Do what’s right, Mr Jones!
It is often said that among the three things which cannot be recalled is the spent word and, in a similar context, we are told that the power of life and death lies in the tongue. Those who earn their living by uttering the spoken word are therefore very often urged to think before speaking.
We have no doubt that Minister of Education Ronald Jones would be familiar with such words of advice and as a person whose professional experiences would bring him frequently in contact with younger and less experienced heads than his own, he would no doubt have dispensed that very advice on occasion.
Yet on Tuesday last he delivered himself of remarks in the House of Assembly which cause us to wonder about the wisdom of delivering such powerfully aimed language with such explosive potential, unless he is in possession of material which would justify in the clearest manner the kind of comments made. In which case, he should tell us what this material is.
This country has a clean and enviable record of democratic traditions in which freedom of speech has been responsibly exercised and in which Barbadians have been known to abhor any contemplation of action other than peaceful and constructive assertions of their democratic rights. Therefore, any suggestion of the kind that the honourable minister made is likely to shock the sensibilities of even the toughest among us.
Sir Wilfred Wood, the retired Barbadian cleric, a former Bishop of Croydon in England, who gave such distinguished service in Britain in the cause of the improvement of relations between the host and immigrant communities, and a man of vast experience in public affairs, has called on the minister to apologize. He found the language of the minister“quite chilling”.
This country’s reputation for a responsible, stable and democratic way of life has been earned over the past 70 years by Barbadians whose parents emerged from the bowels of the 1937 Riots when it became absolutely necessary for the masses to rise up and assert their rights against the weight of the oppressive colonialist regime. No such event has since been seen in our country.
In the early 1990s the people felt obliged to peacefully march against the government of the day and they did so within the four corners of the law and the point was duly made. That is our way and it is the way of democracy.
Cabinet ministers have heavy responsibilities and they are accorded great respect for the major work which they do in the public interest, but the most important part of their job is to hold our freedom in their hands.
This language about “cracking heads” and shooting people is “anti-freedom” and “unministerial”, and as Bishop Wood reminds us, “in some other places this would be a matter of resignation, but I don’t suppose it will happen here”.
We think it should happen here. The minister should do the right thing.