The African Heritage Foundation (AHF) is of the opinion that all Barbadians should take a serious look at the establishment of the “Throne Commission” and the expressed desire of their government to allow people more input into the governance of their own lives.
Community based governance is a vision that the AHF would like to see manifest but not necessarily in the manner being proposed.
In an article published in the Barbados Today online newspaper, it was reported that, ” a government commission launched today to oversee the setting up of community-based People’s Assemblies, is being touted as the first step in putting power back into the hands of the people.” The question must be asked, were the people who the government want to empower aware of this move, and if so to what extent were they involved in this decision?
The article went on to say, “Prime Minister Mia Mottley, whose own grandfather was elected the first Mayor of Bridgetown during a short-lived experiment in local Government 60 years ago, today launched the Thorne Commission on Local Governance, to be chaired by prominent attorney-at-law and Government backbencher, Ralph Thorne QC MP.” More questions to be asked! Why was the above mentioned experiment in local government short lived?
When the Prime Minister is reported to have said “the assemblies are to give Barbadians the opportunity to participate in national and local governance”. Can it be assumed that the people of Barbados do not have that now? If they do not, why not? It will also be very interesting to see what and how much sovereign power these assemblies will have.
Moving along the Prime Minister is reported to say that “she maintained that Barbados could only grow if the voices of its people were heard.” As an advocacy based Pan African charitable organization, the AHF thinks that the voice of the people is not heeded as much as it should and is not sure that assemblies governed under a commission such as this will change that narrative.
It is wondered if this part of the article is accurate, “Mottley said: Today I stand as Prime Minister of this country saying to you that the days of all roads leading to the Prime Minister cannot be the model of development that this country must pursue.” The AHF in its advocacy for positive change in any area of the society, directs its voice to the Government Ministers whose portfolio umbrella’s the particular issue that is being addressed. It is only when that avenue bears no fruit that the matter was brought to the attention of the Prime Minister. Are we then to take it that these proposed assemblies will make the Prime Minister and her Ministers less accessible to the people? With all her ministers, how come all roads lead to her?
Continuing on, the article reads,“I am prepared to accept that for us to develop that we need to empower our people, we need to include our people, we need to create platforms for participation.” It seems to the AHF that the people have created their own platforms of participation to discuss matters of national interests on social media. The AHF has created this website and uses it to express the concerns of many on proposed or implemented policies by the government. One of these would be the issue of cannabis and its present direction that initially excludes most Barbadians. The organization is aware that some Government Ministers read the content of this site and yet no invitation to participate in developing ideas for positive change, has ever been issued to the AHF. This is possibly the reality for many other similar small community based organizations. Are these organizations to believe that they will be given voice through these assemblies?
Further down in the article it was reported that, “She said members of the People’s Assemblies are to be elected and not selected. Chairman Thorne gave an assurance that those serving on the Assemblies would not be selected based on party affiliation, and would be expected to look after the interests of their respective communities.” One is saying that assembly members are to be elected and the other is saying they will not be selected by party affiliation, which means they will be selected. Which is it?
Don’t stop reading it gets better! He declared, that is ,the Chairman Thorne based on the report, “we want to create a structure that is not partisan… that is fundamental to our design. We want Assemblies that are genuinely reflective of the interests of people and not reflective of the interests of parties.” One would think the interest of the party and the interest of the people would be one and the same. It seems based on what is being put forward it is not. This being the case whose interest does the present government serve?
It seems the Throne Commission has at least ten other members, including deputy chairman David Comissiong. No comment!
Winding down, the article states, “beginning next month, the commission is to hold consultations with private sector agencies, non-Governmental organisations, trade unions, secondary and tertiary level schools and institutions and other interest groups. Town Hall meetings are to start in September.’ The AHF advocates that all interested parties attend these meetings and scrutinize this venture very carefully.
Ending, the article gave a history of failed attempts by the government to put power in the hands of the people. Does a government really want to give away or share its power? Give power to people who could in the future rally the people to remove them in an election? One cannot hold on and let go at the same time. For the people to have power they must organize among themselves and direct the footsteps of their elected representatives.
Article : Following proposals dating back to 1925, the then Barbados Labour Party Government passed the Local Government Act of 1958, establishing separate administration for The City. The municipality was led by a mayor, six aldermen, and 12 city councillors, four for each of the city’s three wards. The first Mayor of Bridgetown, Ernest Deighton Mottley, was elected in 1959.
But by April 1967, under the second Errol Barrow administration, the Local Government Councils were dissolved and replaced by an Interim Commissioner for Local Government until final abolition in 1969.
Forty years later, the Freundel Stuart administration introduced 30 non-elected constituency councils with the passage of the Constituency Councils Act of 2009.
The councils, which were heavily criticised by the then opposition Labour Party, were each allocated $100,000, which amounted to a mere 0.07 per cent of the central Government’s budget. But the councils had no authority to deliver services or raise revenue.
It was not immediately clear whether the proposed new People’s Assemblies will have a mandate with increased powers. email@example.com
African Heritage Foundation.