Buy, Steal, or Disappear?
“A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation.” – James Freeman Clarke.
The announcement of May 24th, 2018 as the date for the next general election in Barbados has come as a relief for most. The May date signals a ‘mayday’ call and it has churned out possibilities and probabilities for those likely to govern the country in the aftermath of economic failures and societal decline. High taxation and high crime rates have added immense suffering to the lives of Barbadians; this fact is given the numerous episodes over the lost (last) decade. The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) through its political leader and other surrogates are suggesting that the party will be returned to the seat of governance with a bigger majority.
Noteworthy, there remain doubts about the DLP’s full slate of candidates with Dr Dennis Lowe sidelined for health reasons while the nation’s health is in a compromised position with garbage build-up negatively impacting upon communities across the island. There is speculation that Dr. David Estwick, after having repeatedly labelled the DLP’s economic policy framework as a dismal failure but voted for such, may jump over board at the last minute. Dr Estwick’s decision is also said to be tied to the persistent overflowing of sewage on Barbados’ south coast which reached crisis proportions since 2017 and continues to the present moment. The shock effect of Estwick withdrawing at the last minute brings back memories.
Quite frankly, the DLP seems adrift in terms of its readiness to contest the elections despite Donville Inniss, another critic of the DLP’s ‘silent’ leader. Inniss insists that the DLP’s machinery attracted problems for itself because of poorly communicated expressions that would amount to a prosperous Barbados. It appears laughable that PM Stuart would say “a date has been set, and the battle has now begun in earnest” when in fact, there is a glaring absence of energy from the DLP’s candidates and political machinery. The clouds are hovering over the DLP in what has been described by some, to be an election that forever will determine future governance in Barbados.
The political climate after the announcement prompted one of the most foreboding statements in the immediate days following PM Freundel Stuart’s forced call. George Payne of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is mulling over the incredulous approach of the ruling DLP. Payne noted that the DLP campaign team, planners, candidates, and blind-supporters will “have to buy the election,” or that “they plan to steal it or they plan to disappear.” This statement is relevant in the context of the popular discourse and it mirrors much of the uneasiness and distrust that has developed throughout the DLP’s years in office.
The electorate’s ignorance on corruption is the power holding together the DLP. Nonetheless, the DLP’s credibility has sunk to an unenviable low against the several pieces of real evidence pointing to what was once described by Mia Mottley and the BLP as a politics of stealth. The politics of stealth revealed secret deals and signings, significant concessions to business entities such as Sandals which only became known by leaks. There was the CLICO debacle, the peculiar relationship with a local business magnate, the Cahill fiasco, the sales of the Barbados Hilton and the Blue Horizon hotels which all left speculation of infelicities, malfeasance, and corrupt practices on the streets of Barbados.
In addition to the problems presenting real issues of trust for the Barbadian electorate when it comes to the DLP and its candidates, the many veiled attempts to shut up citizens complaining of the austere measures and practices of deception by the DLP have given new zeal to those believing their rights have been trampled. Ordinary citizens are mindful that a Speaker of the House refused to recuse himself in circumstances wherein the said Speaker was accused by an elderly member of the population of misappropriating the man’s funds and then failing to immediately comply with a court judgment.
Moreover, with the arbitrary attempts followed by legal challenges to deny Commonwealth citizens from registering to vote, represented another indication of a callous and mischievous DLP. The paltry performances of the DLP over the last 10 years coupled with the desperate rhetoric to serve yet another term, prods the citizenry to become suspicious of the DLP’s tactics. Prime Minister Stuart on numerous occasions has refused to show the empathy that any other leader would show when the plight of the poor has worsened, the burdens on workers and their unions have become unsustainable, and the neglect in the provision of services has been abominable.
Under the leadership of Mia Mottley who has grown in the position of Leader of the Opposition and in her attempt to pull all aboard for a better and prosperous Barbados, the BLP is nascent. The annual BLP picnic on National Heroes Day, the biggest since inception, suggests that it can only be by wickedness in high places should the DLP mount more than a handful of seats. The BLP’s vitality is for safeguarding today’s people and the generation of Barbados to come. On the weekend, Mottley asserted that: “I want to do right by the people of this country, but we can only do it if we join forces to bring the best Barbados possible.” Undoubtedly, the BLP-inspired hope is an emerging light capturing the attention of vast numbers of the electorate.
Anything short of the BLP attaining a commanding and overwhelming victory, suggests that the ballot box would have met with undue interference of some sort by those in positions to act selfishly and undermine the very institutions that Barbados has been prided – free and fair elections under the People’s Representation Act. The DLP objectively has situated itself in history as the worst-performing administration in the annals of Barbados. So, will the DLP attempt to buy or steal an election victory, or will that botched party do as most Barbadians now hope, and disappear?
(Dr George C. Brathwaite is a part-time lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, and a political consultant. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)