and enforcement institutions. Anti-corruption measures inclusive of legislation, must be characterised by definitive strategies to scrutinise, prevent, expose, and prosecute those public officers involved in corruption. Barbadians are today pleading for a creature, formed with the requisite teeth, to safeguard the treasury. To put it differently, after the formal and informal reports of shenanigans through the Auditor General and the PAC, Barbadians are adamant about the need for a robust anti-corruption mix and fix, possessing the requisite teeth to safeguard the treasury.

All does not appear lost. The tenor and actions of the current Attorney General are encouraging. AG Marshall has succinctly stated that under the new administration, the authorities in carrying the fight against corruption in public office will “tear back the wall, tear back the vaults and look at the paperwork and see what was going wrong. It will take courage.” Certainly, this writer is pleased that the new administration is inclined to tear back the wall of secrecy while raising public awareness of the existence and deleterious consequences of corruption.

Surely, lingering ignorance in Barbados on corruption can easily empower the corrupt to become even more corruptible. It is to be noted that there is still the challenge of overcoming a deeply embedded culture of ‘harmless’ bribery and favour-granting niceties. Political Scientist Cynthia Barrow-Giles alluded to this phenomenon a few month ago in an article indicating that “acts of corruption perpetuated by ordinary citizens are equally mind boggling as the awarding of contracts and the many major political scandals that we read about.” Yet, in public glare, “bribery is just one form of corrupt behaviour perpetuated by ordinary citizens which is too often considered harmless.” Barrow-Giles concluded that “in one form or another most citizens can engage in ambivalent complicity in corruption.”

It is the previously concealed information about corruption and the malevolent practices that were not above board. The Attorney General has been forthright and relatively transparent in communicating prospects for implanting anti-corruption modes of operation in the rebuilding of Barbados’ reputation – economic and societal. AG Marshall insists that he intends “to strain every sinew … to the point of breaking,” while engaging “every agency of the Crown, either in Barbados or outside of Barbados … to bring the perpetrators of that dishonest activity to heel.” Chasing down corruption is necessary if the Barbados brand is to overcome the detriments and blacklisting that can occur, particularly with recent events that are

Barbados must be firm in its stance and resolute in its conviction for exposing the misdeeds of the past while formulating mechanisms that will help to prevent daily wastage, nepotism, and corruption. Therefore, the anti-corruption framework that is being shaped by the BLP, appears conducive to responding to the needs and expectations of citizens and residents in their capacities of individuals, interest groups and the society in general. Sharing accurate information, implementing whistle-blower legislation, and finding the best anti-corruption mix and fix can be effective for public administration and good governance in Barbados.

(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant and former lecturer in Political Science. Email: brathwaitegc@gmail.com).

The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Enacting the Democratic Right to be Informed 1

Openness is fundamental to the political health of a modern state.”

“Unnecessary secrecy in government leads to arrogance in governance and defective decision-making.” –Information Commission Office, UK

Periodically in this space, over the last month, I have been advancing the thesis that we might enhance our democracy by deepening and broadening the existing right to freedom of expression, principally through the reform of the text and jurisprudence of our defamation laws, and by the creation of a statal guarantee of a right to freedom of information; simply put, the right to know.

Arguably, to a significant extent, we already enjoy some freedom of expression, but that expression becomes more cogent, more democratically vital if the speaker is seized of the facts of the matter under discussion. It reminds me of one of the aspects of the defence of fair comment to a defamation action. The commenter is protected only so long as the comment is based on true or privileged facts. One is not permitted to invent facts, the modern disinformation of fake news, to comment on this fabrication and then simply pray the defence in aid.

In the political sphere, manifesto representations to enlarge the civic freedoms of information and expression also carry great electoral allure. The former Democratic Labour Party administration made such commitments in 2008 and as far as I can recall, the current governing administration has likewise undertaken to enact a local FOI statute.

To be totally fair, I do recall seeing a draft of an FOI Act at sometime during the DLP regime, but I am not aware that this was even put out for public discussion. And as yet, to my best knowledge, the current administration has not prepared a draft of the proposed legislation.

This apparent local difficulty of enactment, whether in the form of the past reluctance or the current delay -although one might be prepared to excuse this latter on the basis of a subjective prioritization-, is difficult to rationalize. Ours is not a jurisdiction reputed for its originality in the drafting of statutes and no fewer than at least four other regional jurisdictions have enacted similar statutes. These are Trinidad & Tobago (1999); Belize (1994); Jamaica (2002); and St Vincent & the Grenadines (2003).

Delay in enactment seems to be a regional norm, however. In a 2017 article entitled “Freedom of Information Acts in the Developing world: Lessons from the Caribbean for the Bahamian experience”, and published in the International Journal of Bahamian Studies Lisa Benjamin writes, “[The] enactment and implementation of FOIAs in the Caribbean has generally been characterized by delay. Bills often languish for many years without being passed, and, even when passed, many Acts are not implemented for some time. For example, in Bermuda, the Public Access to Information Act took over five years to implement. In Grenada, the 2007 Freedom of Information Bill has yet to be enacted, and the 2009 Bill in St Lucia has yet to be made law.”

She also posits a reason for my earlier query concerning local legislative inertia thusly-

FOIAs are designed to induce transparency and the provision of information, but also impose constraints and administrative burdens on governments. [citation]The passage and implementation of a FOIA may involve paradoxical incentives on behalf of governments, leading to benign or purposeful neglect in the implementation of these regimes.

As a matter of public information, the main principle behind the concept of freedom of information is that people have a right to know about the activities of public authorities, unless there is a justifiable and statutorily permitted reason for denying such disclosure. For example, the long title to the i994 Belize Act proclaims it to be “An Act to give to members of the public, rights of access to official documents of the Government and public authorities; to provide for public examination of records relating to Government’s financial, contractual and other transactions; and to provide for matters connected therewith nr incidental thereto. [Emphasis mine]

The stressed words in the policy statement above serves to corroborate the propositions in the epigraphs at the start of this column that openness is a fundamental aspect of political health and, as the UK Information Commission Office [ICO] posits, unnecessary secrecy in government leads to an arrogance (and hubris) that may turn out to be politically and, more important, electorally destructive as relatively recent events might have clearly demonstrated. Administrations must consider whether the ignorance of an electorate is worth the price of political obliteration.

The ICO advises public authorities as follows, “…an applicant (requester) does not need to give you a reason for wanting the information. On the contrary, you must justify refusing them information; and you must treat all requests for information equally, except under some circumstances relating to vexatious requests and personal data. The information someone can get under the Act should not be affected by who they are. You should treat all requesters equally, whether they are journalists, local residents, public authority employees, or foreign researchers.

A most pertinent question in this context is what bodies are made subject to disclosure under the Act? According to section 2 the Jamaica The Access to Information Act 2002 (as amended), these are public authorities include a Ministry, department, Executive Agency or other agency of Government; a statutory body or authority; and, of some interest, any Government company which is wholly owned by the Government or an agency of the Government, or in which the Government holds more than fifty per cent shares…”

To be continued…

The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Enhancing the Freedom of Democratic Expression II

Last week we concluded with the argument that one of the principal reasons that some may think Barbados’ defamation law to be “archaic “ is that we have here no equivalent to the “public figure defence”, as it is known in some US states, that would preclude a public official figure such as a politician, a union leader or an aspiring politician from suing for an imputation alleged to be defamatory of him or her unless he or she proves that the statement was made with ‘actual malice’, that is with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard as to whether it was false or not.

While it may be true that the public figure defence does not exist, at least eo nomine (by that name) in local law, the common law creation of the responsible journalism defence in Reynolds v The Times Newspaper Ltd., premised on the identical principle that debate on public issues should be “uninhibited robust and wide open”, subject only to the appropriate responsibility being exercised by the publisher of the defamatory imputation, is very much a part of our law. And even though to my best knowledge, no defendant in a local case has sought to avail himself or herself of it, this phenomenon might rather speak volumes as to the deference and self-censorship paid by media houses and others to those who might be considered public figures than to its inapplicability.

Indeed, a variant of the defence has now assumed a statutory guise in Antigua & Barbuda, the regional jurisdiction that has most recently amended its Defamation Act. Section 22 of the Antigua & Barbuda Defamation Act 2015 provides as follows:

(1) It is a defence to an action for defamation for the defendant to show that—

  1. The statement complained of was, or formed part of, a statement on a matter of public interest; and
  2. The defendant reasonably believed that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest.

(2) Subject to subsection (3) and (4), in determining whether the defendant has shown the matters mentioned in subsection (1), the court must have regard to all the circumstances of the case.

(3) If the statement complained of was, or formed part of, an accurate and impartial account of a dispute to which the claimant was a party, the court must in determining whether it was reasonable for the defendant to believe that publishing the statement was in the public interest, disregard any omission of the defendant to take steps to verify the truth of the imputation conveyed on it.

(4) In determining whether it was reasonable for the defendant to believe that publishing the statement complained of was in the public interest, the court must make such allowance for editorial judgment as it considers appropriate.

(d) may be accepted in writing by or on behalf of the aggrieved person. (7) The voluntary declaration referred to in subsection (6)(c) shall be made-

(5) For the avoidance of doubt, the defence under this section may be relied upon irrespective of whether the statement complained of is a statement of fact or a statement of opinion.

While the defence is in statutory mode in that jurisdiction, it would have to be judicially countenanced in Barbados after the appropriate pleading by the defendant to a libel action. In the absence of such an event, it would seem a tad unfair to suggest that the local law is simply archaic because it does not permit the responsible discussion of matters of public interest. It should, and does.

Not that the situation could not be improved. In Jamaica, whether wittingly or unwittingly, the extent of free expression without liability for defamation has been arguably widened by the provision in section 13(2) of its Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms 2011 to the effect that “Subject to sections 18 and 49, and to subsections (9) and (12) of this section, and save only as may be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society

(a) this Chapter guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in subsections (3) and (6) of this section and in sections 14, 15, 16 and 17; and

Parliament shall pass no law and no organ of the State shall take any action which abrogates, abridges or infringes those rights.

Included among the rights referred to is (c) the right to freedom of expression…”

The argument is here advanced that since neither section 18, that deals with the status of marriage nor section 49, that treats the procedure for amendment of the Constitution impinges on the right to free expression; and since subsections (9) and (12) of section 13 are also irrelevant in this context, the sole restrictions on freedom of expression in Jamaica are such as may demonstrably be justified in a free and democratic society. The questions next beg asking, “Does political expression in a free and democratic society require that public officials and figures be treated as are private citizens for the purposes of defamation? Or would requiring those individuals to prove a malicious or at least reckless disregard for the truth on the part of the publisher be more consonant with such a society? Can this apparent discrimination be justified?

While the argument made here applies exclusively to Jamaica, it may prove instructive for the rest of those regional jurisdictions that are solicitous of enhancing the freedom of democratic expression. Alas, however, this does not appear to have been the case, and a perusal of a catalogue of the titles of regional defamation cases will reveal the names of many of the political leaders as claimants to actions against political adversaries or the press in their respective jurisdictions.

We may legitimately conclude therefore that an increased freedom of expression in this context is unlikely to come from a purposive act of a legislature comprising those who profit most from the current limits of freedom of expression. It must come from judicial activism.

Nonetheless, Barbados has indeed attempted some reforms that would serve further to belie the notion of an archaic defamation law. It is no longer automatically an unfair comment as elsewhere to have attributed dishonourable or corrupt motives to a claimant; there is also available the novel defence of triviality- that the circumstances of the publication of the matter complained of were such that the person defamed was not likely to suffer harm to his reputation

It is noteworthy that Jamaica in its 2013 reform of its Defamation statute expressly rejects this as a possible defence to defamation in section 19(2).

In the next segment I propose to deal with the concept of freedom of information, the other inextricable aspect to freedom of democratic expression.

The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Freedom of Expression and the Citizen

freedomofexpressionIn a progressive democracy, as we claim to be, a necessary corollary of the civic freedom of access to information that we explored last week is the freedom or right to use that information to assess for oneself and to seek to persuade others of one’s assessment of which are the optimal political choices on offer.

That freedom is, in other words, the freedom of political speech or, as the Constitution would have it, the right to freedom of expression that includes expressly “the freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference and freedom from interference with one’s correspondence and other means of communication”. And while, of course, this freedom is not absolute, any state restriction, especially one on political speech, should be subjected to the closest judicial scrutiny for moral and constitutional legitimacy.

One restriction on this freedom that has been accepted over time has been that the law of the law pertaining to defamation. Indeed, this is also constitutionally recognized in that it is provided that nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with the guaranteed freedom to the extent that the provision is “reasonably required for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights and freedoms of other persons” (emphasis added).

Historically, in the region and elsewhere, that the law of defamation constitutes an exception to the right of free speech rather than creates a constitutional guarantee of an inviolable reputation has seemingly been forgotten in the comparative inertia of state legislatures to reform the defamation law to enable a greater freedom of expression and the reluctance, until relatively recently, of the judiciary to be activist in the protection of freedom of expression; phenomena that have opened an avenue for public officials to avidly seek protection from, and redress for, any adverse comment on themselves.

A cursory examination of the regional Law Reports should reveal the many occasions on which the names of those involved in politics and public life appear as successful claimants when the content of a modern civic entitlement of political communication should entail discussion of the conduct, policies and fitness for office of members of political parties in general and of the governing administration in particular, public officers and other “political” figures such as the leaders of workers’ and employers’ organizations, judges and political commentators so long as the defendant publisher can establish that he, she or it was unaware of the falsity of the imputation.

The American legal scholar, Alan Dershowitz has weighed in on the nature of freedom of speech, According to him, “freedom of speech means freedom for those (whom) you despise, and freedom to express the most despicable views, It also means that the government cannot pick and choose which expressions to authorize and which to prevent”.

This compels my identification an increased freedom of political speech as an essential provision of any modern day political compact.

Of course, in order for this agreed freedom to be effective, the citizens must be prepared to avail themselves of it . There appears to be a pervasive sentiment that in Barbados, for one, the defamation laws provide a substantial restriction on political expression, frequently expressed in the cliché description of the “libel” (defamation) laws as archaic. I an prepared to concede this point in two regards, first, that there still exists here the possibility of a prosecution for criminal libel –an offence that at least three regional jurisdictions have recently sought to abolish and second, that it is still possible to defame a dead person In Barbados, even though in that latter circumstance the remedies and class of potential claimants are limited..

Beyond this however, apart from Antigua & Barbuda (2015) and Jamaica (2013) that have reformed their defamation laws, Barbadians enjoy one of the most liberal defamation statutes in the region and perhaps in the common law world.

Nonetheless, as I have often stated in this space and elsewhere, freedom of expression is not simply a matter of law, but also one of national culture and attitudes. Political communication that may avoid censure as calypso lyrics in Trinidad & Tobago suffers a distinctly different fate locally where an earlier attempt to argue that a similar culture should exist in this jurisdiction was met with the injunction that this would require statutory reform after appropriate lobbying of the authorities. Further, the general reluctance of the media aggressively to contest defamation claims instead of quickly settling these matters with a potential claimant has also contributed to a degree of stasis in the development in the common law in this area.

To a substantial extent, the local freedom of expression has mushroomed in recent times with the anonymity afforded by the advent of the blogs and the provision of avenues to the general public for commentary on reports by some sections of the online media. This has opened these contributors to charges of cowardice and worse from those who regard the anonymous contribution as being a worthless abdication of the freedom of expression rather than an exercise of it. This dispute may be more metaphysical than anything else.

While it may be true that the anonymous or pseudonymous contributor may express sentiments that he or she might not have done under his or her true name, if we should hew to the constitutional definition of freedom of expression as “the freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, and freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference”, then the anonymous exercise of these freedoms should scarcely detract from their civic and political value.

The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Time for a Change?

 press_freedom“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”George Bernard Shaw

The title of this piece should not, in any way, be taken as a partisan political affirmation. Indeed, the more perceptive reader would have noted the presence of the interrogation mark that converts it into a hypothesis to be tested rather than as one of those questions in Latin, as expertly taught so many years ago by LS Wellington and CQ Williams, that suggests the answer by the use of “nonne” or “num” as the first word of the sentence. In any event, my readers will be familiar with my held thesis that the really effective change that we need is not that of the decennial or otherwise change of the first letters of the acronyms of the major parties, but rather a change in ourselves so as to accomplish our civic responsibility of being useful citizens; in other words, to be responsible stewards of our living environment. In my view, this necessitates the forging of a new political compact between the governors and the governed.

We may adduce some evidence of the nature of this compact from the recent successful and uncontested constitutional challenge by one enlightened citizen, Mr David Commissiong, to the Immigration (Biometrics) Regulations 2015 that purported to empower an immigration functionary to prohibit a Barbadian citizen the freedom to re-enter the country should he or she refuse to be fingerprinted on their return from abroad. According to newspaper reports of the decision, the measure was determined to be null and void, although it was not made clear whether this was on the basis that it was unconstitutional or that the regulations themselves did not comply with the procedural requirements for their creation, another facet of Mr Commissiong’s claim.

As I wrote in this space some weeks ago under the title A dog’s breakfast, the prohibition of re-entry was, in my view, a disproportionate response to an otherwise necessary initiative to identify persons in an era when “the traditional methods of identification of persons –by photographs and numbers- have become obsolete; are incapable of preventing identity theft; are susceptible to other fraudulent abuses, and generally inadequate for their intended purpose. I also argued then that in an age of terrorist threat moreover, the existing methods of identifying individuals had clearly become unsustainable” and that, in consequence, many jurisdictions, had sought to modernize their national ID databases from the simple photograph or number to include biometric identifiers, such as fingerprints, iris recognition, voice, gait and even DNA, which would authenticate individual identity and assist in border security and that Barbados was merely acting similarly.

As is usual, in spite of its civic importance, we were not afforded the benefit of a published unofficial summary of the decision as has become par for the course in other jurisdictions. However, given that the press report asserted that the measure was found to be “both (sic) null and void” this betrays an unfamiliarity with legal terminology in general and the use of the legal doublet in particular that is, in effect, one expression where both parts mean the same thing as, for example in “to implore and beseech”; “to have and to hold” and “to aid and abet”, inter alia.

There may be a certain quiddity about the decision however if the measure itself was found to be a procedural nullity; for if so, then there would have been remained no threat by law or other state action to the fundamental right of the Barbadian citizen to freedom of movement and to the absolute injunction that “no person shall be deprived of… the right to enter Barbados”. Indeed, the doctrine of judicial restraint would have mandated a decision on the procedural matter alone. It must be conceded however that there exists a credible rumour that the order was in fact made with the consent of both parties.

Another integral aspect of the new political compact must be the legislative enabling of the citizen’s right of access to official information, or FOI, (freedom of information legislation) as it has been popularly termed. It was heartening to hear the Prime Minister assert at the media luncheon that he hosted last month that this measure had not been taken entirely off the table, although the existing draft bill might yet need some tweaking to become compatible with the local condition. I am not in full agreement with this. I am partial rather to the view that a human or civic right is universal and that while the practical enforcement of that right by the information commissioner may vary from case to case, sometimes depending on existing local culture, the legislative statement of the right itself should nevertheless accord with the minimum global standard if it is to be of any real value.

The concept of the FOI is important, according to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, principally because it enhances the transparency of official policy creation, administrative decision-making and the delivery of government services. It is persuasively argued further that “a better informed community is able more effectively to participate in the national democratic process”. These factors are all premised on the notion that government does not really own the information that it has acquired at public expense but that, as with the national purse, it merely holds and manages it as trustees for the principal beneficiaries, the citizenry.

On this analysis, the right of access to official information should be made subject to strictly necessary conditions only such as its release being shown to be undeniably contrary to the public interest.

I propose to continue this column by discussing freedom of expression, the enforceability of manifesto and other political promises, integrity legislation and the climate of anti-intellectualism that seems to pervade these days.

I should wish, however, also to pay tribute to Austin “Tom” Clarke, the Barbadian-Canadian author who shuffled off this mortal coil last week and who seemed, in some of his writings, to have a fascination with legal matters.

From “A Man” in the anthology, “Nine Men Who Laughed” (1986)-

“You don’t have any evidence he told her.” That’s not a prima facie case…”And he allowed the weight of the legal jargon to sink into her incredulity…

He patted his attaché case…took out some of the legal documents he had picked up a few minutes earlier, leafed through them and allowed the rustle of the documents and the jurisprudence in them to give her the heavy significance he wanted her to get…

Aliis Non Sibi

Submitted by Heather Cole

Submitted by Heather Cole

Submitted by Heather Cole

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Proverbs Chapter 24:10.

Politics is not for the faint hearted. With it comes constant criticism which is good for the soul. One can learn from it and be a better person or be sharper and clearer in pursuit of one’s goals. Even amidst the negativity in the comments to the below posting that I made in response to the timing of the Article “The Gorilla and the Boy” by Jeff Cumberbatch on Sunday June 5, 2016, I have learnt a lot.

Heather June 5, 2016 at 7:49 AM #

@ Jeff, this is a strange article to write at this time. Were you in Barbados for the past week? Did you read the news on BU or the traditional media? Is this a part of the deflection? With so much going on and you chose to write about something that has no effect on Barbados?

It provided me with a reason to join the call for Freedom of Information Legislation and another perspective from which to examine the 1816 Rebellion in Barbados.

My quest is to provide information to the people of Barbados to enable them to make better decisions for their social, economic and political wellbeing. For all we know, if information was available that Emancipation was not granted there may not have been a rebellion in 1816. That rebellion occurred because the slaves thought that the Local Legislature was withholding their freedom. If information was available that the police had not taken Clement Payne into custody, the 1937 Riots may have occurred on another day. The preservation of the status quo is done through a lack of new information and the freedom to speak out. If there was freedom of information and freedom of speech, there would be no need for a Barbados Underground where almost everyone hides behind a fictitious name. In my opinion, the traditional press comes up lacking time and time again on content to politically educate the people, a void that I know I can help to fill.

If a section of the population believes that only their views are correct and balanced, it does not mean that they are right. At one point in our recent history, people were owned as property and we all now know for a fact that this could never have been right.

In 1816 an African born slave who did not fit in because he was not born into slavery. He compared slavery with the life that he had before and became a rebel with a cause. That cause was freedom. Everyone did not share his vision for freedom. We know this because an informer betrayed him. That someone was a person who lacked the strength and courage of Bussa to step forward and lead the fight for change. I will not let anyone who lacks the courage to speak out against the present administration in Barbados to deter me from doing so.

I am of good courage. I am motivated to find the strength that enabled Bussa to lead a rebellion; I am motivated by the strength that enabled Clement Payne to lead the people amidst the social economic and political turmoil that existed in the 1930’s and; I am motivated by the strength that caused Errol Barrow when others did not share his views to form his own political party.

For all that is known, each of them was faced with opposition and naysayers just as I am today. Like them giving up for me is not an option. We may not always share the same views but there is absolutely no reason why anyone should try to impede any measure in thought, word or deed that may be a catalyst for positive change in Barbados.

At the end of the day, each one of us must ask ourselves, “Do I lack the strength and courage to fight for change? Am I a Bussa or an informer? Is my role to assist in the bringing of revolutionary changes that are needed in Barbados or am I striving to retain the status quo?

I live by the mottos of my two Alma Maters “I Persevere” and ‘Aliis Non Sibi”, for others not self. I am pressing on.

CL Financial Bailout – The Real Case

The following reblogged from Afra Raymond’s blog.

Sen. Larry Howai, Min of Finance & the Economy

Sen. Larry Howai, Min of Finance & the Economy

In 2013 I sued the Minister of Finance & the Economy for his continuing failure or refusal to provide the details relating to the huge $25 Billion bailout of the failed CL Financial group. On Wednesday 22 July 2015, […] Continue reading

FOI and Press Freedom

Ian Bourne - Bajan Reporter

Ian Bourne – Bajan Reporter

Ian Bourne worked for the traditional media and now runs the Bajan Reporter website. BU has respect for anyone who attempts to be an independent media practitioner in Barbados. His perspective as a former insider of the traditional media is always interesting. Continue reading

Media LOCK!

Submitted by Anthony Davis

Who is the president of the BAJ?

Who is the president of the BAJ?

Deputy Chief education officer David Clement and two other senior education officers were under a tree just outside the principal’s office during the exchange. When Clement was approached, he responded:”There is nothing to report. After an exchange between a security guard and the NATION team, which threatened to get out of hand, Clement gave an instruction to call the police if the team would not leave the compound.” – Nation 29/10/2014

There is lately the tendency of people in this country to exclude the press!

This does not augur well for our country, because those who are citizens of countries which really have freedom of the press will not want to set up business in a country which does not subscribe to freedom of the press. I would like to know what those people have to hide. From the Governor of the Central Bank to some members of the congregation of the Ebenezer Methodist Church, to the deputy chief education officer,  want to curb the freedom of the press because they have their own agenda. They all want to suppress information which seems to them the rest of Barbados shouldn’t know anything about.

What irks me most is the shutting out of the press from a Methodist Church which goes against all of the tenets of that church and makes a mockery of all that Sarah Ann Gill and Rev. Shrewsbury worked so hard to attain. They must be both turning over in their graves!

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Our Governance System and Politicians – When Freedom of Information is Fiction

It is appropriate BU returns to the issue of Freedom of Information (FOI) on the second anniversary of death of former Prime Minister David Thompson. The promise that FOI and Integrity Legislation would have been introduced by this government early in its term swayed BU and we supported the DLP in 2007. Sadly the government has not demonstrated the political will to implement transparency legislation. Five years later it is fair to describe the promise as a gimmick to win votes.

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A Country In Waiting: Transparency Legislation Promised 1754 Days Ago and Counting

Mara Thompson MP should defend her husband’s legacy by championing transparency legislation

Barbadians were ready to change the government last general election for several reasons, an obvious third term lethargy at the top of the list. It did not stop the Opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP) from promising the sky and the 7 seas. One platform promise which resonated and persuaded many Independents to vote DLP was Freedom of Information (FOI) and Integrity Legislation (IL).  Barbadians like many around the world became intoxicated by the message of hope promised by Obama, we bought into the same message of the late David Thompson and his team.

On the 20 November 2007 a resolution was laid by the late Prime Minister David Thompson in the House of Assembly giving his support to IL and FOI legislation to be drafted as soon as possible. We are about to enter anther general election five years later and ….If the government were to rush this legislation to book before the bell is rung one wonders if it would not be a dishonest act.

Barbados Underground (BU) is on record admitting to having bought into the Thompson message of enacting transparency legislation to improve governance in Barbados. To say we are sorely disappointed by the lack of priority given by this government to enacting transparency legislation would be an accurate statement. Five years later there is not even the sense, if we listen to members of parliament from the government side, that transparency legislation is top of mind.

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Should The Enactment Of Transparency Legislation be a Priority?

Owen Arthur, Leader of the opposition (l) Fruendel Stuart, Prime Minister (r)

To the independents who voted for the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) last election, it is evident that it has retreated from its promise to make enactment of transparency legislation a priority. Of equal concern to BU has been the reluctance by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to pressure the government to honour its promise. Civil society should be concerned that the BLP – the government in waiting – is committed to following through on proclaiming transparency legislation. There will be the obvious argument that the 2011 perception index released by Transparency International, Barbados achieved the highest ranking in the region of 7.8 out of 10.  Perhaps the two political parties might suggest in light of the #16 ranking out of 183 countries, anti corruption legislation is not a priority. Such responses can be dismissed by asking – why did both political parties see the need to include it as a deliverable in their last manifestos?

Listed on the Corruption Index for 2011  are the USA at 7.1 and India 3.1. Although at opposite ends of the index these two countries are regarded as economic power houses on the global stage. More interestingly, the two are regarded as the two biggest democracies in the world. To acquire government approval in India for the most mundane request one must overcome an institutionalized system of corruption. Last week two angry Indian farmers acted out their frustration by dumping two dozen snakes in a government tax office. It is interesting that in India the fight against corruption in government has tossed up Anna Hazare. His charismatic leadership has attracted millions of Indians to the movement which has forced the government to prioritized its anti-corruption policymaking agenda. It seems India deserves its rating of 3.1.

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Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart, Good Governance Starts With Transparency

Submitted as a comment by Crusoe to the Prime Minister Fruendel Speaks To The Nation, AGAIN blog

Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart

The diatribes above actually do contribute to good exchange of banter, even if politically motivated. The above highlights what the ‘average Joe’ is very annoyed at, such as unexplainable project expenditures, lack of transparency and accountability and a complete disregard of voter wishes.

As Halsall has referred to, this administration committed, yes  committed, to a Freedom of Information and Transparency Legislation on its entry into this term. There is no excuse for the delay in this. They got the Judicial Legislation changed for their appointee fast enough.

Secondly, cost overruns etc. have not been explained and no attempt has been made to enable this nor to enable explanation and evidence of future projects for the average voter. As government is supposed to represent the people for the good of the country, this is a disgrace, by both parties.

Thirdly, while the current administration supports running on about 3S, it must be noted that the marina project appears to have been given to the highest bidder, amidst resignations from the independent directors of the same project. Without due explanation and with an impending legal case as a result, from an alternate contractor, that is highly worrying from a voter perspective and does not give that ‘warm and fuzzy feeling’ that a citizen should have  on his taxpayers monies being spent well. Is this another botched project? Slated to cost 700MM but will probably eventually cost 1.2Billion?

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We Need To Do More To Punish Perpetrators Of Corruption In Barbados

David Mabey

Our aim is to protect society from extensive, deliberate criminal deception which could threaten public confidence in the financial system.  We investigate fraud and corruption that requires our investigative expertise and special powers to obtain and assess evidence to successfully prosecute fraudsters, freeze assets and compensate victimsSFO Serious Fraud Office

Several events have occurred in the last three decades which exposed flaws in governance structures which have served us well; or so it seemed. One example is the meltdown of Wall Street which precipitated the global recession which has been with us for more than two years.

The post mortem of the disaster has revealed that old fashion greed was the motive driving many in decision making positions.  The challenge for global societies is the need to have robust regulatory systems which are marshalled in a just matter. For too long our systems of justice appear to be better equipped to punish a certain type of crime especially when it affects the ‘small’ man.

There is a view that enacting Freedom of Information (FOIA) laws will not be enough if we are to judge by those countries which have FOIA on the books. BU believes this to be a defeatist view and we are heartened by the recent action of The Serious Fraud Office in the United Kingdom by securing its first convictions of fraud against individuals accused of breaching UN sanctions. It should be of interest to Barbadians who had the ‘honour’ of being the first ‘scalp’ of the SFO.

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No Freedom Of Information Act, No Ministerial Code Of Conduct, No Declaration Of Assets And No Integrity And Transparency Legislation.

Kammie Holder - Social Commentator

The aforementioned must be the bedrock of any modern democracy if we are to keep politicians and government officials are above corruption. Corruption is now recognized as one of the world’s greatest challenges. It is a major hindrance to sustainable development and is corrosive on the very fabric of society. Its disproportionate impact on poor communities is considerable, curbing economic growth, distorting competition, and representing serious legal risks. Technically, corruption covers an entire host of abuses, of which graft is one. Graft and corruption are charges that are typically levelled at highly-placed government officials, who are able to use public funds to improve their own fortunes due to increased access, influence, knowledge or power that comes with an elevated position. An official engaging in bribery, nepotism, embezzlement, extortion or graft is guilty of abuse of public trust at minimum, and may often be charged with a crime.

Graft is defined as a use of public stature to gain illegal benefit. For instance, a senator who sits on the armed services committee in the U.S. senate cannot use his knowledge of military contracts to buy stock in a defense contractor’s company. His position gives him unfair advantage over other investors. It is similar to the notion of insider trading in business.

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David Chaytor’s Conviction Confirms The Importance Of A Free Press – Enactment Of Integrity Legislation And Freedom Of Information A Requirement

When journalists can obtain public records, they need not rely on the whims of a government source to report on government actions and activities, and they can better disclose how tax dollars are spent and how policies are made and implementedMedia Law Handbook [2010]

The advent of the Internet means that the often held view according to New Yorker magazine contributor A.J. Liebling that, “Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns it” is no longer a rule of thumb. The increasing popularity of blogs and other social media players have given a voice to the PEOPLE. Compared to many developing countries, Barbados falls short in its failure to enact Freedom of Information laws (FOIA), a key prerequisite to facilitating freedom of expression. The government is on record that FOIA is in the pipeline, to be brought to parliament soon, one senses this is something it will action when it becomes politically expedient and not out of a sense of urgency to protect a fragile democracy.

The frightening reality remains that local journalists have to rely on government sources to confirm or deny information before releasing to the public. In Barbados this represents a worrying situation given our small size which breeds the opportunity to be victimized, manipulated or encourage corruption. While admitting that FOIA is not a panacea for all our problems, such legislation if enacted, would update existing laws to reflect that we are operating in the 21st century. The accepted practice of local media editors to ‘dumb down’ stories because advertisers may become offended occurs, is that not self censorship and a threat to democracy?

The Internet has given the opportunity for ordinary citizens to challenge power structures which have been controlled by interest groups with deep pockets.

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The Legacy Of David Thompson, The Calling Of The Next General Election And The Enactment Of The Prevention of Corruption Bill 2010 – Your Move Prime Minister Stuart!

Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart

It was interesting to hear  Brian Clarke reveal in his eulogy that the Late Prime Minister David Thompson was not passionate about the legal profession. In contrast we understand Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart has a great love for the profession. It will be left to Prime Minister Stuart to champion the  Prevention of Corruption Bill 2010 commonly referred to as Integrity Legislation (IL) which had its first reading in parliament recently. Time will tell if Stuart is motivated to enthusiastically chart the efficient implementation and application of Integrity Legislation.

The current debate in Barbados is when will Prime Minister Stuart ring the bell to call a general election constitutionally due in 2013, a state of affairs brought about by the death of David Thompson. In the opinion of BU the proclamation of IL and Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation will be critical to the decision to determining the date of the next general election. Although Stuart has been catapulted into the current role based on the unfortunate circumstance of Thompson’s death, as a member of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) opposition campaign platform he would have endorsed the promise to deliver IL and FOI legislation as tools to fight soft corruption in Barbados on winning the government. Three years have past and the people are still waiting. If the two pieces of legislation are not rolled out before the next general election the opposition will have the making of a platform agenda.

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Barbadians Await Promised Immigration, Integrity, Freedom Of Information Legislation

Freundel Stuart, Attorney General

The recent CADRES poll commissioned by the Nation newspaper has generated the usual debate, especially given the peculiar circumstance created by the Prime Minister’s illness.  At the top of the discussion for many Barbadians has been the insensitivity of the part of the poll which dealt with identifying a successor for Prime Minister David Thompson. BU is on record to admitting not being a fan of political polls. In our opinion political polls can act as opinion shapers.

Disappointing in the current discourse when assessing the government’s performance to date has been its inability to rollout several pieces of legislation – Freedom of Information, Integrity Legislation and the New Immigration Act. Barbadians who followed the last political campaign may recall that the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) built key messages around delivering the mentioned pieces of legislation as a matter of priority on assuming office. Although Attorney General Fruendel Stuart has been heard to promise that the legislation will be forthcoming soon, there is a feeling that delivery has been long in coming.

BU continues to be concerned especially in the case of the New Immigration Act. The Town Hall meetings which were held to discussed the Green Paper exposed a loose immigration structure which needs to be fixed pronto. The business of preserving our national security should be a priority for a sovereign nation in the current climate of rampant cross-border crime. Bear in mind tourism is our business.

Why does the Attorney General need so much time to draft the amendment to the Act? If one is to measure the work rate/productivity coming out of the Attorney General’s Office by the number of items brought to be debated in parliament – seems they have not* been busy campers!

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