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RON IN COMMON: Time for answers and change

ERIC SMITH, [email protected]

RON IN COMMON: Time for answers and change

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MOST BARBADIANS EXPOSED to North American television like watching the various programming options available. 

So whether it is one of the networks offering continuous news and news analyses such as CNN, MSNBC or even FOX, they are glued to the events and can tell you what’s happening.

Take the current primaries leading up to the presidential campaign. So, many people here, who cannot vote, are telling you whether they like Hillary Clinton rather than Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz as opposed to Donald Trump. It is as if the candidates were running for a constituency around here. In fact they know more about them than most of the candidates seeking office here.

All that President Obama does or wants to do such as propose a nominee for the Supreme Court becomes clear. There is no secret to the process; there is no backdoor appointment of friend or family.

And we can get to see how the justice system there works; whether it is a real situation on one of the many Court TV programme or from one of the network shows such as Law and Order, The Practice or, for the seniors, if it was Perry Mason. We have seen victim impact statement, which is a written or oral statement made as part of the judicial legal process, which allows crime victims the opportunity to speak during the sentencing of their attacker or at subsequent parole hearings.

Police and prison chiefs have to account and explain to the public after a major incident explaining to the public what has happened, why it happened and in some instances offering apologies for it all.

Politicians make eloquent concession and acceptance speeches, and they also accept responsibility when something goes wrong under their watch. There is no uncertainty what is the term of office for an official be it for the mighty position of president or that of a school board official.

So Barbadians can watch senior military officers being grilled before congress, or a nominee for high office been asked tough questions by members of select committees of Congress and even private sector leaders being asked to account  for their actions or that of the businesses they lead  which impact one way or the other on people.

We get to hear who made what contributions to whose campaign and even what favours they may have gotten in return for their goodness.

And for those who watch any of the Canadian television channels or the BBC or Al Jazeera will see the virtually the same kind of exposure now expected and demanded in countries across the world.

This new age of mass media has brought with it changes and demands for changes which many people in positions of authority like to watch and talk about behind closed doors, but find it hard to implement right here in Barbados.

It is about greater accountability and transparency and doing things which the public today requires. It is about the right to known.

That is why I am so strong a supporter for the introduction of  Freedom of Information legislation, and this  should include private companies which deliver public sector contracts;  Whistleblower legislation; the establishment of the office of a Contractor General; and the establishment of the office of a Public Defender to seek justice for Barbadians against the state, whether it be against the public service and its officers or perceived breaches of the individual’s  Constitutional  Rights. The office of the Ombudsman has been nothing less than a toothless bulldog and often resource to justice is beyond the pockets of many people.

Just ask yourself:  Do you really understand how the local justice system works?

Do you really understand the role of the Judiciary and how it works and if it is held accountable?

What about the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions?

The Mercy Committee of which we have heard about in recent weeks, do you know who are its members, how they are appointed or selected and what is their term of office?

Does the public know how many contracts are available and  awarded for goods and services by government departments?

Is there a tendering process in the awarding of contracts by statutory corporations or government –owned private companies for professional services such as legal, accounting and audit services?

What about the appointment of our diplomats how do we know whether their term of office was successful and whether they met the required targets? But what are these required targets?

Yes, we should read the Constitution and be familiar with it, but really, how many of us know much about the office of Governor General? Politicians speak of the holder of the highest office in the land being a Barbadian, but what is a term of office for the Governor General? Isn’t this something everyone should know?

Thanks to exposure to North American television, whether via a legally paid subscription method or by illegally accessing a signal, Barbadians now have a lot to consider and they will want to compare what is happening here against what they see elsewhere.

They even want to know why journalists in Barbados are passive and don’t do investigative journalism like their counterparts in North America. No one is interested in whether we are comparing apples with okras.

This is a new era which is demanding answers and change.

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