Bajans read this...


Earlier this year I took a break up North for some relaxation and to see friends and relatives. Travelling is always exciting, but apart from the lovely sceneries and different cultural experiences, I find myself comparing the other country with my own Barbados, particularly in matters of education, crime and politics.

This little Caribbean isle has no snowcapped mountains, rushing, expansive rivers, placid lakes and lagoons, rolling hills, vast forests and grasslands, super highways nor towering skyscrapers. Nevertheless, the greatest scenery of all for me is on my return when the airplane picks up the north of the island. As I behold the Arawak Cement Plant, the university, Deep Water Harbour, the Central Bank, the Garrison and other outstanding landmarks I harbour feelings of joy and satisfaction of being back in my native land.

As we celebrate 36 years of Independence, let us reflect on what has taken place in our country since 1966. The political cake splits right down the middle with both of the major parties Barbados Labour Party and Democratic Labour Party enjoying 18 years in Government, and enduring 18 years in Opposition.

Of course they have differences, but nonetheless, both have contributed greatly in making this country one of the most stable and democratic in the world. From time to time, the print and broadcast media, particularly the popular call-in programmes freely criticise both Government and Opposition. To date there are no murders of persons attending political meetings and no one has spent time in Glendairy for his political persuasion.

In education we have witnessed the construction of the Barbados Community College, which is now offering the associate degree, Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, the extension of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, and the extension of compulsory education from age 14 to 16.

Thus, every Barbadian has the legal right to some form of secondary education. In addition, they enjoy tuition free of cost from nursery through tertiary (from ABC to PhD). However, one should not assume that all is well and that we have a perfect society. In recent years we have seen an increase in crime, particularly the violent ones involving guns and other dangerous weapons. And there were also a few instances where members of the public intervened to obstruct the police in the lawful execution of their duty. But let me put this in perspective.

Years ago I would have to travel to Asia, Africa or Latin America for contrasting social and political indicators, but these are now present in our largest partners in Caricom; viz Jamaica, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Up to last Monday the number of murders in Jamaica was 918, and this included 14 policemen. With reference to the fight against crime, National Security Minister Peter Phillips commented inter alia: “These groups of criminals are well armed with high-powered weaponry, hence the need to confront them at their own game. We are dealing with paramilitary terrorist groups who will stop at nothing to achieve their criminal ends.”

His statement came after a seven-month infant was shot dead in the arms of his great-grandmother in Kingston. Moreover, two days after the elections of October 16, Sharon Thomas lost her three children, Shanique Reynolds, 15, and twins Shavei and Shavanica, 3. In an apparent act of political violence, these children were gunned down while sleeping in their bed at home.

Unfortunately, the prognosis is not too heartening, as head of the Crime Management Unit, Senior Superintendent Reneto Adams, has stated publicly that corrupt practices by some policemen were hampering the fight against crime. It does seem that much of the crime stems from political differences.

Guyana has not yet as reached the horrendous proportion of fatalities in Jamaica but law and order seem under siege. Rickey Singh reports in the Nation of Wednesday, November 6: “In killings reminiscent of Jamaica-style gang warfare, six men were murdered in Guyana on Monday night, a week after seven others were killed in two different shoot-outs.”

Earlier in June, he had reported that four policemen were killed within the past three months.

Though the country has not recorded a high number of deaths, there is the disturbing feature of gangs attacking police stations. In one such incident a police constable was shot and killed. There was also the case where policemen locked themselves in one of the stations for protection. Like Jamaica, the crime situation seems politically motivated.

With respect to Trinidad and Tobago, it is indeed ironic that 20 years ago one of its leading newspapers advised Jamaica and Guyana to go to Barbados if they wanted to see good government. In recent years the political climate in the twin-island republic has been as stable as Hurricane Janet.

Some of the actions and exchanges of President Robinson and former Prime Minister Panday can best be described as gymnastics. It must be frightening to live in a country that has reported more kidnapping cases this year than Barbados has recorded since its Independence. Every year reputable international agencies rate Barbados superior to its three bigger partners, and only a year ago the Economist reported that the island was 30 years ahead of Trinidad and Tobago in education and health.

For a country with very limited resources, Barbados has performed exceptionally well. Barbadians should therefore be thankful to God for the blessings and protection He has accorded this island.

Happy Independence, Barbados!

• John Blackman is a former principal of the Deighton Griffith Secondary School.


Big up baxter's man , BAJE has come a long way from not having one shite to being productive, BIM has its flaws but one can never say we haven't work hard, which is mostly due in part to how we manage our people we don't let our intellects get away.. they for the most part always come back , like myself who is planning to move back in 2005