THE POET BURNS WROTE, “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley; an’ leave us nought but grief and pain for promised joy”.
We may not know, we cannot tell, if Froon’s republic scheme ganged agley, whether it brought him joy, grief or pain. We don’t even know if it was a ‘best laid’ scheme or a haphazard wake-up-one-morning “republic? Why not?”
The cynics see it as a two-fold ploy: first, to write his name on history’s page as the completor of independence – Froonius Compleator. Secondly, to divert attention from the country’s pressing ills. The latter has been a success.
However, he has got people thinking about a better Barbados: “Why not reform the whole system at the same time?” Wishful thinking, in my opinion. No way politicians are going to voluntarily kill the goose that lays the fatted calf.
Nevertheless, there’s no harm in indulging in fancy. So here’s my take:
Democracy: one man, one vote sounds great. But ask yourself: in this complex age of international pressure, hamstringing treaties, organised crime, religious fanatics, massive disasters, are you and I really qualified to select leaders to effectively manage this country? Especially as these leaders often come with no qualifications or track record in governance? Don’t the masses simply vote for whoever offers the most hand-outs?
But democracy has worked well for us, you will say. And it can: (1) if we happen to elect capable leaders – Barrow, Adams, Arthur – who can run the place;
(2) or if we have capable technical experts and ministers take their advice. God help us, however, if incompetent ministers insist on taking charge. Or if incompetent technocrats are giving the advice.
Present system – ceremonial overseas Head of State, bungleacious parliament. Froon’s republic – ceremonial local Head, bungleacious parliament. Possible solution – ceremonial Head, ceremonial parliament which will hire a few competent persons to run the country.
Political candidates: In the years I worked alongside him, David Holford impressed as an honest, forthright, brilliant individual, a proven leader and motivator. I would love to see candidates of his calibre running this country.
Instead, many political aspirants are seen rightly or wrongly as self-opinionated, get-rich-quick opportunists willing to sacrifice conscience for party loyalty. Fiercely protective of wayward colleagues and businessmen friends possibly involved in thousands losing their life savings, they excel in “cussin’” opponents, buying drinks for the fellows, spreading dollars here and there. Can such run a country in today’s world?
Vote-buying and corruption: a candidate has the right to ask someone for a vote. He has the right to give a constituent $300. He would be a complete jackass to link the two. Which, in any case, would be foolhardy since he can’t determine how the person will vote. When George Payne brings around a very attractive young lady to present me with a tee-shirt, he doesn’t have to say anything. If he would but let her step inside and put it on me, I would vote for him till kingdom come.
Of greater concern is corruption, $500 000 being the touted fee for approving a project. Not in Barbados, of course, where Transparency International says we’re good boys, but we should guard against it becoming a reality in the future. I have previously suggested that such approvals be handled by a committee of trusted elders and not politicians.
Crime: our present justice system of long-delayed trials, fines and imprisonment is in shambles. In every community we can see youths who are heading the wrong way into drugs, gangs and crime. We need pro-active authority to get them back on track before it’s too late.
Republic versus monarchy: in my opinion, a local monarch can do everything a ceremonial president can, but with a lot more prestige. Even calypsonians and cane-cutters come “fuh king” or “fuh crown”. Any jackass can be a president. A king or queen lives in a palace, a president in a house. We can have an elected king or queen to serve as long as we wish.
Imagine if Queen Tricia, my current favourite, had triplets during her reign. The roar of the crowd as she first displays them on the palace balcony, the international press, the media hype! Think on it.
Finally, as the PM says, in our new utopian Bim the term “yard fowls” should be banned. We’ll just call them “domestic poultry”.
Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email firstname.lastname@example.org