Saturday, April 20, 2024

A flagrant breach


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IF I WERE a politician who last month expended much time, energy and money trying to win a seat in the august House of Assembly, I would be embarrassed this morning to see my picture sailing down a gutter.
I would recall the vainglorious boast – “Law-makers must not be law-breakers” – of one of my colleagues who insisted that none of his election material would be displayed before Nomination Day, February 6, 2013.
Yet, two weeks and more after the February 21 general election, the chairman of the Electoral and Boundaries Commission could be heard to say: “They should have come down minutes before midnight on February 20, but hardly any were removed. It is a most flagrant breach.”
Mr Owen Estwick went on: “The law says the election campaign should have ceased by then, but I am driving all through the countryside and still seeing the posters on poles and trees.”
And then he asked this devastatingly poignant question: “How does one police that?”
This brings me back to a point I made on this page three years ago under the headline: Two Flat Tyres. It bears repeating today.
A society is not stable simply because of the heavy hand of the police or the draconian designs of its laws. Stability grows out of the behaviour of the people. When decline starts, as it has in Barbados, it takes the collective will of all decent people to stop the rot.
Law enforcement functions like the spare tyre on your car. The vehicle runs on four tyres but only one spare is provided. Why not four? With the theory of probability, under normal circumstances, you can expect only one flat tyre at any given time. But what happens when two tyres go flat; or three, or all four? The spare can’t get you home.
The police are like the spare tyre. They deal with the minority who can’t behave themselves. As long as that minority remains manageable, the society can sleep at night with both eyes closed.
If you wanted proof that Barbados now has more than one flat tyre, you need only reflect on the constabulary’s recent suggestion that you avoid wearing jewellery in public. The commissioner quickly hastened into damage control mode to plead that he was not broadcasting surrender to the criminal element.
When law-breaking and deviant behaviour take hold of a society, unless we wish to employ the Singapore approach, there isn’t much the police can do about it. So urban terrorists can ride on the back wheels of their motorcycles – in broad daylight – on the Adams-Barrow-Cmmins Highway and broadcast it on the Internet for the world to see.
A fool was seen the other day balancing on Jersey barriers like a tightrope walker in the middle of the highway as traffic zoomed by. Any day now, motorcyclists will do something similar on their back wheels.
So “implementation” is the new refrain after the wordy Throne Speech of March 6 as interest groups and individuals look toward their law-makers for alleviation, from praedial larceny to noise pollution.
Like this promise, for example: “My Government will put in place, as a matter of urgency, mechanisms to improve business facilitation.” And this: “My Government will pass a Freedom of Information Act.”
And this: “My Government will implement monitoring technology for the speedy detection of motorists who violate traffic laws through the use of public roads without insurance or vehicles or payment of road taxes, and will enact legislation to manage noise levels emanating from private vehicles whether through music, defective mechanical systems or specially designed mufflers to raise noise levels.”
Lofty words from the throne, but I’ve heard that song before.
We will continue to ignore the decline around us, like the political naïf who the other day saw nothing disturbing about the Attorney General celebrating his election victory alongside a coffin implying the political death of his opponent.
• Carl Moore was the first Editor of THE NATION and is a social commentator. Email:

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