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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: What next?


DR FRANCES CHANDLER, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: What next?

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NOTHING SHOULD SURPRISE us nowadays, but I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that the reduction in MPs’ salaries is to be reinstated. Isn’t that a boldfaced insult to Barbadians – especially when, over the last few days we’ve been reminded at length of these MPs’ dismal record?

In contrast to the lyrics of Biggie Irie’s song, that definitely wouldn’t be “money well spent.” On the other hand the Opposition seems to be taking the honourable position and refusing the reinstatement at this time.

Added to all the woes the Opposition Leader outlined, is the ongoing deterioration of our justice system. This was brought home forcefully in the recently published book by Philip Nicholls, entitled: More Binding than Marriage.

Having read it, I certainly think it should be compulsory reading for all Barbadians, particularly those in schools and the law faculty of the University of the West Indies. Maybe some bright young minds might be inspired to bring about change once and for all.

We see evidence almost every day of the poor performance of this system in spite of all the highly paid individuals overseeing it, but Nicholls’ book is a real eye-opener. In addition to the inordinate delays (in this case 13 years) how can we have judgements and injunctions from the High Court seemingly totally ignored, and to make matters worse, those concerned allowed to leave the country? Shouldn’t travel documents be withheld in such circumstances? The severe impact which all these inefficiencies and obstructions have had on the author’s life is clearly detailed in the book. I usually read in bed at night, but had to change this routine as the contents of the book prevented me from sleeping.

It’s scary to realise that any one of us could suffer that fate for one reason or another. How can we accept this state of affairs even after the Caribbean Court of Justice has criticised it? No wonder the Rt Excellent Errol Barrow is reported to have said that If you want justice, stay far from the law courts.

I seem to recall it being mentioned in the book that lawyers aren’t good business people. This is supported by the seemingly poor financial management and office systems common to many law firms. No doubt this is why we frequently see lawyers accused of “withholding” clients’ funds.

It would seem sensible to keep clients’ funds completely separate from operational funds and have both the client and the attorney sign any cheques drawn from the client account. Actually the Rt Excellent Errol Barrow also had his say on this in a speech to the graduating class of the Hugh Wooding Law School in 1986.

Another thing I gleaned from the book is that the so called “legal fraternity” is anything but a fraternity if the meaning of fraternity is taken as “brotherhood, fellowship or kinship”. Where are we going in this country?

Bearing all this in mind, I would say that if ever there was a time when we Barbadians needed hope it is now. So I commend Ms Mottley for her “Covenant of Hope”. While we may not support all the content, I’m sure none would deny that we must “return to the values that sustained and distinguished us as Barbadians” and that we are badly in need of “good transparent governance”; governance that involves talking to the people, and recognising that government is to serve the people and not the other way around.

Although she voted against the no-confidence motion, Dr Maria Agard made some excellent recommendations during the debate: introduce measures to weed out the bad politicians, introduce legislation to deal with electoral reform and campaign financing, establish an independent commission with powers to force political parties to have audited accounts open to public scrutiny, publish and expose big-name political donors to make known what privileges and contracts they enjoyed when the party of their choice was elected to government.

In short, we Barbadians want our Barbados back. The Barbados that produced people of character like the late Mrs Dorothy Hinkson. I knew Mrs Hinkson from my childhood, since we lived nearby at Three Houses Factory. I certainly agree with those who described her as an angel to the people of St Philip, an icon, unsung hero, a Good Samaritan, a Florence Nightingale. May she rest in peace.

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