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Independence Day message: Opposition Leader


Independence Day message: Opposition Leader

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The following is the full statement of the Leader of the Opposition Bishop The Hon Joseph J.S Atherly, J.P., M.P. On the Occasion of the celebration of 53rd Anniversary of Independence. 

Fellow Barbadians,

We have been counselled, and I think rightly and wisely so, that a nation at fifty-three must be able to have the difficult conversations. As I congratulate our people on the proud achievement of our fifty-third anniversary as an independent democracy, I wish, not for the first time, to broach a few difficult issues over which we must ponder and make the subject of more meaningful, enriching and purposeful national dialogue.

There are a few significant and enduring challenges which we must face up to as a nation. There are also a few major commitments to which more maturely we must subscribe and further, actualise. Time today does not allow exhaustive reference to the full menu of either challenges or commitments. And so in this brief conversation with you I make reference to an obvious few.

There is an obvious and persistent challenge to the notion of our Sovereignty. It is a challenge faced by all small developing states in this globalised environment of supra-national dominance and market internationalisation. Small states in this world’s vast ocean frequently find themselves buffeted by the currents of the organised and orchestrated energies of the elite global players.

The Institutional Challenge, The Cultural Challenge and what I call the Capital Challenge are three such areas of challenge to the exercise of our Sovereign discretion.

Already in this current session of Parliament the deliberations and decisions of both the Lower and Upper houses have been both guided and forced by pressures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the European Union, the Financial Action Task Force, the Inter-american Court of Human Rights, the International Monetary Fund. They have largely dictated our parliamentary agenda and determined its vote. Ways must be found to mitigate the negatives of such institutional influences.

Of critical significance as well is that the integrity and maturity of our own institutional and constitutional architecture remain subject to question as long as we fail to complete the independence journey. Again I call on the Government to lead in both the conversation about and conversion to Republic status for Barbados. This is a commitment we must unreservedly make.

The Cultural Challenge is to be ourselves at home while welcoming the world; to believe in ourselves while respecting the achievements of others; to brand ourselves while we integrate with others away from home.

Universal access to all technologies renders a popular tourist jurisdiction already exposed to cultural penetration even more vulnerable to such. Our cultural mores and peculiarities make us distinctly Barbadian. That character must ever be enhanced in the global melting pot; but must never be subverted by or subsumed under the inferior awnings of flimsy and frivolous alternatives.

The Capital Challenge is bothersome and lingering. Our model of economic development and investment orientation yields much power to capital bent on extraction of gains from our shores. Our model of economic development and investment orientation lends itself too much to persistent underdevelopment. Our model of economic development and investment orientation does not sufficiently give evidence of skills transfer or recognition of Barbadian labour quality and qualification.

The Sandals surrender of former times and the now Sandals stand-off, The Hyatt-related recent Bay Street happenings, the unrestricted fees-seeking grab of the banking sector, the poor investment disposition of dominant utilities, even the questionable work permit issue related practices of our immigration department, all reflect our subjugation to capital dominance.

Barbados not only needs a viable growth strategy; Barbados needs to grow more from the inside. I refer here to the need for growth platforms that facilitate a Homegrown economy with domestic boosters designed for export thrusts.

We must commit robustly to the construction of new platforms of opportunity and ownership. ” These fields and hills beyond recall are now our very own “must move beyond the realm of idea to the reality of the ideal we actually pursue and create.

There is the Challenge to Our Sustainable Development aspirations.

Coastal patrimony has been significantly lost to foreign presence precluding access to beach lands for various purposes.

 Climate Change dynamics are significant and serious, and add to the threat to our coastal integrity.

Coral bleaching, coastal degradation induced by tidal and current impact and the negatives of hotel-related practices are an insufficiently exposed story.

How much of our coastal resource and endowment has been lost in the process during the last fifty -three years?  

Our economic vision for tourism-related development along our South Western corridor has the serious potential to exacerbate the situation.

Corrupt Practices also constitute a challenge to our sustainable development. Questionable award of contracts and consultancies only slightly mask the misuse of state funds for narrow partisan ends.

The culture of overly confrontational politics also erodes our capacity and potential for development.

There is the challenge to our Social Values Architecture. We have been accepting, and rightly so, of models of family structure built on cohabitation of opposite gender units and the procreation of progeny. We seem ready to embrace an alternative model which incorporates same-sex units and the elimination of procreation. This government needs to make it irrefutably clear that this will not happen under their watch.

Family is our primary national organic institution. We must commit to protecting and preserving the integrity of the institution.

 Barbadians share a sensitive awareness of the fragility of the institution in the face of the internal dynamics to which family life is normally subject. We are equally aware of the vulnerability of the institution due to the contemporary socio-cultural threats.

The Barbados National Strategic Plan 2005-2025 outlines twelve core values to which we subscribe as a people. Family is one such value. I urge government to underscore this commitment by means of policy orientation and formulation as well as expenditure allocation.

At age fifty-three there must be a shared and unshaken understanding that Freedom cannot ever become licence to wantonness or self-serving, especially that which may be injurious to household structures, neighbours, community, nor the nation family.

“Values deconstruction “is a sinister agenda which challenges some long-standing Barbadian precepts, threatens family stability while espousing a platform of victimisation and discrimination designed to colour notions of freedom.

Our commitment must be (1) To Brand Barbados Globally. This we must do because we are “strict guardians of our Heritage.” We must be absolutely clear as to what that Brand is. (2) To build social capital. The pursuit of a Nation-building paradigm that allows nothing to erode that capital but rather ensures that as a nation and a people we greater “grow in strength and unity.” (3) To Birth New Governance Structures For New times. By this we give expression to our Sovereignty as “Firm Craftsmen of our Fate”; not subjugated to the whims and wiles of those who would deconstruct our Values Platform or make servant instruments of our parliament and Government. Under God we must command our own destiny.

On behalf of the party I have the honour to lead, the People’s Party; On behalf of the Opposition; and on behalf of my family and myself I offer a salute to our nation and wish all a Happy Independence day.


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