Battling the Barbados news media: Part One

“If you keep silent, can’t touch you!”

by poeticjazztice (Junior Campbell)

I wrote the following news story in 2005 but could not find a local media house willing to publish it. I eventually “sold” it to a Barbadian journalist who was resident in Antigua. I publish it here in the hope that it reaches the wider Barbadian, Caribbean and international audience for which it was intended. Since the return of the Democratic Labour Party to power in 2008, Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford (photo above) has become the island’s ambassador to China.

“Worst than a common criminal!”

This is how former Prime Minister of Barbados Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford says he was treated by fellow Parliamentarians when he was removed from office by a no-confidence vote in 1994.

Sir Lloyd was speaking in Bridgetown on Thursday (in 2005) at a symposium entitled “Mighty Men Meeting – My Challenges, My Conquests”.  The event is a pioneering initiative, jointly spotlighting secular and religious leaders whose lives may serve as an inspiration to other men.  Organized by a local evangelical church, Faith Temple Assembly, the project marks a significant departure from the “cocooned”, conventional fare of evangelical Christian pulpits.

Sandiford’s comments stood out in an otherwise “measured” presentation, marked by several biblical citations and allusions.   In an apparently unplanned shift from the sermonizing style that predominated, he assumed a more personal, pained tone, as he defended his record of leadership.  He began…

“I am Afraid of no charge against me!  Everything I have done in my public life has been done on the basis of principle!  And when you stand on principle, the courts of the world may punish you.”

One of the lengthy pauses in speech that were a focus of harsh criticism during his tenure as Prime Minister followed.  Then Sir Lloyd continued, “Just as the Parliament of Barbados punished me!  Treated me worst than a common criminal!”  The modest audience of about forty, mostly male participants, was hushed.  “Nobody else is treated in that manner,” he resumed.  He said even criminals are treated with more regard.

Sandiford also said that no one has defended him against the treatment he received.  He said, “And people sit back and keep quiet about it!  Not the church!  Not the teachers!  Nobody!  Not those who say you – your friends – they are your friends!  Not one word is spoken!”  Then, hinting perhaps at an element of intimidation generated by the ruling Barbados Labour Party’s popularity – or perhaps, at the influence of those in his own Democratic Labour Party who supported the no-confidence motion against him – he virtually whispered: “If you keep silent, can’t touch you!”

Regaining his composure somewhat, Sandiford resumed his biblical focus.  “Christ carried the cross mostly alone.  We have to bear it!  Alone!” he exclaimed.  He then said “So we must not only read the Bible but draw the conclusions from it and try to fashion our lives among the best examples we can find.”

Barbados Workers Union General Secretary Bobby Morris would probably not claim biblical inspiration for his conclusions, but he seems to be fundamentally in agreement with Sir Lloyd.  Speaking to CMC on Sunday, he said “I was part of Parliament when that shameful episode in our history took place.  What made it worst for me is that as a student of history, especially of the political history of Barbados, I could find no parallel of a Prime Minister being virtually impeached in the highest “court” of the land – and in a situation where one could not be sure whether that “court” was acting in a civil or criminal jurisdiction; where the substance of the charges being prosecuted were in doubt.”

Morris said “Since natural justice requires the laying of charges of some breach, what law did he break?  Did he breach financial rules?  Did he breach the Constitution?  Did he break any law of Barbados, that anyone could cite definitively, a code he breached.  If it was in a court of law, charges would have to be laid; experts would appear for the prosecution or defence.  Sandiford’s trial was equivalent to a political lynching by his opponents and some of those in his party, who acted more on personality than principle.”

He said some day a historian will unmask the conspiracy that led to this unprecedented occurrence in Barbadian history, which could never have happened with the white oligarchy that controlled the country, some of whom were part of the conspiracy. “And”, Morris added, “would probably never happen with the Barbados Labour Party”.

Morris also said Sandiford was not a dealer, or a compromiser, but a man of principle, not afraid to make hard decisions.  “At the same time”, he continued, “he placed too much trust and confidence in persons who could be compromised.  It is a pity that those who fought him tooth and nail can now praise the effect of his policies.  Those who fought wage restraint now support it.  The social partnership is now based on wage restraint.  Public servants now settle for 3%.  13 years ago, under Sandiford they did not want to accept the rationale of an adverse economic situation; they fought him.  Those fighting selling the family silver through privatisation and other strategies are now silent.”

Morris went on to list a series of issues, including water outages, illegal drugs, garbage disposal, and the execution of prisoners which, “Under Sandi”, according to him, “were blown out of proportion.”  “Additionally”, he said, “the press was free then: it is not now.”

Prominent regional journalist Rickey Singh has been living in Barbados for several years and covered the events of 1994.  He may share some of Morris’ concern about press freedom in Barbados today.  His view of Sandiford’s comments differ though.  Noting that it is difficult to comment on “such a personal reaction by Sir Lloyd” at a meeting he did not attend, he told CMC “My own very personal view about a political development that occurred ten years ago is that it is most surprising for a politician of the experience and stature of Sir Lloyd to place such an anguished, emotional response and to appear to be so bitter over it in 2005. I also think it was most unfortunate that some of his DLP colleagues should have joined the BLP in what was in effect a coup against a lawfully elected government that Sandiford headed.”

Caribbean politics have been evolving in ways that have probably taken many observers by surprise.  To Sandiford’s political demise, we could add the recent “prisonerization” (voluntary incarceration) of former Trinidadian Prime Minister Basdeo Panday, the “dislocation” of the perennial Bird regime in Antigua and other developments that in one way or another are stripping the leaders of these post-colonial societies of their elitist aura of “untouchability”.  Could these developments be a sign that our fledging democracies are coming of age?

This article was originally published at Poeticjazztice’s Weblog as Sandiford still feels sting

4 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Corruption, Culture & Race Issues, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption

4 responses to “Battling the Barbados news media: Part One

  1. As one who actually marched against some of Sandiford’s economic policies; I am always quick to admit that he was correct and I think that history has already been kind to him in this regard.
    In terms of the no-confidence motion, he seriously offended several of his ministers and other parliamentarians. As he then said: “Something had to give”, and he then was forced to call a general election, that the D.L.P could not win and as we all say: The rest is history.

  2. Anonymous Numero Uno

    @caribman. Not as simple as that. Sandi had the country in a mess. All this talk about his policies were eventually proved correct……..what he did was akin to setting your house alight and then calling the fire service…….or pushing a man who can’t swim into the careenage, and then calling the life guard.

  3. Tom's Sun

    Barbadians are not stupid and they say ‘Start wrong. End wrong’.

    Sandiford started out as PM against the background of rumours and accusations that no voting was done among the DLP parliamentarians to appoint him. However, it is known for sure that there was a vote among his DLP parliamentarians which finally helped to remove him! Political justice was served!

    I hold no brief for any political party in Barbados and I agree with George Lamming who recently assserted that the political party is the bedrock of corruption in Barbados.

    As for Sandiford, here are some facts which reached the public in Barbados:

    1. Errol Barrow, after assuming the office of PM in 1986 highlighted the scourge of illegal drugs as one of the most serious problems facing Barbados. Barrow proceeded to set up a Drug Squad. Sandiford replaced Barrow after his death in 1987 and immediately declared that ‘illegal drugs’ was not a problem in Barbados. He disbanded the Drug Squad. Not surprisingly, drugs washed in from Venezuela in a government pouch, and the Diplomatic Dope scandal was revealed to the Barbadian electorate. Last Year, Freundel Stuart as Attorney General declared that the drug problem in Barbados has become so pervasive that it cannot be solved.

    2. Sandiford proved to be an untrustworthy liar.

    Just before the 1991 election, he declared to the nation that the economy was sound. He proceeded to spend millions of dollars as an election gimmick to keep his administration in office. As soon as the elections were over, he bragged to David Ellis in an interview that the economy was on the verge of collapse but there was no way he was going to ‘commit political suicide’ by telling Bajans the truth. Soon after that, the IMF was hurriedly called in.

    3.He insisted that a woman who was not selected to be a member of the Board of Tourism be admitted to board meetings. Minister after Minister of Tourism wouldn’t allow it and they were swiftly replaced. To justify his actions, Sandiford bragged on TV that they were ‘diametrically opposed’ to him; that ‘they were adamant’ and he was adament, so ‘something had to give’. This forced the affected ministers of his government to oppose his assertions ‘on principle’ and to demonstrate that they had ‘no confidence’ in him through a vote in the House of Assembly. He deserved what he got.

    4.Finally, everyone knew Sandiford as a teacher. As soon as he became PM he declared himself to be a political scientist! His political “science” led him down a path of destruction and humiliation. It also started the DLP on a course of implosion, the effects of which are becoming evident to every Bajan voter today.

  4. watchman

    “a series of issues, including water outages, ………….. “Under Sandi”, ……., “were blown out of proportion.”

    In response to the original report/article, please be notified that the situation in Orange Hill/Apes Hill Development, St. James, where residents were termed by one journalist as “water rebels”, was a fact of life. For 21 consecutive days residents had no water in their taps.

    It was only after protests and delivering of a petition to the BWA that it was admitted that the pump pushing water up hill from Lancaster to Apes Hill/Orange Hill was too small to do the job. History might show, that these were the first group of residents to receive a rebate on their water bills. A connection was made to Castle Grant to bring water from the east and a large storage tank has been put in place to serve the, now 4, communities/developments.

    This article has, however, prompted a question. Is it possible that this situation was deliberately worsened and exploited by someone who was targetting the former Prime Minister?