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THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: Act in the public interest

Antoinette Connell

THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: Act in the public interest

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A very curious thing occurred last week.
Several organisations united to take aim at a single mark.
It was an unusual alliance within the landscape of the island but one which seems to come about only when there is a severe financial problem, thus the situation cuts across social and political lines, touching the big and small.   
That last week’s lined-up target was the Government was not surprising; this is usually the case. That may chiefly be because as a single large entity, it is responsible for enacting wholesale or bits of legislation that have the ability to greatly affect many aspects of people’s lives.
Government’s reach stretches from the backyards to the boardrooms, from the infant to the elderly. An organisation having that kind of range and great power must also have a sense of great responsibility. That has its own pitfalls. One of these must be that you will automatically carry a bull’s eye on your back.
Some of the accusations will be justified, and last week’s case may well be counted among that batch. The Barbados Bar Association, Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association united and on the same day against the contentious municipal solid waste tax recently introduced by the authorities. The cries over the tax have been many.
The Barbados Labour Party also spoke up but on matters concerning the Government – political motives are always assigned be it so or not. But the collective voice of the other three and particularly the Bar’s proposed threat to move against the authorities is an example of how perceived oppressive policies should be dealt with.
The solid waste tax, in its present form, does not appear to discriminate against any of the householders or businesses in that it has been applied across the board. Where it does present a problem for a special interest group is the Barbados Revenue Authority’s (BRA) attempt to link it to the issuing of land tax certificates. The Bar researched the matter, found the two are not legally connected and has decided it would challenge any effort by BRA to enforce such a link. The land tax certificate of course is bound up in any real estate transaction and could delay the legal proceedings.
The Bar, in a way, is acting in a self-serving manner but the ripple effect is that in a successful case everybody else benefits. This should be the response whenever there is a claim of oppression in any form.
That being said, action by these and other organisations cannot be restricted only to Government. It cannot appear that they only “gang up” when Government is involved or when it directly affects their livelihood.
Why not apply this same research technique as part of a greater social responsibility? Not everyone has the means to employ an attorney or the understanding to undertake letters of administration in family matters. Some families have gained under the Tenantries Freehold Purchase Act but others have been dispossessed by being forced to sell their only piece of family land to the long-stay tenants.
There are some cases worth testing at the Caribbean Court of Justice which may prove too costly for an individual but not for an organisation full of volunteers. For starters, many people are crying out against Government’s compulsory acquisition of their land and the long wait to be compensated. Can anything be done there?
But by the same token, if a little old lady with only the widow’s mite, or an able-bodied man who worked hard for his fortune, has been taken in by a lawyer, could you please exert the same energy over the matters? Make the effort to ensure that there is fair play for all involved. No client should have to fight almost alone to get back money stolen by lawyers or land out of which they have been swindled.
The move by the Bar is a good one and one which should be copied by other professional bodies – for example, the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners.
Research medical cases and put the information out there so all can benefit rather than those who seek profit. In addition, suggest ways the hospital and polyclinics can better serve the community and island without further incurring costs because of what doctors are charging.
Ultimately, illness will lead to death and that cannot be repaid and definitely not reversed. Stop the secrecy and reluctance to testify against colleagues when things go wrong and people’s lives are lost or so severely affected their quality of life plummets.
• Antoinette Connell is a News Editor.