Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Thursday, March 25, 2010

An Extraordinary Week: Let's Play Pass The Parcel

It has been an extraordinary week in Barbados, culminating with a press conference held by PM David Thompson yesterday afternoon (see Advocate report). He gave what seems like the final word on whether a proposed concert and 'youth forum' featuring Jamaican dance hall artistes, Vybz Karkel (Adijah Palmer) and Mavado (David Brooks) would take place. It's now officially cancelled, after he met with the event promoters, just as the artistes were putting their toiletries together for the flight. Much public concern here had been raging about the spreading of the clear and sometimes violent rift between these two artistes and their fans, which has developed into what has been know as the 'Gaza' [Kartel] and 'Gully' [Mavado] feud. In Jamaica, it had several months ago gotten the attention of government, who wanted to see some easing in tensions between the factions with the government stating that it had reached a 'resolution' to the rift between the artistes (see link). Whatever merits the organizers claimed in their idea of bringing the artistes to Barbados for a show and to talk to young people about their new peace was lost on most people, who saw either another piece of public relations-turned marketing for the artistes. In addition, many saw it as another example of how a certain culture of disrespect and violence as portrayed and perpetuated through music was going to be allowed to spread and undermine values, especially amongst impressionable youths. The dispute here has done much for the recognition of the two artistes, whose music is no less accessible now than before and did not need an actual show to spread. But they now have a new, albeit varied and older audience as parents (perhaps for the first time) decided to listen to a kind of music many do not like or understand. The arguments were sometimes clear but also confused, but raised again many issues about freedom of movement, who could and should determine standards, parenting, youth development, decision making, role models, copying trends from abroad, and much more.

But the subplot to whether the show would go on was a show itself, with decisions changing as often as babies need diapers. We had the head of the police force, Commissioner Dottin, standing up and saying he did not approve of the show/concert only for his Deputy Commission Bertie Hinds to give approval for the show, just as Mr. Dottin was on his way to the airport. The Commissioner was not a happy camper and so he told the Nation: "It sends a very bad image and message that the Commissioner of Police has been having discussions on these issues and nobody had the decency to consult him....It reflects very poorly on the administration of the force." It's been an open secret that communication at the top of the police tree had its own special branch that was virtually non-existent, so no wonder the Commissioner was out on a limb. The PM ducked the issue nicely in his press conference when he said that "I will say there have been press reports about less than acceptable communication." Roger that! But with a Commissioner named Darwin should we speculate about who will survive any fight of the fittest?

The other bizarre event (or incident) involves an altercation in Parliament, which reportedly occurred last Friday during and after the Estimates Debate. The Worm cartoon in Monday's Nation was again really on target, with its depiction of an 'alleged incident' in the precincts of Parliament between Cabinet Minister, David Estwick, and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Dale Marshall. Allegations include the brandishing of a firearm. The PM has decided that a bipartisan committee should look into matters of parliamentary procedures and privileges, and include not just politicians but media, clergy and others who could offer insight and input. But the current matter is for the Speaker of the House of Assembly to deal with. The matter was aired publicly by Mr. Owen and Miss Mottley at a BLP branch meeting at St. Leonard's School last Sunday. Reports suggest that Mr. Marshall has filed a formal complaint with the Speaker about the incident. This whole matter puts the government in a pickle as it deals with certain kinds of threats to society and less than stellar public behaviour and morals on one hand and has to deal with other similar threats in its midst.

There's also the uncomfortable situation brewing over the sentencing of the man responsible for the death of a Canadian tourist at Long Beach, after he hit her over the head with a piece of wood in an attempted robbery. The judge gave a sentence of 10 years to Curtis Joel Foster on a charge of manslaughter, well towards the lower end of possible sentences even though mitigating circumstances were slight. A lot of public surprise was expressed at what some would call 'insufficient punishment'. In keeping with that view, the Director of Public Prosecution is referring the matter to the Court of Appeal (see Nation report), arguing that the sentence does not reflect the gravity of the offence. As reported in the paper, citing the document on which the appeal is based:

"It is contended...that the sentence of ten years imprisonment imposed on [Foster] for the offence of manslaughter is unduly lenient in the circumstances.

"It is also contended that the sentence does not reflect the gravity of the offence.

"It is also contended that the sentence does not reflect the public's concern about offences of this nature.

"Moreover, there is an error of principle in the sentencing in the circumstances".

A space to be watched with much interest.

Then there is CLICO, which some say has become a political football. Stung by comments about the size of its statutory deficit, the company took out paid adverts in the papers 'categorically' deny that it was B$300 million. It did accept that the deficit was about this figure in 2008 and is now about B$100 million, but there is an accounting exercise for 2009 to be done by end April, which may move that figure around. Then in today's Advocate (page 7), CLICO's Executive Chairman, Leroy Parris, makes a statement taking to task the former PM, Owen Arthur, and 'responding to scurrilous attacks on my integrity by certain Barbados Labour Party (BLP) member, especially former Prime Minister Owen Arthur'. If it was a political football before, I dread to think what it has become now. A medicine ball?

It would be unoriginal to say that we live in interesting times, but I have to say we live in interesting times.

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