Saturday, March 28, 2015

An Orwellian state of affairs-Is there any Justice in Paradise?

George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm is a cogent reminder of the need to be ever vigilant as ordinary citizens.  The book which is a political allegory, is based on Russia’s 1917 Revolution.  That revolution overthrew an autocratic system and put in place a set of people who were thought to be more benevolent with ideas for fairness, justice and prosperity. What started out as a promise of a free and just society became a brutal dictatorship and misery for ordinary people.  

In Orwell’s story-Animal Farm- the animals live for years under duress until they find the courage to strategise and overthrow the farmers, their masters. What began as a hopeful experiment ended in disillusionment with the pigs assuming leadership of the farm and enlisting the protection of the dogs. At the end of the novel, as the ordinary animals who do the majority of the work peer into the Great House, they can no longer differentiate between the pigs and the humans. Such became the behaviour and mannerisms of the new leaders that they only served to protect their own selfish interests.  

The most enduring line of Orwell’s novel is the saying, ‘All animals are equal but some are more equal than others’. It highlights the fact that many countries start out with peaceful and democratic ideals, yet inequality festers and the law is in favour of the most powerful. The pigs in Animal Farm demonstrate this point as they continuously changed and manipulated the rules to suit their needs. Such rules were reinforced not by the consent of the people but through brute force in the form of the well-trained dogs.  

Though written in 1945 Animal Farm has an enduring lesson for our societies. The rights of ordinary citizens are frequently trampled while justice is swiftly meted out when they transgress the laws they have no say in. In our Caribbean scenario, St. Lucia is presently facing a scandal of enormous proportions. A recent independent report revealed substantial evidence of extra-judicial killings by members of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. No senior officials have been suspended or charged and families of the victims remain in the dark on justice and compensation.

In Jamaica, less than two weeks ago two policemen were involved in the shooting of an unarmed civilian who they claimed was resisting arrest. However thanks to video evidence the two were identified. Jamaica’s Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) issued a press release stating that one officer was charged for murder while the other was charged for perverting the course of justice. Had it not been for the video capture of the situation there would likely be no arrest.

One can only imagine how the family of the deceased must feel having his life taken so callously and unjustly. After years of police brutality and extra-judicial killings, Jamaica has managed to resolve some of these issues by appointing independent bodies to oversee wrong doing by law enforcement officials. A people cannot feel safe knowing that the authority of the state instead of being used to protect them is actually used against them in unjust ways.

Under the Constitution of Barbados the right to life is guaranteed except where a court imposes a death sentence for a criminal offence or in justifiable instances such as the defense of a person from violence, the defence of property or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained.

With the 50th anniversary of independence approaching and talks of completing the independence project by becoming a republic, Barbadians must critically reflect on what really is the rule of law and whether justice actually exist.

The death of Selwyn Knight is clearly an unconstitutional act. What is even more worrying is the glaring delay in justice, the lack of transparency and the obvious double standards in this matter. Were it a civilian who had pulled the trigger on two plain clothes policemen, justice would have been executed swiftly and severely.

However as Orwell reminds us, some are more equal than others. The lesson for ordinary Barbadians is not to become complacent as the animals in Orwell’s allegory did. By the end of the story with the treatment the animals received they became disillusioned and could not distinguish between their current leaders and their former masters. Having independence does not guarantee a free, fair and just society. We must be ever cautious that history does not repeat itself.  

May Mr.Knight and his family find justice !

Sunday, March 22, 2015

In Support of Jason Holder

The rise of current West Indies captain Jason Holder has drawn much attention from the cricketing fraternity. Commentators, sports journalists, coaches and analysts have all had their say on the new man at the helm of the West Indies One Day team.  

Following the fiasco of the abandoned Indian tour Holder was selected to replace Dwayne Bravo who was evidently punished for leading the rebellion against the West Indies Cricket Board. Not only was Bravo axed as the One Day/Limited Overs captain, but he was also overlooked for the current World Cup.

Many questioned the appointment of Holder, a player who did not cement his place in the team if one is to compare him with fellow Barbadian pacer Kemar Roach.  What was even more intriguing was that Holder’s first assignment came against the best team in the world at the time. The South African tour was indeed a baptism of fire for the One Day captain who managed a consolation victory losing the series 4-1.

Shining through defeat and disappointment however is Holder’s resolve in the face of adversity. At only age twenty-three years old Jason Holder is carrying the weight of the Caribbean on his shoulders. He has had to contend with the tragedy of the West Indies Cricket Board whose leadership has been the butt of cricket jokes in international cricket. Holder has also dealt with internal disputes and poor team performances. Furthermore it is never easy to take charge of a unit with a former leader or leaders. The political developments of the Barbadian Opposition over the past five years are testament to this fact. Holder has no fewer than three past captains including Darren Sammy, Chris Gayle and Denish Ramdin.

The problem with the West Indies cricket team is not a shortage of talent. One of Holder’s greatest task is to get his team to recognise the importance of their jobs to maintaining Caribbean pride and unity. We must spare a thought for Holder as he deals with individuals who possess grossly inflated egos, who sporadically use their cerebral capabilities, who are more focused on sporting gold chains, flashing their duty free sports cars and publishing their night club exploits on social media.    

What Holder's captaincy emphasises is the necessity of investing in and developing the leadership potential of our young people. Barbados in particular is philosophically opposed to embracing the leadership of young people whether it be in business, politics or sports. There is always caution to ‘wait your turn’ despite the fact that many young people have proven their worth and demonstrated immense potential. One must therefore commend chairman of selectors Clive Lloyd for having the foresight of appointing Holder as captain. While some critics have been scathing of the move, Lloyd along with those involved in Holder’s development have spoken about the diligent attitude he has developed over the years. An attitude which clearly has not gone unnoticed.

Indeed Holder is talented but he has demonstrated that talent alone does not make one successful. Hard work, a willingness to reflect and learn from one’s mistakes, to listen to sound advice and to think critically are key ingredients in the path to success. During their must win World Cup fixture against the United Arab Emirates team, one of the analyst positively commented on Holder’s impeccable work ethic in the nets. That hard work resulted in a win for the West Indies and Holder copping the man of the match award.

Holder’s ability to filter criticism, to act on what is constructive and to dismiss negativity must be commended. His ability to overcome harsh and potentially embarrassing defeats and yet speak optimistically, truthfully and firmly about his team are indicators of a man who is well on his way to achieving great things.

The age old debate about leaders being born is all but settled. From my perspective I am yet to come across any scientific study identifying a gene so designated as the leadership gene. Leaders emerge in circumstances where the sum of the individual’s experiences, the individuals and institutions which impact him or her and personal commitment to self-development meet opportunities.

Other young people aiming to achieve success would do well to take note of Jason Holder’s approach and commitment. As Barbadians we must give him our full support and encouragement. We need to focus on developing more youth of Holder’s ilk if we are to rectify the paucity of leadership currently impacting local and regional institutions, the WICB being foremost among them.