Monday, February 14, 2011


The ‘Peoples Empowerment Party’ (PEP) is extremely concerned about the manner in which the powers-that-be in Barbados continue to disrespect and stifle the growth of our performing artistes!

Can you imagine that in the year 2011 some hotels in Barbados are still offering Barbadian entertainers the paltry and insulting sum of $150.00 for a night’s performance? Can you imagine that some entertainers are still being required to make do with a toilet as their changing room?

It is not surprising therefore that a number of Barbados’ leading veteran entertainers, such as Richard Stoute and Anthony "Gabby" Carter, have long since given up on the Barbadian hotel sector as a source of employment and income.

And what, other that utter disrespect, could be the reason for Barbadian radio stations to give the barest minimum of air-play to the recordings of outstanding, international quality Barbadian artistes? Just last year, veteran Barbadian songstress, Toni Norville, released a brilliant gospel album entitled "Reign" but sadly, one does not need more than the figngers of one hand to count the number of times this album has featured on local radio! And the same thing can be said for Arturo Toppin, with his majestic "Inside Out" album, and indeed for many other Barbadian artistes.

Every year in Barbados there is a lot of talk about what our local performing artistes need to do in order to make it on to the international scene. Every conceivable person, including sundry Ministers of government, take it upon themselves to lecture our entertainers as to what they must and must not do if they are to make it. But what is always conveniently overlooked is that the starting place must be the provision of a strong local support base for our artistes. Our performers must be able to satisfactorily commence their professional careers in Barbados and the Caribbean, before taking the next upward step to the international scene!

In the Caribbean island of Cuba, the biggest tourism attractions are the Cabaret shows at the Tropicana and the Hotel Nacional. Indeed, the Hotel Nacional stages no less than two fully sold out Cabaret shows a day, thereby providing employment for literally dozens of singers, musicians, dancers, marketing and administrative personnel, make-up artists, and stage, sound and lighting technicians! In other words the tourism industry of Cuba provides the basis of a professional career for the artistes of Cuba.

Well, in Barbados, we possess more than fifty 3, 4 and 5 star hotels that should be providing good paying, career starting jobs for hundreds of local singers, dancers, musicians, poets, comedians, writers and technicians. Tragically, this does not happen, and will never happen, if is left solely up the initiative of the hoteliers!

Indeed, Government must intervene! The State must take the initiative to establish a national union or association of certified professional performers and technicians; to establish minimum wage rates and working conditions for entertainers in the hotel sector; and to use all of the available instruments of government incentives to persuade or cajole hotels to factor local entertainment into their programmes and budgets in a significant manner.

And similar governmental action is required with the radio and television stations of Barbados! How can we reasonably expect Barbadian artistes to continue to invest their time and resources in creating products, when they can’t get airplay even in their home territory? Clearly, the time has come for the State to legislate and regulate!

We also need to turn our attention to the regional scene, and do what is necessary to establish a regional "circuit" for our performing artistes - and not just for our calypsonians and reggae performers! Just like the USA, we too must have a well established Caribbean touring circuit, stretching from Suriname in the south to Bermuda in the north. Of course, this will call for inter-governmental cooperation, and a mechanism to subsidize transportation expenses for certified artistes.

The PEP is willing to work with the entertainers and artistes of Barbados to bring these ideas to fruition.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Black Barbadian Profile in Courage

In celebration of Black History Month, we would like to share with the Barbadian people a truly outstanding example of Black courage and heroism drawn from the annals of Barbadian history.

It was the year 1675, and the oppressive British slave colony of Barbados was celebrating its 50th year of existence. Indeed, by 1675, the island of Barbados had developed into the prized "jewel" in the British "crown" of colonial territories, and boasted a white population of 23,000 persons, and an enslaved black population of some 33,000 souls.

Furthermore, by 1675, the white slave-masters of Barbados had worked out a comprehensive system for keeping the enslaved Blacks or Africans in check and under control. According to the English writer, Francis Ligon, who published his "A True & Exact History of Barbadoes" in 1657, the slaveocracy’s method consisted of the following three components:-
(1) the Blacks were rigorously prevented from coming into contact with any weapons whatsoever, while, of course, the Whites were well armed with muskets and other firearms;

(2) the Blacks were kept in a state of shock and awe by the fearsomeness, power and brutality of the slavery regime; and

(3) the enslaved Blacks were drawn from various regions of Africa, and as a result spoke different languages and therefore experienced difficulty in communicating with each other.
It was in this milieu that a network of enslaved Blacks or Africans, residing on several plantations across Barbados, spent three years meticulously hatching a plot to over-power and destroy the white slave-master class, and to take over control of the island.

This momentous event in the history of Barbados was recorded in a 1676 United Kingdom publication entitled "Great Newes from the Barbadoes, or A True and Faithful Account of the Grand Conspiracy of the Negroes....". The author recorded that the African-Barbadians had chosen "an ancient Gold Coast Negro" called Cuffy to be crowned the new king of Barbados, and had designed an insurrection that was to commence with setting fire to the fields of sugar cane, and culminate in a general slaughter of the slave-masters.

Unfortunately for the network of revolutionaries, a female domestic slave by the name of Anna (alias Fortuna) overheard one of the rebels trying to persuade a reluctant teenager to join the plot. Anna spoke with the young slave, discovered that the uprising was due in two weeks’ time, and persuaded the youth to go with her to inform her slave-master, Judge Gyles Hall.

Judge Hall, in turn, went in haste to the Governor, Sir Jonathan Atkins, and he immediately mobilised his corps of military guards to arrest the known conspirators. Governor Atkins also declared Martial Law, and within days more than one hundred African-Barbadian suspects had been arrested and subjected to a barbaric process of interrogation, torture, trial and execution.

Seventeen of the Black suspects were immediately found guilty and sentenced to death, with six being burnt alive and eleven beheaded and dragged through the streets of Speightstown.

It was against this background of utter horror and barbarity that the shining, imperishable heroism of an African-Barbadian revolutionary hero known simply as "Tony" emerged!

Tony, described by his captors as "a sturdy rogue, a Jew’s Negro", was in the presence of another condemned rebel who was being prepared for death by burning. The "Provost Marshall" or superintendent of security was in attendance, and he proceeded to urge this unfortunate man to confess and to name others before he died. The obviously terrorised black man responded by calling for water - a sign that he was prepared to speak and to divulge information.

Thereupon, Tony immediately spoke up and admonished him as follows:- "Thou Fool, are there not enough of our Countrymen killed already? Art thou minded to kill them all? This rebuke caused the condemned man to remain silent! And, in obvious resentment, one of the white spectators shouted to Tony - "Tony, Sirrah, we shall see you fry bravely by and by!

Tony’s response to this threat of the most horrible death imaginable was to declare proudly and defiantly: - "If you Roast me today, you cannot roast me tomorrow!" - and to bid the execution to proceed.

Tony was burnt to death - one of forty-two heroes who were executed for having the audacity to claim their freedom and dignity. Five others committed suicide in jail, while seventy were either deported or sent back to their so-called "owners" after a savage flogging.

Tony’s example, and his immortal cry of courage and defiance - "If you roast me today, you cannot roast me tomorrow!" - should be remembered, honoured and cherished by every generation of Barbadians! What magnificent and exemplary courage, dignity, brotherhood and solidarity!

Indeed, our generation of Barbadians, would do well to look back to that fateful year of 1675, and to adopt as our second national motto, a ringing cry with which to confront our enemies - "If you roast me today, you cannot roast me tomorrow!".

We wish to implore the Barbadians of this generation to be ever conscious of their great heritage, and to carry themselves with such dignity, courage and self-respect, that they show themselves to be worthy sons and daughters of our magnificent and beloved "Tony".

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Egypt Today, Barbados Tomorrow

The crisis in Egypt that has caused millions of Egyptians - led by the educated youth - to engage in nine days of mass demonstrations, was ‘made ’ in the United States of America (USA) and Europe, and is coming to us right here in Barbados and the Caribbean!

The best way to conceptualize the situation in Egypt is to refer back to the labour rebellion that rocked the English-speaking Caribbean in the 1930's . In Barbados, for example , the masses of people found themselves contending with an oppressive, autocratic planter/merchant oligarchy that was reinforced and propped up by the power of imperialist "Great Britain" . And the critical spark was applied to this tinder box of social conditions when the international capitalist system plunged into a profound depression which inflicted the additional penalties of unemployment, scarcity, hunger and hopelessness on the already suffering people.

The result was an explosion of pent up revolutionary anger and energy that shook the very foundation of the quasi-feudal colonial order - not only in Barbados , but throughout the region.

Well, the Egyptian people are facing an almost identical scenario! For thirty long years they have suffered under the oppressive, autocratic rule of an oligarchy led by Hosni Mubarak, and propped up and financed by the imperialistic USA with billions of dollars in so-called "aid" every year.

But this alone does not explain the hundred of thousands out on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria! The other critical contributing factor is the fundamental breakdown in the system of international capitalism that has manifested itself since the 2007.

The reality is that the "vampires" of finance capitalism in the USA and Western Europe engaged in such an excessive , prolonged and parasitical plundering of the resources of the world that by 2007 it had become clear that they had caused fundamental damage to the world economic system.

Compelling evidence of their greed and parasitism is reflected in the fact that they created a quantity of largely fictitious financial derivatives that is equivalent to ten times the "Gross Domestic Product" of all the countries of the world combined ! And , particularly since 2007 , they have been forcing national governments to save and bail out these fraudulent financial instruments at the expense of the welfare of their own people.

Egypt has not been spared the ravages of this international capitalist crisis, and the Egyptian people have been rocked by steeply rising levels of youth unemployment and a hyper-inflationary increase in food prices . Indeed , the price of simple bread in Egypt has increased by 10 per cent each month since last year, motivating the demonstrators to coin the slogan -"Bread ,Freedom, Dignity".

The young educated Egyptians who are driving these demonstrations are acting out of frustration and anxiety about their future ! They are seeing signs of a civilizational collapse all around them and are deeply concerned about their rapidly diminishing future prospects. It is not simply about Mubarak - it is much deeper and wider than any one leader, no matter how powerful or autocratic he might be!

The truth is that an economic and political system is dying , and if nations and leaders do not recognise this reality and take concrete steps to distance themselves from the effects of the death throes , they will be dragged down as well!
The Barbados and Caribbean governments need to wake up! If they simply continue to do what they are doing now their young people will soon come to sense that their future prospects are diminishing rapidly, and they too will eventually take matters into their own hands - in the streets of Bridgetown and every other Caribbean capital!

Professor James Smalls Interview pt. 2 of 3

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The Nation Newspaper of 20th January 2011 featured an interview with Mr John Beale, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of RBTT Bank (Barbados) Ltd and Barbados’ current Ambassador in Washington D.C, in which he described the process through which banks in Barbados impose bank fees and other charges on their Barbadian customers.

Mr Beale’s reported words were as follows:-
"For example, every year a bank would sit down with their directors and their managers and they may say: ‘We made $1 million last year, we must make $1.1 million this year, where is it coming from?’ The guy may say the loans are not as many as we had in the past, and then somebody comes up with the bright idea - ‘let’s make some extra fees’, they go straight to bottom line, there is no cost to it. Someone may ask ‘how can we do that?’ The answer would be ‘Let’s tack on a $5 fee here or something and across the board that would give us another $200,000".
The Barbadian people should read this statement over and over again, and let it sink into their consciousness! Many of us suspected that our banks were unreasonably and exploitatively imposing bank fees and charges on us, and now we have express confirmation from a man who functioned at the highest level of the banking fraternity!

This is Capitalism at its very worst! This is a business system based on the principle of plundering the enterprise and its customers or constituents for the sole purpose of delivering ever increasing "profits" to people whose only connection to the enterprise is that they hold pieces of paper (shares) that entitle them to be considered a part owner of the enterprise.

Now, if Barbados had a properly functioning democratic Parliamentary system, Mr Beale’s statement would have elicited howls of outrage from our members of Parliament, and the setting up of a Parliamentary committee to investigate the banks, and to develop appropriate measures to protect the Barbadian public.

Needless-to-say, there will be no such response from the ineffectual ‘political eunuchs’ of the two political parties that are popularly known as "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Bum".

The Peoples Empowerment Party, on the other hand, publicly addressed this issue last year as a component of the PEP’s programme to tackle the recession. The exact quote from our party document entitled ‘Time To Make A Move!’ is as follows:-
"One of our strategies must be to save our people from the suffocating effect of burdensome debt and oppressively high interest rates.

At the present time, many thousands of working class and middle class Barbadians find themselves in a debt trap - ensnared by high and oppressive levels of bank debt, mortgage debt, automobile based finance company debt, and credit card debt. Generally speaking, the interest charged on credit in Barbados is way too high. For example, Barbadians routinely pay an astronomical 22 per cent per annum on their credit card debt!

It is clear therefore that our Government needs to come to the rescue of the Barbadian people by ensuring that the Minister of Finance, a public official elected by the people and therefore accountable to the people, has the power to intervene and to determine maximum limits on interest rates charged by banks and other financial institutions, across the board.

There is also scope for the Minister of Finance and/or the Central Bank of Barbados to engage with the banking sector in working out a national ‘Code of Conduct’ that will guide the behaviour and actions of banks in relation to their imposition of interest and other user charges on Barbadians during this period of national response to the intensifying recession.

The bottom-line is that effective measures must be taken to extricate Barbadians from the crushing mounds of personal and household debt that so many of them are now struggling under. And this must be seen as a national priority".
What a comical people we Barbadians are. We refuse visionaries and patriots admission to our House of Assembly, but open the doors wide for the bogus queens, kings and jacks of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle dum!