Difficult Conversations – Ceremonial Governor General?

We are approximately five months away from when Barbados is scheduled to become a Republic.  The news media are doing Barbados a grave disservice by not allowing fair discussion of this now critical issue.  They are also misleading the public by claiming that the Governor General’s role is only ceremonial.

Barbados cannot afford the luxury of maintaining expensive ceremonial posts, while our debts are over 150% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  For context, the unsustainable debt threshold is 60% of GDP.  Therefore, if the Governor General’s post is only ceremonial, then the Prime Minister should call a referendum, get the consent of the people, and make us a Republic already.


The fact is that despite the media’s disinformation campaign, the Governor General is not a ceremonial position.  The Governor General is supposed to protect Barbadians from sustained economic and physical harm.

Since a political public service is not based on merit, it normally ruins an economy through unsustainable debts.  This forces the public to live in hand-to-mouth or pay-cheque to pay-cheque poverty.  To avoid this nightmare, the Constitution gives the Governor General the authority to hire, fire, and discipline public workers (Section 94.1).


Unfortunately for us, past administrations recommended aged persons (close to or past their three score and ten allotment) to the post of Governor General, burdened them with tiresome ceremonial duties, and appointed intermediate bodies to manage our public services.

The result of those actions made the Governor General’s function of protecting the public from economic harm, de facto ceremonial – and ineffective.  Since our Independence, none of our Governor Generals asserted their authority to stop the politization of our public services.  Therefore, the public must rely on Prime Ministerial benevolence.

If the Prime Minister is not willing to relinquish the power that a Prime Minister was never Constitutionally intended to have, then whether we become a Republic, or remain as is, will not make any difference to us.  Therefore, if this was the Governor General’s only role, then we should become a Republic, and end this farce of a de facto ceremonial Governor General already.


The fact is that the Governor General’s most important role is to protect citizens from sustained physical harm.  Since our Independence, we managed our affairs, secure in the
knowledge that we were insured against aggressors.

There are only two types of countries on Earth – those whose citizens are insured, and those whose citizens are not.  An uninsured nation normally attracts the attention of an aggressor nation, that tries to destabilize the government, including through internal strife.  The historical record is full of examples in South America, Africa, and Asia.


Historically, nations negotiated trade and military alliances with other nations.  It is because of these military alliances that the world experienced the two World Wars, which culminated with nuclear weapons and the United Nations (UN) in 1945.

Larger nations now self-insure against aggressors, by investing in nuclear weapons.  There are currently nine countries with nuclear weapons, but only five of them have enough to strike every nation, namely: Russia, USA, France, UK, and China, who are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.  The other nuclear-weapon countries are: Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea.


The only countries with the capability to deter aggressor nations, are those with nuclear weapons.  As a Constitutional Monarchy, we are automatically insured through the UK, as are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea, and eight other Caribbean countries.

Since aggressors do not dare threaten insured countries, we have taken our insurance for granted.  We are oblivious to the risks that uninsured countries face, and wonder, in child-like ignorance, why uninsured countries tend to be in conflict.


If we are planning to become a Republic, and have not started to negotiate international insurance, then our Prime Minister is being very badly advised.  If the advice is to insure us through the United Nations, then we are sunk.

The United Nations is willing to accept any amount of collateral damage, to prevent war between nations.  Therefore, UN insurance is an illusion for citizens.  This was proven during the murder of at least 800,000 uninsured Rwandans in 1994, when the UN was present in the country and allowed the genocide.


Today, the citizens of countries in conflict, who their political leaders tricked into cancelling their international insurance, desperately plead with the UN for help.  The most that they can hope for, is a useless UN Security Council resolution, asking all parties to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.  Insured citizens have a realistic hope of help.

In 1982, Argentina seized the Falkland Islands.  Despite the population of the Islands being approximately 2,000 persons, they were insured.  Three days later, the UK sent a naval force which defeated the Argentine military.


Venezuela had territorial disputes with Guyana, Dominica, and Trinidad & Tobago, and has threatened military action against Guyana and Dominica.  The US has threatened military action against Cuba and Haiti.  The targets are all uninsured Republics.

The Governor General is the only person in Barbados who can activate our insurance, to which the UK is obligated to respond.  Before we become a Republic, the public deserves to know who will have standing to activate our international insurance, and the name of the reliable insurer.  The public also deserves to know whether the intention is to leave Barbadians uninsured with the UN.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

Are Bajans Ready IF June Comes Too Soon?

It is not an original line but sirFuzzy reminded the blogmaster in a recent communication that if we fail to prepare; prepare to fail. We must in this context evaluate Barbados’ precipitous fall from the halcyon days of being regarded the jewel in the crown to a nation that has failed to effectively plan and manage our affairs. It is often said we suffer from an inability to execute.

During the debate of the 2019 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals, Prime Minister Mia Mottley shared an exchange which occurred last week while touring Bridgetown with Prince Charles and tour guide Maurice Greenidge. Greenidge theorised based on recorded events Barbados is due a major hurricane every 67 years. Whether we subscribe to his theory or not, we should agree that despite our strategic geographical location on the archipelago, it makes sense to be prepared for what mother nature tosses up unexpectedly. Contrary to the widely held view – God is NOT a Bajan!

Although Barbados escaped relatively unscathed last year, the videos and pictures circulated that captured the devastation in Dominica and several of the neighbouring islands in 2017 should serve as an incentive to execute the Scouts motto – BE PREPARED!

Inquiring minds therefore must ask the 64K question.

Do Bajans take hurricane preparedness seriously?

“June too soon, July standby, August you must, September remember, October all over”


The official start of the hurricane season is less than three months off. The blogmaster is challenged to be optimistic about what will occur when a major weather system impacts Barbados. A heavy downpour which is not unexpected weather in the tropics always create flooding on the island. Sometimes of a life threatening nature. Our roads are in a poor state. We routinely engage in illegal dumping in our gullies and ‘irreverently’ and illegally construct in water courses. It is not unusual for a national shutdown call to be challenged by maverick players who see themselves slaves to the almighty dollar.

Many Barbadians appreciate the lack of financial resources will negatively affect national planning to prepare for the hurricane season, BUT, the blogmaster is also aware many Barbadians have become complacent because we have a generation who has not had to experience nature’s wrath.

A word to the wise AND as well as the indolent should be sufficient.

The Jefferson Cumberbatch Column – A Caribbean Tragedy

Jeff Cumberbatch – Chairman of the FTC and Deputy Dean, Law Faculty, UWI, Cave Hill

In 1960s Barbados, many looked forward on Friday afternoon to a publication called the “Calypso”. My late mother and I were among them. It was a newspaper that, according to my best recollection, consisted of stories of entertainment and the lighter stuff much like the traditional Friday afternoon newspapers in some regional jurisdictions such as Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.

As the Hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged some of the regional islands a week or two ago, my mind reverted to a character in the Calypso newspaper that had his own eponymous cartoon, the impressively witty, fashionably dressed (stingy brim, continental pants and all) and unapologetically chauvinist, gap-toothed “Kalypso Kat” and one panel in particular that we read with perhaps more enjoyment than we should have.

“Why,” queries one lady of Kalypso Kat, do they name hurricanes after women only? “Simple”, responds Kat, “that’s because dey dangerous like wunna”

Of course we have progressed to a more equitable distribution of the names of hurricanes since those days and nowadays for every Anna there is a Bernard and, for every Jacques, a Jillian. However, Kat’s mansplaining in that strip of long ago would have seemingly been borne out by the havoc wrought in some of our neighbouring islands by Irma and Maria while Jose eventually dissipated and harmed no one.

I have chosen to title this piece “A Caribbean tragedy” for obvious reasons. After all, the lives lost and the severe and probably irreparable dislocation caused to some in Anguilla, Barbuda, Tortola, Dominica and, for geographical comity, Puerto Rico, by these hurricanes are, indeed a tragedy of significant proportion.

But two other events are also tragic in nature even though neither might have displaced a single roof or directly caused a loss of life or livelihood. These are first, the niggardly and negative response of some individuals in Trinidad & Tobago to the selfless appeal by Dr Keith Rowley, the Prime Minister, for some Dominicans to be accommodated in that country where it was practicable to do so.This negativity was a clear display of selfishness by those responders, but it may go even deeper than it appears at first sight.

Since most of the Dominicans would be presumed to be mainly of one ethnicity and given the similar ethnic identity of the administration extending to them a helping hand in their hour of need, it might have possibly been perceived that some electoral advantage would most likely inure to the Rowley administration if those relocated individuals were ever granted the franchise in Trinidad & Tobago.

This might appear a fantastic deduction to my readers, but one of the cases that we treat in the law of defamation is that of a successful defence of qualified privilege on the basis of self defense of reputation on the part of a Trinidadian Senator who, stung by an imputation of dishonesty applied to members of his own party by a talkshow host, sought to respond in kind and suggested that the publisher of that accusation was himself part of an electoral strategy by Dr Eric Williams to permit the entry of Grenadians such as the publisher himself into Trinidad so that they would vote for Dr Williams party and thus perpetuate his hold on power. The defence of qualified privilege succeeded in the subsequent action for defamation by the talk show host against the Senator. The ratio was that the defendant was entitled to defend himself by a response of similar kind against defamatory imputations made about him. The significance of ethnicity in the Trinidad & Tobago partisan political environment is not to be taken lightly.

The second incident relates also to political partisanship and demonstrates the extent to which this phenomenon dominates the regional discourse in that it might assume eminence in a conversation as to relief for victims of this catastrophic act of nature.I refer to the accusation leveled a couple of days ago against the Prime Minister of Dominica by opposition political forces that the distribution of received aid was being effected along partisan lines.

Perhaps someday one of our political scientists with time on his or her hands will seek to explore the nature if the connection between the gain of political capital and material assistance to victims in times of natural disaster.

Indeed, it seemed for a brief while last week that the identical discussion might even enter our neck of the woods with the accusation that there had been a less than commendable national attempt only to offer relief to those in the ravaged islands, an imputation that would now have been displaced by the sterling work of the nation’s security forces and the use of Barbadian craft to transport both supplies to the islands and some individuals to safety.

The connection is indeed intriguing; an administration that is adjudged to be delinquent in its efforts at rescue and assistance is unlikely to gain favor with an electorate sympathetic to the victims, while one that is liberal with its assistance is more likely to find electoral advantage.One apt title for such a study would be “The Politics of Natural Disasters,” but then, what do I know?

Indeed, to conclude, there are more than a few commentators who credit anecdotally the 1986 entry of former Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, into the Lower House as the representative for St Peter to the flood relief accorded to the constituency by the then governing administration during that period.

One issue that concerns me in all this is the seeming helplessness of the region in the face of these hurricanes. I am not aware of any research studies that are being conducted regionally to avert the destruction wrought by them and even the suggestions as to how best to avoid losing the roof of one’s dwelling to the winds of the hurricane, while laudable and important, are still accepting of the theory that the hurricanes will and must come. We speak glibly in the region of the need for research…to isolate the effects of decriminalizing marijuana…to discover the most effective means of gaining reparation for slavery. Doubtless impotent issues. Is there none interested in avoiding or mitigating the incidence of hurricanes and their consequent destruction?