PEP & Clement Payne Release: Calling Out Ronald Jones!

On behalf of the officers and members of both the Peoples Empowerment Party (PEP) and the Clement Payne Movement (CPM) I am publicly calling upon Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, to desist from misrepresenting, and ,in effect, slandering, the late Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow in relation to Mr. Barrow’s views and policies on “free” university education for the people of Barbados.

(PERSONAL FILE IMAGE) On several occasions now -- the last one being the Democratic Labour Party's branch meeting at Drax Hall, St. George on the 15th of September 2013 -- Mr. Jones has sought to give Barbadians the impression that a mere five years after establishing "free" university education in Barbados, the late Errol Barrow indicated that the cost of such education was "too high", and intimated that the policy had to be abandoned. This insinuation is fundamentally untrue, and constitutes a politically slanderous attack on Mr Barrow!

(PERSONAL FILE IMAGE) On several occasions now — the last one being the Democratic Labour Party’s branch meeting at Drax Hall, St. George on the 15th of September 2013 — Mr. Jones has sought to give Barbadians the impression that a mere five years after establishing “free” university education in Barbados, the late Errol Barrow indicated that the cost of such education was “too high“, and intimated that the policy had to be abandoned. This insinuation is fundamentally untrue, and constitutes a politically slanderous attack on Mr Barrow!

The reality is that Mr. Barrow established the policy of “free” university education in 1963, and in the 24 years that elapsed between then and his tragic death in 1987, never once retreated from that truly progressive and revolutionary policy!

Even when, as Prime Minister of Barbados, Mr. Barrow had to contend with the massive economic downturn brought on by the “Oil Crisis” of 1973 to 1975, he never once expressed any inclination to abandon the policy of ‘free’ university education for the people of Barbados.

Mr. Barrow always held firm to the position that education was a fundamental human and social right, and that its costs should be collectively borne by all of the taxpayers of Barbados, rather than being placed on the shoulders of the students — the vast majority of whom were of working-class origin — and their biological families. Indeed, this principle was fundamental to Mr. Barrow’s political philosophy of Democratic Socialism!

But don’t take it from me. Listen to the words of Mr. Barrow himself:-

  • “I have always thought of myself as a Socialist…. Democratic Socialism is about planning and equality of opportunity. It has always been fundamental to our basic philosophy.”

(1985 DLP 30th anniversary Message)

  • “Anyone who wishes to associate with the DLP with a view to seeking public office must first….. subscribe to our philosophy of Democratic Socialism.”

(1985 speech entitled “No Turning Back“)

  • “We have tried to ensure…..that every child born in Barbados has the opportunity to develop the talents with which the Lord has blessed it regardless of the family circumstances into which it happened to be born. That is why one of the first things we did when we won the Government was to decree that secondary education (and subsequently tertiary education) would be free of charge”.

(Mr Barrow in the DLP’s 30th anniversary booklet)

  • “The distribution of largesse … cannot be development. Conspicuous consumption by the politicians …is not development. The construction of office buildings… is not development. The purchase of warships and armoured cars is not development…… Gambling is not development…Any political party seeking to fulfill the expectations of the populace. ..must set about to accomplish these objectives in a planned and organised manner…..the elimination of the inequalities of the school fee system and text books, the provision of hot meals…. training in the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, the Community College, the provision of free University Education….”

(1980 lecture entitled “Democracy & Development)

What Mr Barrow is saying here – and what he never tired of reiterating – is that “free” education from the primary to the tertiary level is THE fundamental social policy of Barbados, and that it takes priority over just about every other policy!

Thus, were it left to Mr Barrow, this current Government’s policy of providing free bus rides and financing Constituency Councils and football tournaments could never take priority over “free” university education! Other things that Mr Barrow would never give priority to over the financing of ” free” university education are the currently bloated salaries and “perks” of Government Ministers and senior civil servants; the construction of big buildings such as Baobab Towers, the Barack building and the Supreme Court complex; the maintenance and financing of an Army or Defence Force; and the tens of millions of dollars that are spent every year on the Lotto and other forms of legalized gambling.

For fifty years, we – the people of Barbados – have gladly and willingly borne the cost of educating the young people of Barbados in our own state owned or sponsored educational institutions from the primary level to university level. We have never objected to bearing this financial burden because we know how important education is, not only to the development of our nation, but to our very sense of identity as a people.

We – the people of Barbados – did NOT ask the Freundel Stuart administration to dismantle our Barbadian system of free university education! Mr Barrow initially gave this progressive and revolutionary social policy to us, and – over a period of half a century – we made it into a vital component of the very essence of our nation. Thus, no Government has the right to abolish it without first consulting us and getting our approval !

We therefore call upon Prime Minister Stuart to cancel the decision to start charging Barbadian students tuition fees at UWI, and to engage us - the people of Barbados - in a national discussion about how we will continue to finance the education of our youths in the months and years ahead. There are many solutions to this issue that do NOT involve the jettisoning of Mr Barrow's legacy of "free" university education!

We therefore call upon Prime Minister Stuart to cancel the decision to start charging Barbadian students tuition fees at UWI, and to engage us – the people of Barbados – in a national discussion about how we will continue to finance the education of our youths in the months and years ahead. There are many solutions to this issue that do NOT involve the jettisoning of Mr Barrow’s legacy of “free” university education!

  • DAVID COMISSIONG

President

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