The George Brathwaite Column – Playing ‘The Last Post’
This coming weekend will mark the 62nd annual conference of the beleaguered Democratic Labour Party (DLP). Beneath the propaganda machine and the spinning on contrived FACTS that have little or no assimilation with the truth, there will be deep concerns of political survival. The DLP appears desperate to ward off the threat of banishment to the political wilderness due to its worst set of governmental performances in the party’s history since formation. How does one explain an agenda that includes of all things, allegations of phone tapping from a decade ago? How does one connect with an agenda that will discuss the legality of having a legal certificate to practise law but trivialise the high incidence of firearm related crimes in a social climate that has caused Barbadians to feel terrorised in their country by acts of lawlessness and violent behaviour? Clearly, a drowning party will clutch at straws!
Thus far, DLP supporters have been disgusted and frustrated by the Stuartian culture of procrastination and postponement at both national and party levels. Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s constant stalling on decision-making has literally and figuratively commandeered the mortally wounded DLP. Stuart’s bouts of prolonged silence on matters requiring national urgency, have rendered the full slate of DLP Cabinet members and the ‘new’ political candidates impotent. With the possible exceptions of Dr David Estwick, Donville Inniss, Steven Lashley, Dr Leroy McClean, and the many that have actually walked away from the DLP, most card-carrying DLP members remain slavishly reluctant to expose the insouciance of the DLP leader. Freundel Stuart’s shortcomings stand out like a sore thumb and his mere presence nowadays, hurt like a stumped toe.
Prime Minister Stuart’s failure to prioritise in the national interest has bemused more than the flippant attempts to inspire. Overall, the DLP parliamentarians and Stuart-led Cabinet have been dismal in mapping out progressive policies that can advance the social and economic fortunes of Barbadians. While persons like Social Care Minister Steve Blackett would attempt to invent means to punish parents who give full support to their children’s involvement in the civics of Barbados, the same Minister is stupendously quiet on the young people that are being gunned down by other youth. Talk about caring! The representative for St. John is perhaps still reeling after her inferential and horrible sentiments regarding childless women. Yet, like her political leader, solutions for the many women battling social crises of parenting, and the abilities to feed, clothe, and school their children take on enormous and detrimental proportions.
DLP members ought to have much to discuss at the annual conference, but somehow, progressive ideas and practical solutions have eluded their thoughts. In a very alarming sense, the DLP’s annual conference is nothing more than a last-ditch effort to get out as many die-hard members as possible. More critical members and supporters that are willing to listen to the DLP’s charade one more time, remain curious and doubtful. In an election year, the lack of confidence being manifested by sitting members of the DLP has infiltrated a broad spectrum of the national landscape. Despite there will be a likely attempt to fully disclose the several hidden faces of those hoping to attract a few votes at the next general election, the DLP is hard-pressed to make viable a political party that has typically refused to take responsibility for its woeful measures and omissions to act when circumstances demanded such. Surely, it is a false perception to accept as true that the DLP can turn around things for the better in Barbados.
Undoubtedly, several favoured persons from the business community will attend the DLP’s conference for reasons other than being specially invited guests. Given the furtive operations of the Cabinet when it comes to important national issues, and the fact that most Ministers have demonstrated an obvious resistance to transparency and accountability, one cannot dismiss questions of who and how will the DLP’s election campaign be financed. Yet another deal has been made in which it appears that national assets have been practically gifted to favoured business entities when it was possible that double revenues could have been earned for the country. Sweetheart deals are not new, although it is high time that sales which do not reflect a fair value of Barbados’ assets ought to be discontinued.
In a modernising Barbados, it cannot be business as usual with the Prime Minister and his Ministers refusing to provide adequate information to the public, especially when there are larger proportions of local businesses and citizens reeling at the ramifications of their decisions. Several consecutive reports of the Auditor General have raised very distressing situations regarding the continuity of non-reporting and failure to be above board. In the 2015 report for instance, the Auditor General noted that ‘there are approximately 50 state agencies whose accounts are not included in the financial statements of the Government’. This assessment was pointed out to ‘confirm how the absence of consolidated financial statements could result in the Government, the public and other stakeholders not having a comprehensive view of the situation facing the public finances which … is vital for decision making purposes’.
Moreover, the Auditor General report addressed the problematic and sometimes shady arena of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) noting that ‘the lack of documentation in some of the projects to confirm that the risks were analysed, and a determination made as to which party to allocate the particular risk to, is a shortcoming.’ This is disturbing although not as much as the perceived tenor surrounding widespread wastage and alleged corruption in government. Under this current administration and discounting the efforts of the Leader of the Opposition to have the Public Accounts Committee meet and be functional, Barbados is witnessing significant failures of the traditional parliamentary checks and balance system. Are these not things of governance, along with the social decline that is internationally hurting Barbados’ reputation, the things that the 2017 DLP Annual Conference should seriously consider for discussion and hope to find practical solutions?
Clearly, democracy cannot be sustained without competing political parties and there is no wonder that with the unrelenting failures of the DLP, Barbadians are seeing a proliferation of emergent political parties following on the heels of a robust and united Barbados Labour Party (BLP). If it is reasonable to assume that a political party’s performance in governance is a good indicator of its capacity to be re-elected and general institutional survival, then one can daresay conclude, that the bugler’s rendition of ‘The Last Post’ brings finality for the DLP. The DLP’s paltry performances are more than enough reasons to kick Stuart and his band of inglorious Ministers to the curb. Nine years of forlorn and after numerous sacrifices by the nation’s people without any encouraging results, the electorate is ready to vote the DEMS out! The last gasps of a dying DLP, held under the stranglehold of a Stuartian doctrine and culture of procrastination, will see the membership grapple with the possibility of political termination. Barbadians, certainly, will be exposed to the DLP’s desperate drive for survival this weekend. The Barbados nation will yet see other twists and possible internal brinkmanship, alongside the crude production of very contestable FACTS.