WHEN PRIME MINISTER Freundel Stuart addressed the country at the launch of the island’s 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations last week, he offered some very sound advice. Interestingly, we believe it is advice that instinctively most of us have already offered ourselves or others for whom we hold some sense of responsibility – but it was a most timely reminder.
He said: “I have put three questions on the table for my countrymen here and abroad: What are those features of Barbadian life that we have lost and that we need to reclaim? What are those features of Barbadian life that we have not lost and that we need to retain? And what are those features of Barbadian life that we have not lost but that we must try and discard as quickly as possible?”
We juxtapose this statement from the Prime Minister against the comments of the island’s newest judge, Justice Pamela Beckles, in an interview in this week’s SUNDAY SUN. The former chief magistrate, who spent 15 years on the bench in the lower courts, said she had never found cause to fear for her safety when moving around the country.
“My family, when they come in, they are amazed that when you are walking through Bridgetown these people come up. They assume that I know the people from the gym or church or something. I tell them no, no; I sent them to prison. They can’t believe it,” she said.
We do not believe for one moment the judge was finding any glory in the fact that she had sent anyone to prison, but pointing out a very worthwhile aspect of Barbadian life we can often ignore while complaining, quite legitimately, about some of the challenges the society faces today.
While there are far too many in our midst who would most easily respond with lawlessness and violence whenever they perceive a conflict, it is still very much a fact that generally Barbadians are law abiding and even when many do wrong and suffer the consequences, they are not averse to accepting that what they suffered was a direct result of their own actions.
We, like most Barbadians, wish we lived in a violence-free society, but even as we all resolved to do our part to assist authorities as they move to stem the mischief others would create, we should not dismiss the quality of life we enjoy – recognizing that one of the measures of that quality is the sense of security we feel each day.
We ought to be proud of the fact that no matter how upset tens of thousands of Barbadians were with the water challenges the island faced in recent months, we could protest without even a hint of violence.
Our Prime Minister can be the most unpopular politician in the country from time to time and still feel comfortable ditching his security detail to go shopping in Bridgetown or to some rural restaurant for a Saturday afternoon outing. Our Minister of Finance can introduce a very unpopular increase in VAT on cellular phone services and still go for his usual morning jog in the country.
Our point is simple: As the Prime Minister said, there are aspects of the Barbadian life we must hold on to, and this is certainly one we should show we cherish.
We can disagree strongly with the words and actions of our public officials; we may hold strong differences on the outcome of important public debates; we may object strenuously to who is offered a particular post or awarded an important contract – but we don’t accost those involved in the streets, threaten them or their associates, burn down public places or set state property ablaze.
And we must resist the urgings of anyone who would seek to convince us we are weak because we don’t take the violent, aggressive and chaos-causing approaches of others.