An appearance of bias?

Despite the copious and mostly negative written and oral commentary during the past weeks on the appointment without advertisement of Mrs. Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland to the post of Executive Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, it seems unlikely that the governing administration will reverse that decision anytime soon or at all.

This placement appears to be viewed by the administration rather as a pure political appointment that does not ordinarily abide popular question or public competition, such as those to the local diplomatic corps or to the chairmanship of the state-owned enterprises and, until recently, to the judiciary. Whether this assessment of the situation is a valid or accurate one is a matter impatient of political debate.

It however renders much of the popular discourse as a purely academic diversion since there is, as we understand it, no conceivable or available avenue for a legal challenge.
Further, the brunt of the popularly voiced opposition to the appointment appears to be that it was wrong to appoint Mrs. Bynoe-Sutherland because she is the wife of a sitting member of the Cabinet. In our view, this argument is misplaced. First, given the almost closed nature of Barbadian society, the concept of debarring an individual from appointment to a public post because of family ties is likely to result in an ahistorical, absurd and fruitless concentration on avoiding this perception to the exclusion of the qualifications and suitability of the applicant for the post.

We are persuaded that the critical issue here is not simply the fact of the marital relation, but rather one as to whether Mrs. Bynoe-Sutherland would have been selected for such an appointment were she the wife of say, a candidate for the Democratic Labour Party in last year’s general election. It becomes clear then that the crux of the matter is the suitability of any applicant to fill the post and not their relationship to anyone in political office.

Unfortunately, the government, through its mode of selection by nomination, appears to have shot itself in the foot on this issue since the appointment was never made, as it so easily might have been, the subject of public competition. Had even this fig leaf of fair play been donned with the identical result, the debate would then have been about the nature of the process and not its substance.

Much of the argument offered in defence of the administration’s treatment of the matter has been more shrill than cogent. The appointee might have indeed been the “best qualified” candidate, but why is that fact to be assumed in a circumstance where there was no room for comparison? The fact that the remuneration is less than that currently earned by Mrs. Bynoe-Sutherland is a fatuous intervention and the assertion that the outgone DLP administration acted identically with an appointment at the Barbados Water Authority during the last decade is equivalent to the pleaded defence of an accused that others did it before so it cannot be wrong for me to do it now.

As we stated above, the decision will not be reversed. In light of this, we may hope only, as a patriotic Barbadian corporate citizen, that she will have a successful tenure that will inure to the benefit of all the citizens of our nation who use the services of the hospital.

The political repercussions of the nature of the appointment for the governing administration, if any, shall remain, as these matters always do, with the memories and degree of disgust still felt by the electorate at some date in the future.

Barbados Advocate

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