ALBERT BRANDFORD: Enemy of the people
Anybody who stands in the way should be seen as an enemy not only of the State, but be seen as an enemy to the people who are also living in the London Bourne Towers . . . – St Lucy MP, Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman, April 26, House of Assembly.
THERE WAS A time when some of us in the media regarded the St Lucy MP Denis Kellman as a “maverick politician” especially during his sojourn in Opposition when he was given to making public statements that appeared contrary to his party’s message.
Indeed, Kellman seemed to revel in the role and bolstered that image with rambling enigmatic speeches that might have been described as parables understood only by the “too few” and even introduced his own brand of “Kellmanomics” to cock a snook at the Cave Hill crowd.
To those who like that sort of thing, it provided refreshing moments of levity in an otherwise dreary world of persistent bad tidings about Barbados’ socio-political reality.
Suddenly, however, Kellman became a member of the Executive, the Cabinet of Barbados, which is responsible under our Constitution for the administration of the island’s affairs and executing Government policy. And now, what used to be an entertaining 15-minute contribution in the House of Assembly has become dangerously serious.
The comments quoted at the top of this piece, could, with some justification given the background of the speaker, be easily dismissed as the “prating of a jester”.
But they stand alongside a now infamous warning from an otherwise pacific Cabinet colleague who in June 2013 ominously informed the House about influential “persons” who he said were stoking an uprising against the Freundel Stuart Administration and added that it might prompt the military and police forces to “crack some heads” and “shoot some people” to “bring back law and order”.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones accused those unnamed “persons” of disrespecting democracy and the creation of “a groundswell to breed insurrection”.
Neither Jones nor Kellman “named names”, but ordinary members of the public were only too aware of the targets of their extraordinary ire.
In Jones’ case, his fire was clearly aimed at the openly stated, unbridled ambition of the Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley to become “Prime Minister of Barbados or somehow President of Barbados”.
Kellman’ strictures appeared, inferentially, aimed at onetime politician turned social activist David Comissiong, who is challenging in the High Court Government’s permission for the construction of a US$100 million 15-storey hotel on Bay Street.
The Minister’s concerns are understandable as this project is one of several accommodation initiatives upon which Government is pinning its hopes of earning enough foreign exchange to help it out of economic difficulties, particularly given the imminence of a general election.
But that can in no way excuse either Kellman or Jones’ intemperate outbursts, both of which – happily for them – were within the privileged precincts of Parliament.
Kellman appears to want Comissiong and other citizens who share his view consigned to the depths of Hades for exercising the right of every Barbadian to seek judicial review of a Government decision not to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the beachfront development whose footprint is also partially within one of the poorest sectors of the island’s capital.
According to one Press report: “This is democracy in action, this is what you call participatory democracy,” [Comissiong] stressed, adding that it was wrong for anyone to try to suggest that such was not the case.”
Research suggests some people, including social and political dissidents, have been represented as “enemies of the State” as a form of political repression going back to Ancient Rome.
In more modern times, the “proscriptio” was introduced in the Stalinist Soviet Union and Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
But it remains fashionable today in the 21st Century with even representatives of the United Nations revealing that they are not immune from being branded as “enemies of the State” over certain development projects.
One UN independent expert recently reported that human rights defenders working on behalf of communities affected by large-scale development projects are increasingly being branded “anti-government”; “against development” or even “enemies of the State”.
My feeling is that those who seek to deny basic rights and make such charges are the true enemies of the people.
Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent. Email: [email protected]