Tuesday, April 23, 2024

50 years – but still not ready

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I AM ONE OF THE declining number of Barbadians who lived through the establishment and dissolution of the West Indies Federation, the subsequent “Agony of the Eight” and finally the intoxicating days of November 1966 when Barbados attained Independence in its own right.

It grieves me therefore, as we pull out all the stops to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that pivotal occasion, to see that Barbados does not yet adhere to many ofthe fundamental principles of governance in a modern democracy.

Representatives of this country have travelled to various places around the world at the taxpayer’s expense and signed on to several international agreements which commit Barbados to the principle of public participation in decision-making, especially with respect to human settlements planning and environmental management.

For example, the Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements and Habitat Agenda ratified by Barbados some 20 years ago states that, “Sustainable human settlements development requires the active engagement of civil society organisations, as well as broad-based participation of all people. It equally requires responsive, transparent and accountable government.”

One of the lessons learnt from the decision to close down the Belleplaine Police Station is that Barbados pays only “lip service” to such principles. This is only the most recent of several decisions to strip the principal settlement in St Andrew of essential civic services, made by the powers that be without any notice to the affected community, far less prior public consultation.

No one in government has put up their hand to take responsibility for this decision and the so-called town hall meeting subsequently held by the police was designed solely to justify it to residents of the area, not to take into account their views and concerns. Sadly, after 50 years of independence, it appears that Barbados is still “not ready”, as the saying goes.

– CHRISTINE TOPPIN

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