EDITORIAL: Be careful, Mr Kellman
SECTION 20 of Chapter Three of the Barbados Constitution states: “Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, and for the purposes of this section the said freedom includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without interference and freedom from interference with his correspondence or other means of communication.”
This is a freedom that Barbadians treasure, and they expect it to be applied equally from pauper to priest. In fact, that same Constitution is very specific in detailing precisely under what conditions the State may curtail that freedom of an individual. We have no desire to see those provisions broadened or interpreted in a manner that would disadvantage any individual.
Having said that though, we believe it is time that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart or his colleagues in the Democratic Labour Party tell St Lucy MP and Minister of Housing Denis Kellman that he is doing neither himself nor his party any good with his not infrequent injudicious posts on social media.
We are not sure if the minister is being deliberately provocative or if he is just simply not giving enough thought to what he posts so often on Facebook, but it would not be unreasonable to draw the conclusion that he is no longer being seen as simply promoting discussion. In essence, Minister Kellman is now becoming a public nuisance.
Late last year he infuriated many with his comments at the height of the water crisis when ordinary Barbadians were crying out for relief from dry taps, poor replenishment by Barbados Water Authority tankers and/or discoloured water in some areas when it did flow. The St Lucy MP remained adamant even in the face of significant pushback.
In recent days, with Barbadians of every stratum complaining about the inconvenience, discomfort and cost of travelling on roads that are littered with potholes, and with Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley acknowledging that the country is facing a major problem, an injudicious Kellman again took to Facebook to ask: “Can potholes save lives? Do paved roads encourage speeding, causing accidents and deaths?”
With so many Barbadians complaining about the pothole situation, the reaction was swift and brutal – but not enough to tame the rambunctious parliamentarian, whose experience in the House of Assembly is surpassed only by that of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur and St Andrew representative George Payne.
He struck back, appearing to question whether there was not a link between the huge decline in road fatalities and the prevalence of potholes. We can only deduce from that that somehow the Minister of Housing sees potholes as a good thing.
And as if that was not enough, he then declares publicly that no one will stop him from posting his views on Facebook.
Mr Kellman, from the start of his political career, has always been seen as the representative of those he called “the poor black man”, and even if you disagreed with his unorthodox thinking there was no reason to doubt his grassroots sincerity. There is no reason why the veteran MP should change who he is, but there is a reasonable expectation that as people grow they will become more mature in their conduct.
It is about time your expressions of opinion showed a greater level of maturity, Mr Minister.
We end where we started – with the words of the Constitution. We would never wish to curtail your freedom to speak or post, Minister Kellman, but Section 20 states “except with his own consent”. You can curtail yourself, Mr Minister, without offending the letter or spirit of our supreme law document.