Franklyn – man on fire

UK Barbados Nation - - NEWS - By An­toinette Con­nell an­toinet­te­con­[email protected]­tion­

IT WAS A po­lit­i­cal mas­ter­stroke in the midst of swirling uncer­tainty af­ter the his­toric May 24 Gen­eral Elec­tion left the is­land with­out an Op­po­si­tion.

With the in­cum­bent Demo­cratic Labour Party wiped out by the Bar­ba­dos Labour Party (BLP) in its 2018 clean sweep of the 30 seats and none of the mi­nor par­ties/ in­de­pen­dents mus­ter­ing votes of any note, there was no op­po­si­tion. Then a week into the new Gov­ern­ment, the St Michael West Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment

Bishop Joseph Ather­ley dropped a bomb­shell. He was mov­ing from the bo­som of Gov­ern­ment to as­sume the of­fice of Op­po­si­tion Leader.

Along with the spec­u­la­tion as to why he made the shift also came fer­vent de­bate on who should now be ap­pointed to the two crit­i­cal op­po­si­tion Sen­ate seats as the Op­po­si­tion was now with­out the might of a party ma­chin­ery and needed, along with the lone voice in the House of As­sem­bly in Ather­ley, two other key speak­ers.

Ather­ley chose to go with Sen­a­tor Crys­tal Drakes, tick­ing all the right boxes to meet the de­vel­op­ing needs of a tran­si­tion­ing coun­try. Drakes was an econ­o­mist who was young and fe­male.

With the BLP hold­ing the other 29 seats, the small Op­po­si­tion needed a te­na­cious, fear­less per­son­al­ity, and Ather­ley un­leashed Caswell Franklyn.


Long known as a very forth­right per­son, Franklyn now as­sumed a greater role of cape cru­sader tak­ing on the Gov­ern­ment, trade union­ists, po­lit­i­cal par­ties, the pri­vate sec­tor, the news me­dia and any of the pow­er­ful in his fight for the un­der­dog. The head of the Unity Work­ers’ Union was now squarely pit­ted against his once pow­er­ful ally, Prime Min­is­ter Mia Amor Mot­t­ley, at the height of Mia ma­nia.

That she ap­peared un­touch­able be­cause of her ex­treme pop­u­lar­ity mat­tered not to the blunt Franklyn, a for­mer as­sis­tant to the then At­tor­ney Gen­eral, later Chief Jus­tice Sir David Sim­mons and an em­ployee in the At­tor­ney Gen­eral Of­fice when Mot­t­ley held the port­fo­lio. He knew the ter­ri­tory and tar­gets well and there­fore his chal­lenges would be grounded not only in law but prece­dent, mak­ing him a con­stant thorn in the BLP’S flesh.

In the midst of the cel­e­bra­tion and in the ab­sence of the other ac­tivists seem­ingly si­lenced by ap­point­ments, Franklyn swiftly got around to en­sur­ing that nei­ther Mot­t­ley nor the BLP would get away un­no­ticed if they at­tempted any of the same things of which they had ac­cused the pre­vi­ous rul­ing party.

Even be­fore he landed in the Sen­ate he had con­demned what he saw as an over­sized Cab­i­net and as­so­ci­ated ap­point­ments, con­tend­ing that Mot­t­ley’s sug­ges­tion to amend the Con­sti­tu­tion to ac­com­mo­date a DLP Op­po­si­tion in the Sen­ate reeked of con­tempt for the wishes of the elec­torate. While the elec­torate ap­peared to be say­ing it trusted Mot­t­ley, she, by her pro­posal, would be hap­pier with over­sight from the DLP, he con­tended.

His knack for un­cov­er­ing the less than ob­vi­ous in pol­i­tics re­mained at the fore when it came to the Mot­t­ley style of lead­er­ship as he pointed out that in our sys­tem of gov­er­nance a Cab­i­net min­is­ter would first have to re­sign if he/she op­posed gov­ern­ment pol­icy on the floor of the House of As­sem­bly. Back­benchers were free to op­pose. Mot­t­ley, he said, had al­most all of her col­leagues on the front bench and only two back­benchers.

In his first con­tri­bu­tion in the Sen­ate, he locked on to the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments to qual­ify two of the Prime Min­is­ter’s picks to be­come sen­a­tors, liken­ing the move to the last ad­min­is­tra­tion’s amend­ment of the Supreme Court Of Ju­di­ca­ture Act to se­cure its pre­ferred Chief Jus­tice.

The ac­tivist be­lieved

Bar­ba­di­ans should be con­cerned about chang­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion just “be­cause you can”.

“I think this is a rush job to fa­cil­i­tate these in­di­vid­u­als. I don’t think this would have been done for me or for most Bar­ba­di­ans . . .They are jump­ing through hoops for cer­tain peo­ple. This bill should not see the light of day and is fa­tally flawed,” he said.

He summed it up as an abuse of power. “Gov­ern­ment must be care­ful how it uses its power. We have just opened the door to ab­so­lute cor­rup­tion. You can’t be­have like this just be­cause you have the power . . . You don’t just pass laws for your friends . . . Can’t you find two other per­sons from the 277 000 other per­sons in Bar­ba­dos?” he asked the Cham­ber.

An­other ap­point­ment pro­voked his ire

– Charles Jong to the post of direc­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the BLP Gov­ern­ment.

He chal­lenged Mot­t­ley’s au­thor­ity to make

Pub­lic Ser­vice ap­point­ments, which he said were the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion.

While Jong had done “a good job” work­ing for the BLP in the elec­tions, “his re­ward can­not be a job in the Pub­lic Ser­vice, and if it is a job in the Pub­lic Ser­vice there are pro­ce­dures . . . . ,” Franklyn pointed out.

Locked in bat­tle

Through­out 2018, Franklyn split his at­ten­tion be­tween pol­i­tics and trade union­ism, and some­times the two col­lided. The ob­vi­ously clumsy han­dling of lay­offs and other mat­ters re­lated to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Bar­ba­dos Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery and Trans­for­ma­tion (BERT) pro­gramme got much of Franklyn’s at­ten­tion in the lat­ter part of the year. When he wasn’t tak­ing on the ad­min­is­tra­tion, he found him­self locked in bat­tle with the ma­jor trade unions – the Bar­ba­dos Work­ers’ Union (BWU) and the Na­tional Union of Pub­lic Work­ers (NUPW) – and em­ploy­ers.

He scathingly crit­i­cised his coun­ter­parts in the other unions, ac­cus­ing them of “rolling over to let the Gov­ern­ment play with their belly like a lit­tle puppy” over the al­leged bonds ne­go­ti­a­tions with the state-owned Caribbean Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion, which sev­ered more than half of its work­ers in De­cem­ber.

“. . . Work­ers must be paid in le­gal ten­der. I must be able to take a le­gal ten­der to the su­per­mar­ket or a shop and the body will give me goods. If I go to a shop [with a bond], will they give me any­thing? Gov­ern­ment can­not pay with fool­ish pa­per. The BWU has strongly de­nied Franklyn’s bonds claim.

He of­ten crit­i­cised the NUPW and the BWU for their ac­cep­tance of a small in­crease soon af­ter Gov­ern­ment took of­fice while pre­vi­ously hold­ing out for more.

He then turned his at­ten­tion to the BLP’S ap­proach, threat­en­ing that with a larger ma­jor­ity his union would have been on the streets.

“Gov­ern­ment can’t be so rogue as to be­lieve that they can treat peo­ple as they like be­cause they have 29 seats. It has to stop. You can’t ex­pect to treat peo­ple in this man­ner. Bar­ba­di­ans are too soft and al­low politi­cians to treat them badly,” he said.

His pas­sion for the rights of the worker is ob­vi­ous.

When pres­i­dent of the Prison Of­fi­cers As­so­ci­a­tion, Trevor Browne, was charged with se­duc­ing his col­league not to work, Franklyn was there at the court hear­ing and be­fore long the in­dus­trial re­la­tions con­sul­tant to the body said it was pulling out of the Con­gress of Trade Unions and Staff Asso­ciations of Bar­ba­dos.

Browne, he said, had been charged with, essen­tially, car­ry­ing out the func­tions nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with a trade union leader.


(From left) Sen­a­tor Caswell Franklyn and Op­po­si­tion Leader Joseph Ather­ley look on as newly named Sen­a­tor- des­ig­nate Crys­tal Drakes speaks to the me­dia.


OP­PO­SI­TION Sen­a­tor Caswell Franklyn walk­ing down the steps of Par­lia­ment af­ter he ve­he­mently ob­jected to the pass­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tion Amend­ment Bill.

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