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Civil society leaders score election victories

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Congrats to the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in Barbados for its upset of the 13-year rule of Owen Arthur’s Barbados Labour Party (DLP). The two-to-one drubbing of Arthur’s “long-in-the-tooth” administration is certainly a wake-up call to all Caribbean governments not to take their people for granted. By Caribbean standards, Arthur had not at all performed badly and he has been able to win the affection of large numbers across the Caribbean, if not in Barbados. He may, according to him, have “done his best”. The reality is that where the Bajan people are concerned, his best just was “not good enough”. {{more}}In a rapidly changing technological world, expectations are rising rapidly, even to the extent of our people sometimes having “champagne tastes” but “mauby change pockets”.

The sad thing is that our political parties, governments and opposition alike, fuel these expectations to sometimes unrealistic levels. It is only when they find themselves back up against the wall that they either try to implore us to grant them some understanding or even hit out in frustration at our failure to do so. If Owen and Barbados, with a much higher standard of living than many of its neighbours, can fail, then who else will not?

My personal congrats are to two victorious long-standing civil society leaders in Barbados for their electoral triumphs. Christopher Sinckler, a colleague of mine and Executive Co-ordinator of the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) beat Clyde Mascoll in one the most high-profile contests. Mascoll was once leader of the DLP and had defected to Arthur’s BLP, pampered with a Ministry, and even promoted as co-leader on the virtual eve of election. All this did not save him, and Chris took 55 per cent of the vote, and the seat. He will be remembered by Vincentians for his collaboration with WINFA on trade issues, including bananas and the EPA. Sinckler was one of the feature speakers at the OXFAM-WINFA-CPDC rally on the EPA at Calliaqua last August. His vigour, intelligence, capability and commitment will be valuable assets to the new administration.

Those in the farmers movement, like me, will be delighted at the triumph of a veteran champion of farmers rights, James Paul of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS). Paul has been relentless in his pursuit of meaningful farmer-led agricultural development in the region. But his pleas have largely fallen on deaf ears as our politicians look in a different direction. It is only now when we are all feeling the impact of high food prices that people are beginning to bawl to high heavens. Now Paul will be a part of the new administration, we expect to see the impact of his input, and that of Sinckler, in at least shifting Barbados policy focus in a more positive direction.

WHAT A PARTY!

What a pity that the leadership of the Teachers’ Union seemed to put the cart before the horse in taking a two-day “rest and reflect” industrial action, right after the three-week Christmas break. Sure, the Union will no doubt have many genuine complaints, but was it a case of taking action too soon, before all possible channels of resolution had been exhausted. To its credit, it has demonstrated the maturity to resume discussions on the outstanding issues of the complicated reclassification process. All along, they must have known that this was going to be a difficult exercise, especially in trying to please all, and it is almost inevitable that as in all restructuring exercises there will be those dissatisfied at the end.

A pity, too, that even from a governmental level, a balanced message has not always come across, leading some to believe that the reclassification will uplift all. Looking forward to common sense and rationality in resolving the dispute.

That rationality seems to be sadly missing from the writings of one columnist in a weekly newspaper. A couple weeks ago I read a disgusting, vitriolic attack on the Cuban Ambassador, Her Excellency Olga Chamorro Trias. The article not only accused her of interfering in Vincentian affairs, but went on to make some of the most backward anti-communist statements not seen in the Vincentians press since the days of the early eighties when Reagan was still in office and there was an imagined communist under every bed.

In support of the ridiculous allegation, the writer gave as justification the Cuban Ambassador’s attendance at a ULP Women’s Arm Convention, charging that if she went there, she should go to those of the other parties as well. He could only mean that of the NDP since there is no other party convention to attend. I cannot speak for Ambassador Trias, but I am sure that she would be happy to attend, if invited. Has the NDP done so? The Taiwanese Ambassador is invited to, and attends, functions of both political parties. How can you blame the Cuban Ambassador when ideological blinkers and plain dotishness obscure the thinking and openness of others?

To think that this sort of diatribe comes from a person in a senior position in a regional institution of higher learning is most frightening. It displays crass ignorance of modern day affairs and a mind devoid of all rationality. Since it makes no sense asking him to do so, I profer an apology to Ambassador Trias on behalf of all decent-minded Vincentian people who are, and will remain, friends of Cuba. As for the other nonsense I will not dignify with a reply.

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