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December 9th, 2017 will be celebrated globally as Anti-Corruption Day, which is an initiative spearheaded by the United Nations Convention.
Corruption is defined as “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery”. With this in mind, it becomes disheartening to discover that the legislation and tools to adequately investigate allegations of corruption are sorely lacking, as Barbados is relying on a 1929 Prevention of Corruption bill, which consists of nine pages, one being the cover page and two which are blank.
This becomes even more disappointing when one takes the following into consideration:
This up to date legislation has not only been viewed by scores of countries as necessary in the fight against corruption, but actions have been taking by several countries to investigate and prosecute cases of corruption!
I recently engaged on a mission to hit the streets of Bridgetown to gather the public’s viewpoint on corruption in Barbados and what we as ordinary citizens could do to minimize its occurrence. With my teammates in tow, as I am not well versed in the art of professional videography, we hit the streets and approached a large number of citizens for several hours, probing their interest in the subject.
Within the time spent soliciting answers, many of the responses either accompanied a look of disbelief as to the ludicrous nature of our query or confusion concerning what we were really asking, as some persons confessed that they did not know what corruption meant.
Many persons, once we fully explained our mission, stated ardently that there was nothing that we could do to fight corruption in Barbados. Almost every person that chose to answer stated that they believed that corruption was present to varying degrees; however, they considered talking about it to be a waste of time as it is a problem at the top that our leaders were unwilling to fix, and as citizens, our role to facilitate change was non-existent.
When probed to share their views for the camera, many persons looked at me with a look that clearly indicated the level of madness they thought I was operating with. Some laughed and stated emphatically that they were either afraid that someone would “come after them” for airing their views or that they were camera shy.
Although we have known for years that Barbadians tend to lean on the side of passivity when it comes to action, it was still disheartening to see the look of genuine fear on their faces, fear of the persons that they elected and consider to be their leaders. The idea was that sharing a view that corruption in Barbados existed but there is a feeling of helplessness to reduce it, elicited a feeling that they, or their families, would be attacked or that some form of retribution would be extracted for making these statements.
But where does this fear come from? And how legitimate is it?
The answer to this question is likely rooted in a history steeped with many issues that this blog is unfortunately unable to tackle in one article. However, there are many noted historians such as Sir Hilary Beckles and many others that have delved into these topics, with written work such as A History of Barbados: From Amerindian Settlement to Caribbean Single Market.
Although I am thankful for the few Barbadians that were willing to cast aside their fears and contribute to the fight against corruption, I am hoping that December 9th will bring a more educated view point as to what corruption means, the impact it has on the citizens of this country and what we as ordinary citizens can do to make real changes against the culture of acceptance and inevitability.
Click here for more information on Anti-Corruption day.