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SEEN UP NORTH: Speaking up ‘is the answer’

marciadottin, [email protected]

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Coleen Brathwaite has lived longer in the United States than in Barbados, where she was born and raised.
Still, the suburban mother of two teenage daughters has retained her Bajan accent, keeps her fingers on the country’s pulse and frequently attends Bajan gatherings in New York.
So it didn’t come as a surprise when the corporate executive attending the recent town hall meeting held in Brooklyn by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley and three of her Barbados Labour Party (BLP) parliamentary colleagues, asked: why the exceedingly poor performance of the nation’s legal system?
Mottley, once Attorney General, insisted that the legal system was at a virtual standstill.
“Literally, the court system has ground to a halt,” she replied. “Anybody in Barbados who has to go to court today gets an instant headache because of how bad it is to move things through the system.
“We are committed and know that unless you get the system right, you [adversely] affect the investment climate. You affect the ability of people to move.”
Desmond Sands, an attorney and BLP’s losing candidate in Christ Church East-Central in last February’s General Election, saw it this way: the problem has to do with the administration of the legal system.
“Clearly, it needs overhauling,” he added.
When Mottley had completed her extensive overview of the country’s economic and social plight, she concluded, “Barbados in trouble”.
And to solve it, the island needed “all hands on deck”, adding that Bajans overseas were essential to the much-needed resuscitation effort.
Hence, the party’s thrust to “rub shoulders” with the diaspora to hear views, how people feel and what to do next.
 Sonia Forde, who lives in New York, wanted to know how Barbadians abroad could help.
Mottley’s answer was straightforward: “I want you to raise your voices. I want you to use your pens. I want you to stand up and say what you are seeing and how you feel about it. I want you not to be just a spectator, but an activist for your country’s development.”
Archie Miller, a well known entertainer and recording artiste, asked if she could unite the BLP.
“Before the last Election, Owen Arthur approached me and asked me to work with him and I worked with him,” she said.
“I put aside my difficulties as he put aside his difficulties. We worked together. I don’t accept that we went into the Election as a divided party because we worked together.”
When asked about crime, Trevor Prescod, a former Minister of Social Transformation who won the St Michael East seat once again, linked poverty and crime, saying some people were “stealing things” to get food to eat.
“When you see an increase in crime, you are seeing the result of trying economic times.”
On the issue of poverty, Dwight Sutherland, St George South’s new representative in the House, insisted that both the poor and the middle class were under threat because of the country’s poor economic condition, complaining that “we are seeing an escalating inability of people to pay for electricity and water because of skyrocketing rates” and Government policy.
“People are suffering because of the Government’s energy-pricing policy,” he declared.
A question was also asked about the health care system. Mottley said the major problem was Government’s inability to provide the Queen Elizabeth Hospital with the funds it needs.
About garbage disposal and the recent fire at B’s Recycling in St Thomas, Cynthia Forde, MP for that area, said decisions were being made without sufficient thought to people’s lives.
Jessica Odle Baril, once Barbados’ Consul General in New York, chaired the meeting.
Also present were Patricia Parris, an aide to the Opposition Leader, and former Senator Rudy Grant.