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ONLY HUMAN: Oh, for a spark of hope!


Sanka Price

ONLY HUMAN: Oh, for a spark of hope!

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It’s all quiet on the political front in Barbados these days, with little of consequence being said by either of the major parties on the real day-to-day issues facing the average man and woman. Is it a truce, or the calm before the storm? Only time will tell.
A glance at what’s happening in Barbados does not leave one feeling hopeful about the future. For example, the cost of living remains high with food prices, especially, seemingly rising daily; jobs and employment opportunities are decreasing, while an air of uncertainty seems to be becoming pervasive.
Socially, there would appear to be a spike in violent crime and a general restlessness in the society, while the debate on same-sex marriages and gay rights has reinforced the strong religious and homophobic beliefs of Barbadians.
Interestingly, absent from the arguments against gays is the depth of sensitivity that should be forthcoming from Christians, who are supposed to be kind and understanding to their fellow human beings. The fire-and-brimstone condemnation has not been a successful strategy, yet it continues, driving people underground – on the down low – and putting women’s lives in danger.
As more young people become openly involved in this lifestyle and move away from the church, would it not be better to start a dialogue with gays? Clearly, the present strategy is not working.
Politically, within the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) – the supposed government in waiting – two of their parliamentarians, veteran George Payne and neophyte Edmund Hinkson, are at war. 
Now that documents have been filed in court, this matter is in the public domain, yet to date party leader Mia Mottley has said nothing on this divisive issue. This is not good enough.
Mottley needs to make a statement. She must explain to the public why we should have confidence in her party to lead Barbados when two members of her team can’t even get along.
The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government will certainly have a field day poking fun at this development in the BLP. Nothing is wrong with that.
However, Government would be better served by revealing to Barbadians how it will restructure the Public Service in a meaningful way to save money while preserving jobs. And how it intends to bring down the suffocating fiscal deficit by trimming expenses and trying to live within its means.
With National Heroes Day just gone, it is a good time to draw the attention of both parties to another concern – the folly of having two holidays to celebrate our national heroes – the other being Errol Barrow Day.
This issue was raised several years ago by late columnist and Inter-American Human Rights judge Oliver Jackman in relation to the celebration of National Heroes Day and Errol Barrow Day.
He noted that: “Mr Barrow’s unquestioned status as a national hero is now celebrated twice: once on his own birthday in his own right and again, in his capacity as a member of the pantheon of national heroes, on the birthday of Sir Grantley Adams, otherwise known as National Heroes Day.”
In other words, one day is celebrated by the DLP and the other by the BLP.
As has been seen through the years, the partisanship surrounding these holidays has been reflected in the manner in which both days are commemorated, depending on which party is in power.
How did we reach this point?
The record shows that a Parliament under the control of the DLP had resolved in June 1988 that January 21 should be designated as National Heroes Day and a public holiday in each year in tribute to Mr Barrow and every other person who was declared a National Hero of Barbados.
Although the DLP remained in office for another six years, it somehow did not manage to implement that resolution, which was tabled by the late David Thompson, in its entirety.
After the BLP was returned to office, it named the other National Heroes and designated the birthday of Sir Grantley as National Heroes Day.
Jackman warned that given the partisanship involved in the proclaiming of the days, inevitably one of the occasions would suffer a degree of devaluation. And that has happened.
The DLP and BLP should seek to remove these important symbols from partisanship by celebrating our National Heroes on one single day that is not the birth date of either of their icons. 
At a time, too, when Government has been trying to encourage greater national efficiency and higher productivity to spur economic growth, this bipartisan approach would send a signal to the public that both parties are serious about getting the economy and country moving again.
I guess I’m seeking a spark of hope amidst the gloom surrounding Barbados. I am not holding my breath, though.
• Sanka Price is a NATION editor.

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