Barbados Forward – What Is It? Who Are They?
On Monday evening Barbados Free Press received the following email and attached ‘manifesto’ from unknown people calling themselves “Barbados Forward”. We are not going to reveal the email address it came from except to say that it appears to originate in Barbados.
We’re not sure if Barbados Forward is the name of a group, or the name of the attached ‘manifesto’. We call the document a ‘manifesto’ because we don’t know what else to call it and the people who sent it to us only call it “Barbados Forward”. The document almost seems to be the blueprint for a political party’s policies, but there is no mention that Barbados Forward is or intends to become a political party. Perhaps the people behind it are already associated with a political party? They don’t say so, but who knows.
So… we’re not sure exactly what we have here, but it is an interesting read.
The Barbados Forward manifesto proposes various changes to our laws and asks that the government and the opposition band together to introduce these changes BEFORE the next election.
One of the proposals is that all politicians and other people guilty of previous corrupt behaviour are to be given amnesty, and be allowed to keep their wealth – and I am not sure I like that at all.
Never mind that though. The writers of Barbados Forward ask that we post the document on Barbados Free Press for all to comment upon – to improve it.
Ok. Fair enough, but we’d like to know more about the people behind Barbados Forward. We are always curious!
Here is the letter that they emailed, and then the ‘manifesto’…
We’re Ato, Erle and Grace. Been reading you lately. We like are no sticky wicket and let everyone take a swing at the ball fair and square. We need more voices like that here on the Island. We been drinking our rum crying about the Windies going down talking about rebuilding for next Cricket World Cup. Got it all figured out. Our side need some new ideas and players, for sure.
Then we thought yeah same thing like Barbados and all the bad things happening these days. We need some new ideas and players too before it go down.
What we’re asking is if you’ll run our ideas. We’re calling it BARBADOS FORWARD cause looking back on the way we are now is not happy. Let’s hear from your readers about how to improve it. We’ll come back later with an update. Maybe send it over to the thinking people at UWI law faculty because we figure they study this kind of thing and can make it more legal sounding..
Way we see it Barbados is the story of the frog in a pot of water. Put that frog in boiling water and it will jump right out. But put it in cold water and slowly raise the temperature it won’t notice till it’s cooked.
Here in Barbados the government, administration and friends have been the cooks. We people are the frogs, pretty well cooked but never saw it coming cause it was so gradual. Moral underlie of the country slipped away from us down a road paved with good intentions. Lots of bit promises but bad things doing. A little money ends up in a pocket here, a little favor for a friend there, and careens crazy out of control. Before you know it the cooks be feasting on frogs legs, which happen to be ours. No good, that.
Who’s to blame? We all are, cooks and frogs. Made it happen, allowed it to happen. We say right now is time to turn off the stove and do a fix ‘em up before the whole island is frog soup.
BE IT STATED THAT BARBADOS is in need of updating of its way of doing business.
AND THEREFORE the people of BARBADOS now state that it is the manifest will of the common people that the following laws need to be enacted at the earliest opportunity. We call upon the government and opposition parties to join together to pass these laws in advance of calling an election so that the new parliament will be ready willing and able to begin operating in a new regime.
I. CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Barbados needs clear headed leadership. This cannot happen if elected officials or government employees are looking first to how much they can personally profit from a decision and then secondly to whether it is the right thing to do for Barbados.
The new law will be that no elected official or government employee shall be involved in any transaction where they or their families will receive a financial benefit.
The underlying premise is that each newly elected official will declare all personal and family assets and then do it every year while in office.
II. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAWS
Government to set up and maintain a web site ‘Barbados Information Website’ or BIW. Fill it up with all the information they have that we want to know. A Bajan need only ask if not there and it gets posted or the reason why not will get posted. (An independent person will be appointed to decide if the reason is valid and override it if it is not.).
III. TENDER AND DISCLOSURE OF GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS
All government contracts must be put out for tender with details posted on the BIW at least 30 days prior. When it is signed the name of the contractors who bid as well as who won the bid must be posted along with a copy of the final contract..
The objective of government procurement contracting is to acquire goods and services, including construction services, in a manner that enhances access, competition and fairness and results in best value.
IV. FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Politicians and civil servants are fair game for criticism in pamphlets, web sites and the press. Voters are pretty smart and if they think a politician got the shaft because of this they will not be fooled..
Politicians and civil servants work for the country and should be able to take criticism graciously. If the criticism if wrong never fear because the new freedom of information laws will give them a way to give out the truth.
For private citizens it is a bit different. If someone says something or prints something you don’t like you do two things: say it ain’t true and demand an apology. If they won’t then we’ll have a tribunal to decide who was right and their decision is final. No lawyers allowed. Maximum penalty is $5,000 and the tribunal’s finding gets published.
The result, and it will fix a lot of things, will be no more intimidation and harassment and collecting big money just because someone speaks wrongly or hurts your feelings. You have a forum to fight back and obtain redress but not at the expense of shutting down what people need to know.
Note: It is important for everyone to remember that this is a small island and what goes around comes around so people tend to be circumspect and polite in what they publish but if something needs to be said Bajans need to hear it. We have watched BFP reader comments and see lively but polite discussion on all sides of an issue. That is the way it has to be.
V. PUBLIC DEMONSTRATIONS
If a demonstration, political or not, is peaceful there is no need to get a permit as long as it is only at a few locations such as Independence Square, Parliament Buildings, Prime Minister’s Office, Parks, Church squares, but no more having to get a permit from the police “in case it might tie up traffic”. (We don’t think a demonstration could make it much worse than it already is!)
If the people of Barbados want to deliver a message they can and should get out and let their politicians and press know they are concerned. Errol Barrow’s new statue would certainly be a good audience to applaud his people showing their care about the things that affect their lives.
VI. ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS AND CREATION OF NATIONAL PARKS
Environmental and no-pollution laws to keep our water, air, land clean . Laws that enable government to require clean ups and fine polluters. People harmed by pollution can sue for the damage to their own property..
National Park creation in Barbados is overdue before the best lands and opportunities slip away. We need at least three big parks and many little ones. We see one in the North of at least 200 acres, one in the south of 200 acres, and a smaller one on a coast that will preserve beachfront. (There are several very good candidates for this). All in all this will freeze part of our lands, flora and fauna, for enjoyment and forever.
VII. LAND USE
Land use shall be guided exclusively by the land use plans passed at least every five years by parliament. Special exceptions may be granted only by act of parliament.
All expropriated lands shall be paid for within one year or returned to owner.
All expropriated lands not used within five years of expropriation (for the use for which it was expropriated) shall be returned to owner who may keep amount previously paid.
VIII. AUDITOR GENERAL
That job and its budget will be independent of interference with access to all government records so it can go wherever it needs to track down information. It can also look where government has loaned or granted money. Autonomy is the key.
IX.. CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE
The magical tricks (now you see it now you don’t) have to stop. Barbados’ constitution is too important to leave to whims and abrupt changes. No more changes to the constitution except under strict guidelines of 6 months advance notice, public debate and study, supermajority vote (75% in both houses) or by referendum.
X. JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE
We recognize that judges used to be lawyers and maybe politicians. Judges appointed for life. Full disclosure of assets required to know and control conflicts. For five years they cannot sit on a case where a former associate is arguing or a former client is involved. Pay them well and even a BMW every now and then is fine. Give them complete independence, though, by creating a committee of one judge, two laymen, one representative of each political party to set their salaries and pensions. It will be a serious crime for a politician or anyone else to try to influence a judge’s decision. A judge will lose his job and pension found to have allowed to be influenced in making a judicial decision.
XI. WHISTLE BLOWER LAWS
In five years time, when the new laws are operating, we will then need whistle blower laws. Society is too complex and spread around to expect that all dirty deeds will eventually come to the surface unless there is protection for those who report and a modest financial reward for doing so.
XII. TERM LIMITS
Without in any way judging past leaders it is important that new ideas and people are encouraged to step forward as leaders. Therefore no one may remain as a minister of a government portofolio, including prime minister, for more than 8 years. (The Yanks figured this out in the last century. Nothing good happens after a leader is in power for 8 years)
We talked a lot about this one and figure it will cause the most ruckus. But we see that the fastest way to fix things up is to forgive and forget. That means existing politicians can look forward and not hold things up because of things done in the past. So all past sinners and saints stop on one day and we start afresh with these new rules. If they don’t like the new rules they can get out now without looking back.
XIV. ELECTORAL INTEGRITY
We figure it is too late to fix this for the next election but right after that a committee of one judge as chairman, an elected representative from each party, and three laypersons to deliver a new law within a year to be passed within two years. It will create limits for contributions, expand disclosure and create public funds to support each person who is running. Once implemented the sanctions for disobeying will be severe e.g. disqualification from public office, jail or fine. Tough yes but protecting the voting process is a fundamentally important matter for democracy.
(published draft version 1)