PETER WICKHAM: Congrats, Barbados
THIS WILL, OF course, be the last occasion afforded me to comment on our 50th anniversary and to congratulate Barbados on this major achievement. It is unfortunate but not entirely surprising that this anniversary has become politicised when one considers the prevailing environment.
Certainly, a milestone like our golden anniversary should be a moment for national celebration. The DLP took us into independence and while elements of the BLP objected at the time, Owen Arthur’s refurbishment of Independence Square complete with a statue of E.W. Barrow demonstrates the extent to which our independence is celebrated across the political divide.
The unique situation we find ourselves in now; however, relates to the fact that the incumbent administration, which will naturally be the repository of national pride, is easily the most unpopular in recent times because it appears either unwilling or unable to address several tangible issues we now face.
Naturally, the Stuart administration wants us to forget all this and celebrate our nationhood and the extent to which the DLP “brought us” to this place. To my mind, this seems entirely reasonable since a DLP Government was there in the beginning and it is also a DLP, Government that governs us today.
The challenge that presents itself, therefore, is the extent to which momentary challenges that we face are firstly the fault of the current administration and secondly if the handling of these issues justifies the extent to which some of us have detached ourselves from the celebrations.
It is important to make the initial point that arguments about emotional significance are open to interpretation and one gets a sense that our leader and his administration are more focused on the extent to which they have written their names on history’s page by being in charge in the beginning, the silver and now the golden anniversaries of independence.
These are historical facts and like it or not, Prime Minister Freundel J. Stuart has written his name on history’s page and will for all eternity be celebrated as the leader whose name is inscribed at the location where our country was born, alongside that of the “midwife” Barrow. If this assessment is correct, momentary concerns about his management of the country’s affairs are irrelevant to him and moreover a distraction as he prepares to enter the history books of this nation, next to its father.
I would naturally take a slightly different approach to the matter which is motivated by the way in which I assess the imprint of a leader on this nation. As such, Barrow was not only one of our greatest leaders because he fathered this nation, but because of the vision that he pursued in so doing. This vision is such that we pay homage to him as a leader almost daily as we reflect on the manner in which he impacted the lives of people who were not even born when he took the reins of office. To my mind, therefore, this is an appropriate time to ask our current leader to account for his stewardship and to provide sound reasons why we should also celebrate that stewardship as we celebrate this momentous achievement.
We are celebrating our golden anniversary at a time when the institutions of governance and indicators of development are at an all-time low. Significant sections of our population are having challenges accessing the most basic services related to water and transportation, while health and education are now substantially less accessible as a direct consequence of actions taken by this administration.
In fairness, I have not personally experienced many of these challenges and it is therefore easier for me to celebrate our achievements as a nation and to be grateful for contribution that Barbados has made to my own happiness and fulfilment. I do, however, live in a country where I see a level of distress which is complicated by a level of governmental incompetence that is unparalleled in my 48 years on this earth.
As such I can fully understand the lack of enthusiasm on the part of many as we celebrate our golden anniversary. Happy 50th birthday, Barbados.
Peter W. Wickham is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES). Email: [email protected]