Notes From The Margin

March 20, 2008

Hello? Hello? Police Emergency Hotline Out of Order…

Buried in the middle of the paper today was a story that the Royal Barbados Police Force’s emergency hotline number was out of order…. yes it did ask people to call another number, no I can’t remember what it was, no I don’t think that someone having and emergency and requiring police assistance would be able to find the number.

Does anyone else think there’s something wrong with this?

Perhaps someone should define the meaning of the word “emergency” for the telephone company!

Marginal

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March 12, 2008

Consultants – Another One Of Those Silly Games That Politicians Play

“Politicians Mekkin Mock Sport At We…..”
Mighty Gabby

We on the margin have watched with a degree of amusement at first Prime Minister David Thompson’s “House cleaning” followed by Former Prime Minister Arthur’s war path speech. Having listened to them both I can only come to the conclusion that our prime ministers both present and past are playing “mock sport” with us.

Let’s accept a few realities here…

1. Consultants are an accepted part of governance in the Caribbean, always have been and more than likely always will be. When running something as complex as a government, it is understandable that policymakers (whatever party they may belong to) may want to have independant advice to help them shape policy or to advise them politically, to write speeches etc.

2. Let’s also accept the fact that each policy maker is going to want to select their own consultants or advisors. Hence you cannot equate persons who fill this role with public servants. Like the directors of statutory boards etc. They SHOULD resign when the administration changes. It is not victimisation for the incoming administration to say that they want to take someone else’s advice.

So here we have PM Thompson, equating hiring consultants with squandermania, just to have to turn around and defend his appointment of “political advisor” Hartley Henry as being somehow different.

We also have former PM Arthur talking about going “on the warpath” over these people being dismissed. (They should have tendered their resignations already)

While we have serious concerns about Mr. Arthur saying that he “helped out” one of his speech writers who had lost his previous employment, we also recognise that Mr. Henry is unlikely ever to file consultant report that will be filed in the government filing system. The advice given by consultants at this level is more than likely to be held in the PM’s personal files and also likely to leave the office with the individual when he demits office.

So when you cut through all of the sound and fury that has surrounded this issue, there really isn’t that much substance here. Just politicians playing “holier than thou” and mekking mock sport as they play to the gallery.

Marginal

March 11, 2008

Barbados Tries For CAT1 Status -Is There Another Airline Setting Up?

In the wake of the Airone story, we noted an article in todays Nation about an upcoming audit for the island.

 

BARBADOS’ AIRPORT IS 99.1 per cent ready, as its review for Category 1 status approaches.This is according to director of Civil Aviation Anthony Archer.The island is now in its final stages of qualifying for the rating by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), members of which will be coming to Barbados within another two months to do an audit….

The rating will enable Barbados to give permission to people to start up airlines here in Barbados and while applications are pending, it makes little sense to sign off on them now.”They can’t go to North America. So when we get the Category 1 then we would be able to deal with that. My department deals with the operational and certification but the other part of my ministry deals with the economic regulations, so they will decide whether or not they will get the permits to travel to the various destinations,” said Archer.

It would seem that the Nation got the story wrong as usual, from what we have heard the Category ranking has less to do with the airport than the Government’s regulatory oversight. What is interesting, is Mr. Archer’s statement that there are TWO proposals that they are looking at. We can assume that one is AirOne (currently on hold if the Irish Independant is correct) so who’s the other one? Does LIAT have a competitor waiting in the wings?
Interesting times….
Marginal

February 28, 2008

Hartley Henry Tries To Blame BLP For Rihanna Tribute Mess Up

We REALLY hadn’t wanted to blog on the whole Rihanna/KB Kleen Fiasco, we had hoped that much like the whole “hairdo” controversy it would fade in to the general background noise of life in Barbados. However an op ed column by Government campaign strategist Hartley Henry has brought KB Kleen to Margin.

We really had no problem in how he started the column…

Owing to commitments abroad, I was not among the multitude, but I got a “blow by blow” account of the Independence Square megaevent. It is because I heard and understood clearly what transpired that I am calling on the critics to “ease up off KB Kleen“. I accept his unconditional apology.

Today, he stands ten feet taller in my sight.

So far we agree whole heartedly with him. Kevin Hinds has done the correct thing, clearly there was a screw up. Rather than trying to defend it he apologised unreservedly. We should accept it and move on.

However…

Then Mr. Henry goes on to attempt to build a case that Kevin Hinds is the end result of years of mismanagement of the cultural industries under the BLP.

The Ministry of Culture and its offspring the National Cultural Foundation have been rudderless for close to two decades. Mediocrity abounded during a period when success was measured in terms of gate receipts and tourist arrivals.(edit)

Now here’s our problem with this…
An MC does not run or produce a show, whoever the producer of the Rihanna tribute was must bear the ultimate responsibility for EVERYTHING that happened at the event (good and bad). We know that WHATEVER the cultural environment of the past 14 years that there is a history of successful events of this type, so clearly the skill exist on island to produce “world class” shows. If the emcee was out of line, the producer or stage manager should have taken him in hand immediately and reigned him in.
Kevin Hinds has done the honorable thing, yes this was a screw up, he acknowleged it, apologised and let the matter rest. The producers of the show have stayed hidden in the background and left Kevin to twist in the wind. They should come forward and take responsibility for what happened on the night of the tribute, apologise and then we can all move on.
To have a government spin doctor attempt to shift that responsibility to a political opponent who had no involvement in the event is not only ridiculous, it’s insulting.
Mr. Henry should know better.
Marginal

February 23, 2008

Once Again Stn. Sargeant Reid We Disagree!

One of the more disturbing stories in the media this week comes from statements made by Station Sargeant Hartley Reid who is the First Vice President of Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB). We’re sure that Sargeant Reid is a committed individual who is passionate about his job and his Union affilliation, but these comments left us shaking our heads.

“The problem we have in Barbados is that not even half the workforce is unionised . . . . As low as 30 per cent of all workers are unionised, this is true.

“You could understand the struggles which the unions have in this country because they have 70 per cent of the workers who are benefiting from the subscriptions and the work of only 30 per cent,” first vice-president of the 14-member Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), Station Sergeant Hartley Reid, said in an interview.

“I am happy that this issue has come to the fore at this early stage of the new Democratic Labour Party administration because they will now have to take a position on unionisation and the rights of the workers.

“I have long called for legislation which says that every worker should be unionised. There is a reason for it. When a worker is not unionised you have a situation
where the employers take advantage.

“They are offered whatever salary there is and the workers have no recourse. Workers are exploited left, right, and centre; late payment of their salary or
wages; shifting of their employment conditions; sometimes they have no conditions at all,” he said.

The CTUSAB vice-president argued that with “all the anti-worker practices by unscrupulous employers” any legislation enacted by Government regarding mandatory signing up would mean that it would no longer be a requirement that “50 per cent plus one” of a company’s employees for the union to be recognised.

“It would mean that even if one person is unionised in employment that the union of their choice would come in and bargain on their behalf,” Reid said.

He said that this move would also strengthen the ombudsman’s role because he would be responsible for overseeing the operations of the trade unions.

“That can easily be done. Governments must stop hiding behind democracy, by stating every worker has a democratic right to be a member of a union or not. They are perpetuating a system where persons are continuing to live a parasitic life where they would benefit from the contributions and efforts of a few,”
he said.

We on the margin have to admit that we never thought we would see the day that a trade unionist would argue for doing away with Freedom of Association! The question that we would have to ask Sargeant Reid is as follows:

If all employers are as bad as he says in the above quote, why have trade unions not been as successful in attracting more members?

Now we aren’t denying that there are employers out there whose management practices date back to the plantation era, but surely if they were all as bad as this…

“They are offered whatever salary there is and the workers have no recourse. Workers are exploited left, right, and centre; late payment of their salary or
wages; shifting of their employment conditions; sometimes they have no conditions at all,” he said.

Then we would be seeing a much higher proportion of Unionization in the population.
Perhaps what is even more disturbing about the above statement is that it comes not just from a trade unionist but from a police officer. If this is the thinking of someone who is charged with safeguarding our democracy, perhaps we should all be concerned.
Marginal
For our earlier comments on Stn. Sargeant Reid see below:
With Respect Sargeant Reid… We Disagree

February 12, 2008

Concerns On The Cost Of Living

We have been watching with interest the efforts of the government to contain the rising costs of food, and while we see a genuine effort being made we have serious concerns about how sustainable that effort is.

Pinnacle Feeds warned about the impending price increase and was asked by the Minister of Agriculture to hold off pending talks with stakeholders. After intially stating that Governement could not subsidize the industry the minister went to bat at cabinet and the following statement appeared in the press today.

The Thompson administration agreed to the price increase but promised financial support to poultry and dairy farmers. When contacted, Minister of Agriculture Haynesley Benn assured farmers they would not be out of pocket.

“We have assured the farmers that they would be compensated. A mechanism has been worked out where there will be a price support for the farmers. A sub-committee met on Friday afternoon with farmers’ representatives and they will report to the Minister of Trade who will meet with them along with the Ministers of Finance and Agriculture.

“We would’ve worked out by that time how the farmers would be compensated. We will get back to the farmers’ representatives as to how soon compensation will come,” he said.

While we applaud the aims of the Government, this clearly cannot be a long term solution particularly in the face of a global rise cost of grain.

Now to be fair the subsidising did not start with this Government, the BLP subsidised domestic power prices by way of a subsidy on the fuel charge. At the time we on the margin chalked up to being an election gimmick that we felt would quickly disappear. However this spreading of subsidies into a new area gives us pause.

Economics cannot be denied.

The upward pressure on prices is mostly exogenous in nature, that is, caused by factors outside of the Barbados economy. There would appear to be a “perfect storm” contributing to these raises including increasing oil prices, increased use of food for fuel, demand for raw materials such as steel etc. by the rapidly developing economies of China and India, and the list goes on. In the face of these forces a policy of subsidization simply is not sustainable, it is at best a stopgap measure that has the potential to damage the economy if it is allowed to continue beyond its limits.

We on the margin are not saying that the government should NOT subsidise, but we would be more comfortable if there was some public indication that the government acknowledged where the limits to this policy are.

Marginal

Barbados Taxi Drivers Threaten To Sue Local BMW Dealership For Poor Quality Service.

The Ultimate Driving Machine????

Local Barbadian Taxi drivers who have recently been in the news protesting poor service from the local BMW dealership have threatened to sue the dealership for time lost due to the vehicle being out of service. The taximen’s lawyer Chester Sue (No you can’t make stuff like this up) threatened the lawsuit to members of the local media today.

The taximen’s complaint was recently covered in the Nation newspaper.

Some of the protestors estimated they could lose $200 to $300 in business a day because of poor service.

Anthony Wood said he was “tired of the run around” and “the shabby treatment was just not right”.

“They tell you to bring the car for two weeks, and nothing is happening. When you come back for the car, nothing has been touched yet so the service is lousy. When I go to the insurance company, I can’t tell them I didn’t work this week, so I can’t give you any money,” Wood vented.

Lloyd Holder said: “It is ridiculous . . . . They lend us a loaner, but what can a loaner do for you? It can’t put any money in our pockets. It is to transport our families. We can’t use them for work. We are not begging them, we have bought the vehicles.”

Holder, the owner of a BMW for five years, said it had taken seven months to have his car alarm fixed.

The drivers said if the situation did not improve, their next step would be the law suit.

While reports on Starcom network today would suggest that the taximen have gone that further step, Managing Director of Warrens Motors indicated that he had not heard about the suit, but “would deal with it if it arose”. At the time of the earlier press article he indicated:

“We do all we can to address their issues. Nobody is laughing at them. We know they are businessmen and we understand and empathise with them when their vehicles are off the road.”

Based on today’s news report it would seem that the taximen have decided to ratchet up the pressure an additional notch.

We on the Margin do have to wonder why the taximen should feel that their only route available was to go public and to threaten going to the courts.  We can’t help but feel that the initial reaction from Warrens Motors may not have been as prompt as they felt they had a right to expect having bought the car reputed to be “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.  We can’t help but be disturbed by claims of transmissions “going bad” after only two years of service on what is supposed to be a top quality car. Yes taxi’s are run hard but hey IT’S A BMW!!!!

We will continue to follow this story.

 Marginal

January 25, 2008

In defense of Albert Branford

The latest victim of Barbados Free Press is Nation journalist Albert Branford. Our friends over at BFP have jumped on Mr. Branford’s article “The Money Factor” and seized on the following passage.

“DAVID THOMPSON has finally achieved his life-long ambition: to be the Prime Minister of Barbados.

Newspaper photographs of his swearing-in ceremony last Wednesday portray a smugness that reflects his inbred sense of entitlement.”

Now the storm in a teacup controversy stems around the use of the word “inbred” in the above sentence.

Here is BFP’s interpretation:

The Nation’s Albert Brandford Makes A Backhanded Racial Comment Against Barbados’ New Prime Minister

The Nation News & Albert Brandford Should Apologise To Prime Minister Thompson – And To The People Of Barbados

We have come to expect very little professionalism and quality from The Nation News. God knows that the paper and most of the staff left behind any sense of public duty years ago.

Brandford’s article is nothing more than a biased political hit-piece – and that’s ok. It is not like we haven’t seen one before at The Nation News. That’s life. That’s politics. At least you can clearly see where their bias is.

But this business of negative racial comments and racial slurs from the writers at The Nation News must stop.

Barbados deserves better than this evil and divisive practice by the largest printed daily.

The dictionary.com site lists the following definitions for “inbred”


So there’s a definition that reads and makes sense, and then there’s a definition that doesn’t fit the context but can be construed as an insult.Naturally BFP takes the latter.

This is ridiculous.

Mr. Branford owes no one an apology for writing what he sees as the facts, which is the purpose of any op/ed piece of journalism. BFP has a long history of savaging people who have the temerity to disagree with them, and we on the margin believe that this is just the latest example of that.

The sad part of it is, that Barbados Free Press tends to undertake these “slash and burn responses” while wrapping themselves in the flag of “freedom of speech”. Unfortunately, Barbados Free Press has become a textbook case of what happens when freedom is exercised without a shred of responsibility.

Marginal

January 10, 2008

Politicians, It’s One Week Before Elections, Do You Know Where Your Vote Is?

With one week left to go before elections, Barbados is in the grips of one of the most intense election campaigns in recent memory. The two parties’ campaigns appear to be evenly matched, and evenly funded, and to a certain extent evenly supported. We on the Margin have been watching the silly season unfold in all its glory, and we have to admit we are unable to predict a winner at this stage.

Yes, if you listen to Waiting In Vain and Royal Rumble and the other party hacks that inhabit the blogosphere, they all predict a resounding victory for their particular party. But having spent the last week talking to many people, we think that both parties are “Whistling past the graveyard”. For as much bluster as either side makes we’re not sure that either of them has captured the hearts of the electorate.  Barbadians are looking at both parties with a skeptical eye and the hard truth is that this election could go either way.

What we have noted that this campaign has been more about accusations and counter accusations rather than issues. We would like to see some serious discussion about both parties’ visions for the next five years. While we wish that we could say that we thought we would get such reasoned debate in the next next week, we really don’t think so. We think that this next week will get wilder and dirtier with each passing day.

We on the margin would urge Barbadians,  think long and hard about both parties before you go into the polling booth. Whoever you choose is entirely up to you, but be sure to participate, be sure to cast your x. Be sure to treat that decision with the seriousness it deserves.  Hopefully we will all be better off for your doing so.

Marginal

December 31, 2007

In Support of Adrian Loveridge

We indirectly received a copy of Adrian Loveridge’s letter to the Prime Minister regarding the near constant death threats that appear online from BFPE. We have published the letter as part of our blog not because we support Mr. Loveridge in all aspects of everything he does, but on the principle that there are some things that should never be tolerated.

BFPE has issued threats and hurled racial invective since they began. They purport to be Government supporters but it is not altogether clear that they are, as they are an embarrassment to the Government. (Or to any organisation that they support) While the threats have to a large degree been directed at BFP, who have the benefit of anonymity, a large portion of them have been directed at Adrian Loveridge, who has had the temerity to disagree with and criticise the Government on several issues.

While some may advance the argument that BFPE is a harmless looney who is not to be taken seriously, we on the margin know that if those threats were directed at us we would take them very seriously. People standing at our funeral wringing their hands and saying “I didn’t think he was serious…” would be very cold comfort.

Mr. Loveridge should make a formal report to the police of the death threats, and also Mr. Arthur should make a public statement condemming the threats. Not to do so, sets a dangerous precedent in Barbadian politics, where we have been fortunate not to have a history of violence.

There should be zero tolerance for the behaviour exhibited by BFPE and its cohorts. And because of this we are publishing Mr. Loveridge’s letter.

Marginal

The Right Honourable Owen S. Arthur, Prime Minister

Sir,

Two days ago the brother of the Chief Justice, Mr. Peter Simmons, telephoned me at our hotel to voice concern about any possible linkages between himself or brother, and what can only be described as almost daily death threats against myself and wife. Most of these death threats and similar vows to burn down our hotel have been placed on two very popular blogs: Barbados Free Press and Barbados Underground. Barbados Free Press recently advised that they have identified at least one of the death threats to IP: 69.73.212.201 timed at 10.39pm (GMT) on 28th. December 2007

I understand that with the assistance of the Police and Cable and Wireless, it is possible to trace the sender (s) of these deeply offensive threats which are often linked to pornographic websites and contain explicit vile comments.

While, we may not entirely share the same views on every subject, I am sure you would not condone this sort of behaviour and I would respectfully ask for your assistance to initiate a Police investigation into this matter.

I promise you my full co-operation to track down this person (s). During the nearly 20 years of residence on Barbados, my wife and I have tried to make a useful contribution to our field of endeavour, tourism.

Of the 106 hotels on Barbados rated by the worlds most visited website, TripAdvisor, Peach and Quiet, is currently ranked #2, which are entirely based on actual guests comments.

I thank you for considering this matter and wish you and your family a healthy and happy 2008.

Adrian Loveridge

29th December 2007

Sent to info@primeminister.gov.bb at 0512 hrs 29 December 2007

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