Commentary: Barbados celebrates 44th anniversary of independence

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by Oscar Ramjeet

Barbados, which is known as Little England, will on Tuesday, November 30, celebrate its 44th anniversary of independence. It was at midnight on November 29, 1966, the Union Jack was lowered and replaced by the Bajan flag.

It was veteran politician Errol Barrow who saw the country into independence having followed up from work done by Grantley Adams.

On the eve of the 44th anniversary the country is experiencing grave financial difficulties, forcing the government to introduce "belt tightening" measures for the next fiscal year, including an increase in value added tax (VAT) and the introduction of a new prime minister, Freundel Stuart, who succeeded David Thompson, who died a month ago from pancreatic cancer.

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Oscar Ramjeet is an attorney at law who practices extensively throughout the wider Caribbean

Stuart, who is the eighth prime minister of Barbados, is not known on the international stage; in fact, he is not even heard of regionally. It is not certain whether he is of the calibre of his predecessors like Barrow, Tom Adams, Bernard St John, Erskine Sandiford, Owen Arthur and Thompson. Barrow had two stints between November 1966 to September 1976 and May 1986 to 1987 when he passed.

Barbados is the leading tourist island in the Caribbean — famous for its white sand beaches; beautiful resorts, including Sandy Lane where Tiger Woods had his wedding; friendly people; very little or no crime; a sound judicial and legal system and, above all, a sober government and is one of the few countries in the region where there are no reports of corruption by government officials.

"Little England" is also the country where the royal family and the British aristocrats vacation from time to time. It is one of the most populated countries in the planet — having a population nearly 300,000 in a 166 square mile area and an English writer once jokingly said that the island is so small that Garfield Sobers had to be careful not to hit the ball out of the island into the sea.

It is also famous for its high living standard and the government has a well organised family plan and currently has the lowest birth rate in the region.

Speaking about cricket, Barbados has produced a large number of world known and outstanding cricketers, so much so that during independence celebrations a Bajan squad challenged a World XI. It seems that the country produced the most cricketing knights in the Commonwealth. Among them are: Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Everton Weekes, Sir Clyde Walcott, and Sir Conrad Hunte. The other outstanding cricketers are: Malcolm Marshall, opening batsmen, Desmond Haynes, and Gordon Greenidge, pacers Wesley Hall, Charlie Griffith, and Joel Garner. Also in the spotlight were Seymour Nurse and Cammie Smith. Not to mention Collie Smith, who unfortunately died in a road accident in the United Kingdom in his prime.

Barbados is a melting pot, where nationals from all over the world live, mainly because it has been the hub of regional and international organisations, such as the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, which hosts the Faculty of Law where the region’s 7,000 lawyers received their Bachelor of Laws Degrees. Students cannot secure their LLB degrees from the University of Guyana, and other universities in the region.

The United States Embassy in Barbados services the entire Eastern Caribbean, and so do a few other international organisations.

Barbados is also famous for flying fish and, because the country wanted flying fish to remain a national icon, was engaged in a battle with Trinidad and Tobago, which had arrested several Barbadian fishermen, who they accused of fishing in the territorial waters of the twin island republic.

However, the Permanent Council of Arbitration has come to a decision and has established a maritime boundary between the two countries.

The land of flying fish and cricketers is not without criticism. It is said that the government is not too friendly to other Caribbean nationals and at times has breached the CARICOM agreement on the freedom of movement when it ordered several Caribbean nationals, mainly Guyanese, to leave the country — many of them had spent several years working there.

Trinidad and Tobago is known as the land of steelband and calypso, but Barbadians are trying to compete with the twin island republic when they introduced Crop Over — a annual carnival type festival. They have also produced a few outstanding calypsonians including Red Plastic Bag and the Mighty Gabby.

There are also a few spots that attract tourists — Nelson Street — the street that never sleeps, famous for night life and where one can get fried fish and barbeque chicken at any time in the night.

Congratulations, Barbados, on your 44th anniversary.

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