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Arthur showing ignorance - Levy - Civil society irked by former B'dos PM's views

Published:Sunday | July 19, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Civil-society functionaries have expressed disappointment with statements made by former prime minister of Barbados Owen Arthur in relation to the involvement of civil-society groups in the social-partnership talks.

Reacting to the comments from the former regional leader, Horace Levy, member of the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC), said Arthur was speaking out of ignorance.

"The first thing Owen Arthur should recognise is that the trade unions are a part of civil society and trade unions themselves know that they are a part of civil society, and that is why they want other civil-society groups to join in with them, so Mr Arthur needs to learn that trade unions are a part and a major part of civil society. It's a piece of ignorance on his part which he needs to correct," he said.

Levy went on to reflect on aspects of the social partnership talks which were convened when Arthur was in power.

"The trade unions in Barbados at the time in the '90s, when he was doing his thing, were very militant, so it did play a key role in the social partnership and the social partnership was outstanding in its rejection of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) devaluation demands and so on, so that the social partnership did an outstanding work and Mr Arthur can take a lot of credit for that," he said.

According to Levy, "Civil society here has played a key role, and nothing that Mr Arthur wants to say about civil society being just noise makers has any relevance. That is nonsense. Civil society has played a key role on human rights, on the environment, on attacking corruption, and so on."

The JCSC member noted that the reception of the Government to the ideas put forward by civil-society groups has been less than desirable.

"The problem is inside the partnership here. There has been a failure on the part of the Government to respect the input of civil society, in particular on the environment, which has made civil-society people consider withdrawing entirely, even though they have not done so yet but the treatment of some of their inputs has been very poor," he said.

Levy also argued that civil society is important to governance.

"Mr Arthur has told the Government that to get into the 21st century and out of the 20th, they do this without civil society, and that is utter nonsense. If it's one thing that is characterising the 21st century, it is the role of civil society in governance. There is no governance without civil society, which includes the roles of trade unions and non-government organisations, environmental, human-rights and other groups," he said.