SHANTAL MUNRO-KNIGHT: Threat required a response
I WAITED AND WAITED. I am still certain I missed it, because in my mind, for something not to have been said signals a descent into a type of politics and society that is untenable.
So let me apologise upfront if I missed the statement from the current administration denouncing the reported threat made to union leaders in this country.
The reported anonymous threat to members of the labour union – delivered by way of a package containing a powdery substance – was not just a threat on individuals, it was a fundamental threat in my mind, to the spirit of democracy and perhaps as well the stability of this country.
The incident required the mobilisation and response of major agencies. Indeed, if the threat had been just half as bad as we envisioned, it would have had dire consequences, and yet not a peep from this Government.
Not a peep from the Prime Minister who had only just days before assured us all he had not been asleep but watching and listening; not from the Minister of Labour who had also just days before sat face to face across a table from the same union members; and not a peep from the other members of the administration who themselves have had a long association with trade unionism.
It is just completely unimaginable to me that no one could see that this issue was above the political posturing, the contention between the union and Government and the insults and accusations. No one could see in the very moment that this was something so fundamental as to erode the political culture in Barbados.
Shame on this Government!
I expected a swift response from this Government which would clearly indicate that as country we would not condone for a minute this kind of act, regardless of the perpetrators.
I expected something which would have said that the full resources of the state were deployed to ensure the perpetrators were found.
I expected something to be said that in the fight to protect the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, the union and Government stand shoulder to shoulder.
What message does silence send to the perpetrators – whoever they are? Whether we agree or disagree with someone’s politics, sentiments or methods, from the time we allow even the notion that this could be acceptable in any way we open up ourselves to a political arena that is dangerous.
Even as a public, I do not think that we fully grasped what could have potentially occurred, noting, of course, that we all became absorbed by the earth tremors. More important as well, I am not sure that we have truly reflected on the message that was being sent to us all. My heart goes out to the families of those union members and other members of the public who were affected by the incident.
I also respect the maturity and resolve shown by the union members. I would encourage them to put as much energy into pressing for a full and thorough investigation as they do into representation.
At the same time, it was a continuation of a week of threats, so I do agree with the sentiment that we all need a timeout. The union leader’s non-response so far to Minister Dr Esther Byer’s suggestion that the union not only broke but misinterpreted the agreement brokered is telling and should be cause for reflection.
This Cabinet should sit and reflect on whether its responses have been as mature and astute as necessary.
Shantal Munro-Knight is a development specialist executive coordinator at the Caribbean Policy Development Centre. Email [email protected]