WHEN THE AVERAGE BARBADIAN, unschooled in the science of politics, says it takes a special breed of person to be a politician, he or she would have to be talking about Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe.
We say this because it would have taken a really special kind of individual to make the speech he made last Thursday in the House of Assembly in relation to the controversial Cahill plasma gasification waste-to-energy plant, and to so nonchalantly announce the venture was being abandoned.
For months, Minister Lowe, along with a number of his Cabinet colleagues, backed up by rabid Democratic Labour Party (DLP) operatives and supporters, were uncompromising in their attacks on anyone who would dare to ask a question about the project or suggest they were fearful that it would bring environmental disaster to our shores.
It did not matter if the questions or criticism came from John Public, environmental activists or experts, or Opposition spokespersons – they all met the same reaction, either stone cold silence or a barrage of counter-fire designed to make the individual appear somewhere between anti-Government and unpatriotic.
And the questions asked were not unreasonable, given that the plan purported to be introducing to Barbados a technology that had not even been tested in more developed countries.
But for Dr Lowe and his colleagues, it was an absolute offence to be asked for a breakdown of the cost; where the garbage required would come from; if refuse would be imported to support the massive plant planned; if there was enough water to support the process, given the country’s designation as a water-scarce nation; whether Vaucluse was the appropriate location, given it was upwind of the heavily populated West Coast; who would repay the $700 million; where else the technology was in use; who was financing the venture; who was Cahill; how Government arrived at an agreement with Cahill before even a hint of the venture was disclosed to the population; and what consideration was given to alternative waste-to-energy proposals sent to Government.
Just asking any one of these questions amounted to near treason in the eyes of the minister and his supporters.
But then up came Minister Lowe last Thursday night and declared: “The Government of Barbados would have to be absolutely mad to move ahead on an option where there is global evidence that there are flaws with the technology. So I assure the public, the Government ain’t going nowhere with that option – it can’t do it. Not after the fact that so many Barbadians made their voices heard and told their Government be cautious . . .”.
Really, Dr Lowe? How about prefacing that with an apology on behalf of the entire DLP Government for trying so hard to make these same Barbadians believe they were doing the country some disservice by expressing reservation or criticism of the project?
In fact, given the tone of Government’s pronouncements on this subject on the few occasions they left their ivory towers to commune with ordinary men, were it not for the persistence of the anti-Cahill lobby, we might be digging ourselves out of a massive plasma gasification hole right now.
We don’t buy your new-found air of false innocence, Minister Lowe. Try an apology instead, sir, to all those people who just three months ago you were accusing of trying to cast aspersions on the Government’s plan. A minister with even a spattering of humility would not be comfortable continuing without first saying sorry.