Remove Kothdiwala from Commission

Submitted by D.Douglas Smith

A concerned group of citizens, as well as myself, continue to be shocked by the public comments of one Khaleel Kothdiwala, the individual who the prime minister tried to appoint to the senate, even though the constitution did not allow it.

Most recently he has hitched himself to the debacle at the ministry of education with the outrageous survey conducted in the schools. He claims to be a youth advocate, so how could he seek to defend the disgraceful survey? How can he be a youth advocate, while at the same time being totally blinded by his loyalty to the ruling regime? Who gave him that title? How could his judgement be so poor that he can support this terrible survey?

He has used his column in one of the local newspapers to peddle propaganda on behalf of the regime. He has defended the activities at Four Seasons raised by the Auditor-General, he voiced support for the regime’s agenda of debt, debt and more debt, and he has called for the interests of tourists to be put ahead of local people, while wanting locals to keep wearing their masks like good servants. Check his columns and you will notice a clear dislike for the majority of Barbadians and a complete blind loyalty to the regime and his hatred for the DLP and the other opposition.

Therefore, how can Barbadians feel comfortable that he is sitting on the committee to review the constitution? What are his qualifications to sit on that committee anyway? He has shown that his first interest is the regime, so how will the public feel that their concerns will be taken seriously by this young man, if those concerns do not line up with his regime’s agenda? What will happen to information collected by the committee? The Prime Minister must explain to the country why Kothdiwala is there, among other people who are generally well-qualified. What was the purpose of putting him there?

We demand that Kothdiwala be removed with immediate effect from the constitutional reform commission, in the interest of fairness. We call on Barbadians to boycott the commission until Kothdiwala is removed. They are asking the public to email them recommendations, we ask Barbadians to refrain from doing that until he is removed. If they ever get around to townhall meetings, we call on Barbadians to refuse to attend those events. He cannot stay.

The public demands that Kothdiwala must go!

On behalf of concerned Barbadians,

D. Douglas Smith

Nation Publishing MUST Do Better

There is the saying often posted in this space that the price of freedom (democracy) is eternal vigilance. A necessary component to safeguarding our freedom (democracy) is a relevant media. An extract from The Role of Media in Democracy: A Strategic Approach authored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) states:-

A free, objective, skilled media is an essential component of any democratic society. On the one hand, it provides the information which the polity require to make responsible, informed decisions. On the other, it performs a “checking function” ensuring that elected officials uphold their oaths of office and campaign promises and that they carry out the wishes of the electorate.

The blogmaster is reminded everyday since March 2007 when Barbados Underground (BU) went live on the WordPress platform the importance of a relevant media. We recall the VOB Sunday Brasstacks show when social commentator and retired hotelier Adrian Loveridge was forced to contribute to the program from a separate studio because it was the condition for the participation of former Minister of Tourism Noel Lynch.

During one of last week’s VOB’s Brasstacks shows the blogmaster was again reminded of the naked manipulation of traditional media by a caller (was it you William?) who questioned the Nation Publishing company’s decision to anoint Khaleel Kothdiwala a columnist to replace Dr. Kristina Hinds. The caller’s simple and well articulated logic was – with the BLP in total control of the Lower House, why select Khaleel who is a BLP card carrying member. It does not mean Khaleel lacks the capacity to share a perspective on a myriad topics, however, making Khaleel a columnist ensured the leading publishing house in the country slammed the door on an opportunity to improve vigilance in our democracy.

This is not a personal attack on Khaleel, he obviously is an intelligent young man who is committed to be a BLP sponsored politician. And it is his right, to align with a political party of his choice. This is an attack on the Nation Publishing for allowing itself to be manipulated directly or indirectly into making Khaleel a columnist. We may speculate this is the Nation Publishing being opportunistic by contracting a young man whose star is rising or that ‘someone’ made a telephone call.

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Mottley’s Decision Rejected

The decision by Prime Minister Mia Mottley to reverse the controversial appointment of 18 year old Khaleel Kothdiwala is unfortunate. It was evident from exchanges in the last session of the Upper House the amendment to the Constitution to allow Khaleel’s sitting would not have garnered support from independent senators.

Immediately after the January 19, 2022 general election Prime Minister Mottley announced Kothdiwala’s as a BLP nominee for the Senate with the justification she was fulfilling an election promise to bring the youth into “the centre of governance and national determination…if you are old enough to vote then you must be old enough to serve”. All who have followed politics in Barbados are patently aware Khaleel’s politics is heavily influenced from Roebuck Street – and it is right to practice the politics of his choice.

The prime minister became swell headed by a second 30 to zero victory in the last general election and took for granted Khaleel’s appointment would have been rubber stamped by the Senate. Lest we forget, the Senate is currently involved indirectly in a fight for its legitimacy. Although the constitutional motion brought by former Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite was tossed out by Justice Cicely Chase, legal counsel Garth Patterson signaled appeal documents will be filed this week to challenge the Upper Chamber doing business with 18 appointed Senators instead of 21.

From comments posted to BU and aired in other fora, those opposed to the appointment of Khaleel took umbrage to the lack of national consultation about the unprecedented decision to add an 18 year old BLP supporter to the Senate to represent youth matters. Bear in mind Mottley- also in controversial and contentious circumstances- transitioned Barbados to a Republic in November 2021. The dissenting cry then was – why not complete an exercise of national consensus to determine a new constitution to make the process to a republic comprehensive.

At the root of the uncertainty muddying the governance process is an election result that rejected opposition candidates AND the unwillingness of elected members of parliament to cross the floor to manufacture an opposition. This is interesting against the rumour Mottley called a snap general election to quell a political mutiny.  

There is also the contention that President Sandra Mason is partly responsible by her refusal to appoint two apposition Senators given the outcome of the general election. Had she appointed two Opposition Senators and Mottley a standin for Kothdiwala there would possibly have been no legal challenge brought and Mottley would have avoided the political embarrassment of having to withdraw Khaleel’s appointment.

It is what it is as the popular saying goes. We wait to endure the Court Appeal process and possible request for leave to appeal to the CCJ. In the meantime there is the potential lawmaking in parliament will be disrupted if Justice Chase decision is overturned.

At a time the country is battling to manage economic challenges acerbated by the pandemic we have become mired in process because of off flippant decision making. It is ironic the Upper House that is currently under challenge in the Barbados courts is responsible for Mottley’s decision to remove Kothdiwala. 

We are living in interesting times.

Rihanna BOOM, Kothdiwala BOOM

Prime Minister Mottley surprised the nation during republic celebrations with the announcement international Barbadian artist was elevated to national hero status. A couple months later – post-general election with the appointment of government senators – Mottley did it again, she provisionally appointed 18 year old Khaleel Kothdiwala as a government senator. The appointment requires a change to the highest law of the land.

The views expressed by the blogmaster on the process required to make these kinds of appointments will not be popular in an age when process is often disregarded for going with the flow; going with what is popular.

The blogmaster has no issue with National Hero Robyn Fenty or Senator Khaleel Kothdiwala (designate). Both have demonstrated exemplary achievement serving respective pursuits. In the case of Khaleel he has done what few have shown the courage by entering Barbados Underground using his given name to debate issues. On behalf of the BU household – despite differences from time to time – we wish him well.

A previous blog – Maximum Leaders, Absolute Power and Democracy– is timely for what it reminds us. It addresses the challenge some in society have with the arbitrary way a political leader can take decisions that are possibly not aligned to the collective value-set of the citizenry. The Prime Minister has the prerogative to appoint whomever she wants as a government Senator. The issue in the case of Khaleel’s appointment to the Upper House is the decision to amend the Constitution to allow an 18 years old to sit. Should changes be made to the Constitution without wide public consultation? Should changes to the Constitution involve a declared process that includes wide consultation with the public that taps in to the kind of country we want to fashion? The same argument is true for appointing a national hero.

The other challenge is that many of us bring immature positions to the table by quickly resorting to personal attacks on the persons selected- in this case Rihanna and Khaleel. This is another example what happens when citizens cede inherent rights in a democracy to politicians. Why should Prime Minister Mottley believe that after a second 30 to zero win at the polls, she does not have the mandate to implement feel good decisions? The eternal threat to the type of democracy practiced by Barbados demands an engaged citizenry and individuals of integrity willing to offer themselves for public service.

There is benefit to following an established and transparent process for making these kinds of decisions. There is a benefit in a democracy to canvassing the views of citizens to ensure maximum participation. What the 2022 general election again revealed is that there is too much apathy and cynicism among the citizens. This is antithesis to how a functional democratic system should operate.

But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

Luke 12:48

A word to the wise should be sufficient.

Who Is Khaleel Kothdiwala?

Submitted by Douglas Smith

FROM: Concerned Citizens

TO: The People of Barbados

We have contemplated this letter for some time but have restrained ourselves, believing that the behaviour would cease. However, we were listening to the Down to BrassTacks call-in show on Monday and we were once again assaulted by a contribution of the country’s most popular teenager, one Khaleel Kothdiwala. We recognized that this intervention is essential.

We hear many individuals in this country boldly proclaiming that Kothdiwala is headed to political office at the highest levels, most believing with certainty that he shall ascend to the office of Prime Minister. If this is the case, and he is to lead this country, we feel entitled to some answers to some vital questions.

We well remember his first public speech at the Lower Green some years ago, and the presence of two adults behind him on the stage, who we presume to have been his parents. At a cursory glance, one appears of African descent, and the other Indian. Does this ‘future leader’ of a nation of Blacks identify more as black or Indian? How do this self-identification affect his ability to lead?

Observing that he is partly-Indian, does he accept that many of his people have engaged in rank economic exploitation of black people by buying items and reselling to poor people at exorbitant mark-up? Is he ‘contrite’, as he likes to say, for this occurrence?

Is it true that young gentlemen attended an elite private school at the primary level, where most students are of wealthy, Caucasian extraction, meaning that he would have spent many of his formative years surrounded by rich whites? The entire country is aware that he now attends Queen’s College, considered to be an ‘intellectually elite’ grammar school. Does his and his parents’ choice of schooling show an implicit bias and elitism? Is he the best voice of the black working class? 

We are reliably informed by several students at Queen’s College that he is universally-loved there and is in fact their Head Boy. We also know that he has many ‘fans’ in the wider Barbados, who adore his appearance on a CBC youth show and fawn over his various mouthings and writings. Does he recognise that having so many black people almost hero-worshipping someone who looks like him is problematic and unhealthy for the black psyche?

Kothdiwala is well-known for his rabid attacks on a black-led political party as well as notable, successful black people, such as Senator Caswell Franklyn, our hero of democracy. He is perhaps best known for his campaign against the CXC, a black-conceived and black-led regional institution. Does he believe it is healthy that almost his entire fame and popularity is based upon his attacks on black personalities and institutions?

This is not intended as an attack on the young boy. We will leave attacks to him. We merely would like the answers to some key questions that will allow us to determine if he is an acceptable candidate to lead Barbados. We await his response. 

Press Statement on CXC Press Conference by Student Advocate

Khaleel Kothdiwala, Student Advocate

On Sunday, October 18, Sir Hilary Beckles, in his capacity as Chairman of the Caribbean Examinations Council, and Dr. Wayne Wesley, Registrar of CXC, held a virtual press conference to release the preliminary findings of the Independent Review Team, empaneled to investigate the examination process, allocated examination results and general performance expectations, inter alia

For the purpose of context, this Review Team was appointed by the CXC Chair amidst region-wide protestations from students, parents and teachers, resulting from the release of CXC results on September 22, and the fact that those results were at significant variance with historical trends, teacher predictions and reasonable student and parent expectation. This resulted in thousands of students either with no grades, or grades which were wholly unacceptable and not reflective of reality, which has put on pause the higher education aspirations of these students.

At the press conference, there was no admission of fault nor any acceptance of responsibility by the Council for the inconvenience, anxiety, agony and heartache caused by the clearly defective results. 

Instead, CXC blamed four factors for this crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic, internet connectivity in the territories of the region, implied teacher corruption and unmerited high student expectations. This was a shameless attempt to pass the buck of responsibility and one which does not factor in the fact that this year’s problem is clearly a macro problem and therefore those micro factors would not create the quagmire in which we now find ourselves. Most disturbingly, the Council, since September 22, has and continues to place unfounded blame at the feet of teachers, with unsubstantiated, implied allegations of teacher corruption and/or misconduct, as far as the award of marks is concerned. This stance is deeply regrettable for an examination body, which relies upon teachers to teach their syllabus content, and for a Council which reports to Ministries of Education, who employ many of these teachers, and certainly supervise all. The Council must, unequivocally, state its confidence in the teaching profession in the region, if there is to be a harmonious relationship between the two, going forward. 

On another point of clarification, CXC intimated that only a ‘small minority’ of students have experienced challenges. This is particularly regrettable as it simply does not reflect the reality that, by CXC’s admission, there were nearly 14,000 instances of students receiving ‘ungraded’ or ‘absent’ results, or of the major public outcry in the four weeks since the release of results. The misrepresentation of the problem as a minor one is unfortunate, and will only serve to continue to undermine the confidence of persons in CXC, and inhibit the ‘healing process’ to which Sir Hilary referred in his contribution to the press conference. 

On the positive side, despite the misrepresentations highlighted above, the IRT did recommend a number of measures in the immediate term, which correspond to many of the demands made by parent and student advocacy groups. Importantly:

  • The review process will now include an actual remark of exam scripts, and not the ineffective administrative review, as previously proposed;
  • The vexatious issue of the cost of reviews will be partially addressed by the Council, by a 50% reduction of that fee;
  • Candidates who request reviews will not receive a ‘downgrade’ of the result, which was another contentious issue. Instead, the grade will remain the same, or adjusted upwards, if the remark of the candidate’s scripts support that;
  • Reviews will be returned expeditiously, with the timeframe of turnover being hopefully one week, with the process for requesting a review, being transitioned online, making that process faster and simpler;
  • The review deadline was also extended.

Students across the region commend this mature approach taken and would hope that the remark of the papers produce more equitable grades than previously and that the turnover time is indeed one week. 

However, burning questions remain unanswered:

  • Will the re-moderation of SBAs be done in accordance with the same rubric as in previous years, and which was used by students and teachers this year? Or will the rubric used be modified as was done in the original moderation, in some instances, and which may have produced the irregular results?
  • How did CXC weight the papers in the absence of Paper 2? While much was made at the press conference about “grading on profiles”, this point remains unclear. 
  • Relatedly, how does CXC respond to concerns that originally allocated profiles did not match with original grades, for example where a candidate received an AAB profile, but received a Grade 3? How does that reconcile with the Registrars assertion that grading was done based on profiles?
  • Who will CXC employ as ‘additional capacity’ to remark the examination scripts? And what measures are in place to ensure that this ‘additional capacity’ meet the standard for quality assurance?
  • It was stated at the press conference that computation of grades will be done solely on performance in the Multiple Choice and SBA component of the examinations. This is significantly at variance with the Council’s previously stated position that predicted grades would be factored in. Clarification is required on this point.

Based upon the summary of the recommendations of the IRT provided at the press conference, it appears that CXC has recognized the plethora of mistakes made previously, even if there is a reluctance to explicitly take responsibility. Students and parents will look forward to the release of the final report on Tuesday for the full detail of the findings, and CXC must also publish a document detailing precisely how those recommendations will be implemented and addressing the burning questions which remain. 

Four weeks in, it is past time, for us to move past the present crisis, to find an equitable resolution for all. While the recommendations of the IRT are in no way perfect, if implemented correctly, they will go a significant way in alleviating the problem. 

The ball is now in the court of CXC to implement these recommendations, and provide clarity on matters, which up to the present, they have eschewed direct comment. It is regrettable that CXC continues to refuse to meet with parent or student advocacy groups, but it can be hoped that after their recognition today of their communication failures, that a more amenable public response posture will be adopted. 

After all, CXC is all of us in this complex ecosystem of education in the Caribbean, as Sir Hilary put it, and must therefore chasten itself to be able to held accountable. Only then can the healing process start!

The George Brathwaite Column – Rejecting Youth, Pillorying Women?

Submitted by Dr. George C. Brathwaite

Last week, Barbadians were exposed to several alarming political utterances when Members of Parliament (MPs) debated the Appropriation Bill 2017. Barbadians heard frantic reactions to the state of affairs. The Bill was theatrically delivered by MP Christopher Sinckler, arguably, the most unpopular Minister of Finance in the history of Barbados. The gravity of the socio-economic circumstances, and providing few realistic answers, prompted Sinckler to request help as both the economy and society came under the microscope of public scrutiny.

Sadly, Barbadians received the typical false narratives that serve to further divide a polity at odds with itself. The abject polarization that was on show, particularly by Democratic Labour Party (DLP) MPs, appeared disrespectfully desperate. Knowing that they were being seen on television and being heard on radio, the politicians postured and panted; they agreed and disagreed. The DLP MPs accused and angered persons inside and outside of the public gallery.

DLP MPs were at pains to be convincing even if this meant taking political rhetoric and grandstanding to extravagant extremes. By Friday night, Barbadians preferred to filter the folly, frivolity, and farcical ferocity that fanned flames of fury. Put differently, Barbadians although burdened to listen to the debate, readily denounced the unfolding social constructions that were recklessly spoken by absent-minded legislators. The politicians, for the most part, all looked serious although some signalled nothing useful or edifying in their contributions.

The posturing and the discursive practices merely exposed a refractory majority when compared with a more thoughtful minority. These phenomena have produced a cacophony of adversarial approaches and entrenched antagonisms that stretch across Barbados. Surely, with general elections now in the foresights of those gunning for a seat, the caustic tones and insults were anticipated to increase. Such infractions featured multiple times during the debate.

Ironically, the dear loving people made several controversial remarks and displayed strings of irrational behaviour. Barbadians are questioning whether the DLP used offensive statements purely for amplification or dastardly for distraction. Clearly, there was sheer worry by the DLP to the point of rejecting the youth and later pillorying women. There is the perception that a couple MPs crudely reverted to threat and bullying, instead of reasoned and logical statements of fact.

Firstly, Social Care Minister Steve Blackett sought to intimidate more than appreciate the positives of Barbadian youth participating in national affairs. An infuriated Blackett gave a stinging rebuke to the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and the parents of 13-year-old Khaleel Kothdiwala. The teenager had addressed a rally immediately following the national march of disgust on the previous weekend which attracted over 10, 000 persons. Notwithstanding, Blackett stepped into the chasms of stupidity when he showed a lack of reasonableness or clarity of thought regarding parental guidance and support.

Blackett stated that the BLP “had a young man, 13 years … parading across the stage with or without the permission of his parents, in full glare of all, exploiting the young man.” Shooting from the hip, Blackett made the illogical claim that Khaleel’s youthful presence on stage “is equivalent … to sexual abuse or physical abuse.” What an absurdity! Many persons have since dismissed Blackett’s sinister statement and more generally, pointed out his proclivity for not going after the real targets of sexual and physical abuse.

Ironically, the very Steve Blackett made another disturbing but hypocritical pronouncement. Badly hatched from his pious posturing, Blackett chose the identity markers of religion and racism to wrongfully condemn the oldest political party in Barbados. Blackett contemptuously complained against the strong signals sent to the DLP regime on March 11th. Blackett remonstrated by mockingly praying “that every single Christian, every single Muslim, every single Hindu get on their knees and pray for this country because the Barbados Labour Party is heading the country down a particular avenue that will cause bloodshed in this country based on how they are behaving and how they are conducting themselves in public life in Barbados.” It is a load! Clearly, Blackett was in a mistaken chamber.

Blackett’s unconvincing behaviour has subsequently done more to refocus the national gaze on the prolonged failings of Cabinet under Prime Minister Stuart than on the Queen’s College student who is presently preparing to fly to Bali, Indonesia. Khaleel Kothdiwala will represent Barbados at the World Schools Debating Championships in August this year. Given Blackett’s sordid judgement and erroneous condemnation, it may be best that Barbadians never again vote for Steve Blackett to sit in the House of Assembly.

With some pull back, although leaving it to interpretation, Minister Ronald Jones spoke and carefully suggested that he was not in Parliament “to condemn the 13-year-old youngster or the parents.” However, Jones did insist that “it was a bit unusual” to see outstanding teenagers take to the civic space afforded, given the politics of Barbados. The Minister of Education contended that Khaleel’s appearing on the stage of the political rally “would appear to be exploitative.” One can only hazard a guess as to the use or meaning of the term exploitative.

In fact, the DLP’s style of combining partisan invective with a redefinition of words and terms are by no means novel. So, as one moved away from the irate silliness invoked by Blackett, there was but short relief. Next came extreme pills of verbal bitterness from the MP for St. John. Mara Thompson; she contrived a display of feigned caring for the young. She may well have forgotten that her children were present and visible at many cat fights in and outside of the campaign trails in St. John and Barbados. Mara Thompson pompously cluttered in a level of ignorance that does not sit well with all those who became familiar with a teenaged David Thompson.

Damaging and inexcusable, Mara Thompson sunk to a vile low by disgracefully castigating the ‘childless’ females who are legitimate representatives of the people in their respective constituencies. In effect, Barbadians came full-face with Mara Thompson’s disdain for embracing reality. The public gallery saw upfront her insensitivity towards other women appearing not to be blessed with children of their own. Disgracefully, Thompson’s resentful tenor offended the youngest Member of Parliament. Thompson had to be scolded and reminded that her more fortunate electoral circumstances, practically guaranteed her a seat in the Assembly. Surely, such luck does not give Mara Thompson hegemony over other women in parliament or across the Barbadian landscape.

The damage was more implicit than explicit. Nonetheless, the hostile attempt to degrade the ‘Honourable’ women for being ‘childless’ is sufficiently vexing that Thompson ought never to be re-elected to the chamber. Regrettably, Thompson’s spineless spectacle reflected an attrition of goodwill. Her spiel of being ‘childless’ was too grave an insult to all the women in her constituency. It was very chilling for men that support the thousands of Barbadian women who never gave birth to a child. Yet, those women are known to have sacrificed in the interest of this nation’s children.

Moreover, the question must be asked whether Mara Thompson’s childless insult was yet another haughty proposition purporting that women need to have children to be complete human beings? I hope not, for that would be the height of ungratefulness to the Parliament and country. Clumsily, Thompson’s dishonourable behaviour happened while the DLP is busy erecting a self-determined moral high-ground. Nothing less than a public apology ought to be forthcoming, and it serves no purpose by repeating: “Mr. Speaker, I want you to stop looking at my daughters.”

(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a political consultant. Email: