IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Sue me, Mr Jones!
Apparently, the impact of the current economic recession has been quite hard on Minister of Education Ronald Jones. He is looking for money.
At the start of a speech at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College recently, he told members of the Press, in front of a large audience of educators and education administrators, that he was just waiting for the opportunity to sue some media house so he could get some money.
It would appear that he travels with his own recorder and records his own speeches, hoping for a slip-up by a reporter or an editor so he can fatten his purse.
“I have turned on this little gadget here . . . to record my speech because I am trying to sue the media so I record everything that I say . . . . Trust me, I am trying to sue you all . . . ,” Jones told the gathering.
Well, Mr Jones, sue me!
The first issue I have is with the “get Reverend Charles Morris movement”. It would appear that the Education Minister is not the only one with a recorder, because since teacher and parish priest Reverend Charles Morris described the current Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government as the worst this country has ever had, his employer is more than a little unhappy.
Now let me make this clear: I am not related to Reverend Morris – at least not as far as I am aware. I have never met him outside of a work environment and I know absolutely nothing about his personal life or political leanings.
I make the point because last week after I wrote about correspondence sent to Morris by the Ministry of Education, I received a call from a reader who wanted to offer his support to my “brother” against what he described as this “villainous” Government.
It is as wrong to believe that Reverend Charles Morris is my brother as it is to believe that Reverend Jim Jones was the brother of Ronald Jones – crack-some-heads-and-shoot-some-people speech notwithstanding.
Personally, I think taking action against Morris is a wasteful act on the part of Government and only serves to compound the public relations nightmare that they have been so skilfully crafting from early in their first term.
So a priest who happens also to teach at a Government school, at a public meeting, albeit arranged by a political party, described the Government as a “disaster”, “environmental hazard”, “catastrophe”, “cancer” and “threat”. So what?
How does that undermine governance in Barbados? How does it threaten national security? How does it destabilise our society? How does that amount to “serious misconduct”?
Actually, how many Barbadians, including public officers, described this Government in these same terms every day?
A democracy that promotes criticism and discussion, especially when it is against the very seat of power, is always a stronger democracy. What’s worse in this matter is that the way we enforce our rules seems so often to be rooted in double standards when there is a political dimension.
Remember, the law being used to try Rev. Morris speaks to public officers engaging in discussion [it does not say criticism] without the prior permission of the minister. But answer this: If he had gone to the forum and blasted the Opposition, or conversely, lavished praise on the Government, would he have been asked to explain his actions? Even with just minimal comprehension skills one would still have to conclude, based on the language used in the law, that praising the Government without the prior permission of the minister is also contrary to the Code of Conduct.
I look forward to the day when a public officer is brought up on charges for praising a Government.