On January 17, 2006 Barbados Free Press hit the internet calling for integrity, transparency and accountability in Barbados government. That was five years ago today and since then we’ve published over 4,000 articles and seen our readers contribute almost 100,000 comments. In 2011, BFP will welcome our 10 millionth visitor.
Over the years we’ve seen our articles picked up by major news outlets like CNN, Fox, The New York Times, BBC, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Sky News and, yes, even the India Times. That makes for some fun and doubly so when the article is about corrupt politicians, land grabs and abuses of power. With over 4,000 articles online, you can’t Google search for anything relating to Barbados without coming across a BFP article somewhere, often in the first few returns.
Sometimes we feel like failures because nothing has really changed in five years. We were lied to by Owen Arthur and the BLP, who promised changes, transparency, accountability and integrity. Then we were lied to by David Thompson and the DLP who promised changes, transparency, accountability and integrity. This week we’re being lied to in St. John.
It is still legal in Barbados for elected and appointed public officials to award contracts to their own companies, spouses and relatives. It is still legal in Barbados for elected and appointed public officials to receive gifts of any value from persons doing business with the government. We expect our politicians to become rich in office, and mostly we accept it. Owen Arthur gives US$100,000 to a cricket charity and most folks don’t even think about how much wealth it takes to give away that kind of after-tax money.
There are no laws about campaign financing and anything goes.
Whether it’s money from Cuba, China or some big offshore company, politicians never have to acknowledge the source of their money or account for it. As we’ve seen, even a Prime Minister can take a huge “campaign donation” and shove it into his personal bank account with zero repercussions.
There is no transparency. There is no freedom of information. You have no right to know where your tax dollars are spent.
Each change of government only brings new piggies to the trough – it doesn’t change a thing. When the DLP came to power they soon forgot their promises to hold corrupt BLP officials to account. Dodds Prison? VECO’s gifts to members of the BLP government? Hey… David Thompson and the DLP didn’t want to hear about it and never asked the FBI for the evidence. Same thing with Hardwood Holdings, Hotels and Resorts and all those companies that supply to the government through middlemen and “sourcing consultants” in Miami and New York.
There is only one political party in Barbados
Think about it folks: Thompy made a big deal about Owen Arthur putting “campaign donations” into a personal bank account, but upon becoming Prime Minister, Thompson appointed Owen Arthur to monitor international elections for corruption! Like we say… there’s only one political party on this little rock and you’re either a member or you’re not. David Thompson (rest his soul, truly) was a member and so is Owen Arthur. Same party, maybe more like a cartel.
The Barbados news media remain extremely selective in what they will (or can) report so it’s up to citizens to carry the flag until folks wise up.
Political financing reform would be a start, but as Dr. Duguid says, the BLP and DLP politicians will never implement Integrity Legislation – so fat chance of getting them to vote for accountability in political financing!
Sorry to write such a downer piece for our fifth birthday party, but we’re going to have to work much harder to make Barbados a better place for our children.
Marcus, Shona, George, Robert, Cliverton and Auntie Moses