Why protest action is failing

Key actors in Civil Society, including significant political opposition, must come together to engineer successful protest action in a Barbados space.

The late General Secretary of the BWU and support team

The attempts by Caswell Franklyn of Unity Workers Union and others to galvanize protest action by Barbadians is commendable. In a democracy the opportunity for citizens to exercise a right to protest must be protected. History is replete with many examples where protest action by civic minded citizens forced change from those targeted.

One of the biggest protest actions in Barbados was the march in 1981 led by a powerful Barbados Workers Union (BWU) to protest the sacking of David Gilkes by BARTEL. In 2017 there was the BLP led march that attracted thousands to signal to an incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) its increasing unpopularity.

Continue reading

Putting Up a Resistance

Submitted by Heather Cole

During and after the 2016 general elections in the USA, there were allegations of the undermining of the electoral process, conspiracy theories, scandals, computer hacks by Russia and fake news. The linkages in all of these stories are that they have exposed a threat to democracy in the USA. It is now self-evident that even the most solid democracy was not prepared for such an onslaught which easily circumvented the law to allow for changes in norms, traditions, customs and rules to create the Trump Administration.

The circumstances under which the 45th President of the USA was elected left many persons in shock. Just as they were coming to terms with that shock, a spate of executive orders from the new president and the confirmation of candidates who are not only in direct contradiction with their new leadership roles but also lack experience, have added to the shock factor.

The shock factor has been both good and bad. Many people have become more politically aware. The volume of attendance at Anti Trump demonstrations makes a strong claim that the majority of the people are putting up a resistance to Fascism in government. Groups have popped up all over the country, in every state and town to oppose the direction that they believe the government is headed. The networks are flooded with news both for and against the new Administration. Countless petitions have appeared online which also oppose the government and lest one forgets those angry town hall meetings. The people have been asserting their democratic right to protest. However, the level of stress has risen, undocumented immigrants now live in a state of fear of deportation, there is a Muslim ban of immigrants from selected countries, relations with some foreign countries are at an all-time low, there is a lack of trust of the Trump Administration and division in the country is along party lines. Making America great again is not off to a good start. The best hope for impeachment seem to be after the 2018 midterm elections.

Likewise in Barbados, the present administration also came to power in the midst of shady circumstances. There were no stories of meetings with Russian spies but there was the buying of votes which in essence makes it a fact that the electoral results were fraudulent. This constitutes an undermining of the democratic process and was the enabler for the administration to do as it pleased as it was a forgone conclusion that if the people did nothing about the election results, the party could get pass them with anything. In other words they did not have to be accountable to the people. There was no response by the people to this shock factor.

Fast forward to the present with the island in a state of economic turmoil having received its 18th economic downgrade from Standard and Poor’s, since the coming to power of this Democratic Labour Party Administration.

In a direct contradiction to what has happened in the US, the people of Barbados have remained passive. Resistance by the people has not come to light in Barbados. Enshrined in the Constitution is the right to protest but despite massive loss of jobs, homes, businesses and investments and the over burden of taxation, the widening deficit, increasing debt and constant downgrades there has been no such action on the people’s part. There is no Betsy Devos yet Barbadians have been denied access to public education at the UWI. There is no Scott Pruitt yet the government was hell bent on building a plasma gasification plant to destroy the environment and Barbadians. We however have Chris Sinckler, the Minister of Finance and Delisle Worrell the Governor of the Central Bank who created the perfect conditions to breed downgrades causing the economy to self-destruct. There must be a reaction to this 18th downgrade; it is a shock factor.

I have witnessed the effects of the devaluation of the dollar on the Guyanese economy and it was not pretty. Every street in Georgetown was filled with beggars from the most vulnerable to able bodied men. Not enough food is grown in Barbados to provide for the population. What will happen if we run out of foreign reserves to buy food or pay for oil and gas? Will the entire island be a reflection of what is currently happening in Caracas, Venezuela? One wonders how long our junk bond status will affect our capacity to borrow. Will it be 10, 20 or 30 years? This nightmare is our reality.

It is the opposition Barbados Labour Party that is leading the fight against policies and results of the Freundel Stuart dictatorship. Some are of an opinion that a protest march will achieve nothing. One can also be of the opinion that the strength in numbers can play a significant role in demanding that the Prime Minister whose only act now seems to be in delivering disingenuous speeches; would not only fire the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank but that he will also resign and call an election.

Recently, the renowned journalist Dan Rather stated that “everyone who normalizes Mr. Trump now or has in the past, will have to answer to future generations for acquiescence, silence or sophistry- if, indeed, not outright cowardice.” The same can be said of the majority Barbadians who have normalized the present Democratic Labour Party Administration.

In the final analysis, it is about time the people put up a resistance. It was in reference to some of us that Dan Rather also said “we love our country too much to let it falter without a fight.” I can therefore only urge every Barbadian and resident of Barbados that despite your political affiliation for the common good of the island to join the march on Saturday March 11, 2017 against the present administration; that they step down from power and provide the electorate with an opportunity to provide a new mandate for the creation of a better Barbados that they failed to deliver. We need to make Barbados great again and along with a new mandate from the people must be an amended Constitution that provides the people with the power of recall.