Sir Frank Alleyne is disturbed by what he sees as indications that democracy could be under threat in Barbados. Sir Frank, an economist and former dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of the West Indies, made his concerns known last night as he delivered a James Tudor Institute Of Politics lecture on leadership in Barbadian and Caribbean society.
“I’m starting to see some signs in Barbados which worry me,” he said in the auditorium of the Democratic Labour Party, George Street headquarters. “Until 2013, my certain knowledge is that once there is an election in Barbados the winner was accepted and allowed to get on with the business of governing. This is the first time we are seeing and hearing, not on the ground, but openly, that the losers were hoping for a collapse of the Government. They were putting on the pressure.”
According to Sir Frank, that pressure eased only with the departure from the Barbados Labour Party last month of former Prime Minister Owen Arthur.
“When Owen Arthur decided to become Independent, this was one of the first things that came out of the leadership of the Labour Party’s mouth: Now that he has left the hope of an early election is over.”
He warned the audience, comprising DLP supporters: “It’s important that you keep your guards up, because as I look around Barbados, I can see on the periphery elements which would like to invoke that type of bullying, bully leader, into our politics”.
He added: “We find people want to bring down the Government by using extra-legal means. There have been attempts to remove government in this Caribbean by extra-legal means already. It has never happened in Barbados . . . and the way to avoid it is eternal vigilance.”
Sir Frank, a DLP stalwart, recollected calls by younger members within the party for the then Opposition Leader Errol Barrow to provoke disquiet aimed at forcing then Prime Minister Tom Adams from office.
“I was present. Barrow said, ‘Look, listen to me. The people who voted him in said they wanted him. When they want to get rid of him, they will get him out. Let him go on and govern. If he makes mistakes, let him make mistakes’. And Barrow turned out to be right,” Sir Frank said.
He observed: “If you believe in the democratic tradition, if the people in free and fair elections decide who they want as the Government, you are showing disrespect to the public at large by saying they made a mistake. That is what has surfaced in Barbados for the first time.”
Sir Frank said there was a need for endless vigilance by Barbadians to protect the island’s tradition of democracy.
“It is not sitting back, voting for somebody, and you then wait the next five years, then to restir yourself into political activity again. The political candidate cannot do it himself, or herself.
“We who have an interest in politics must get up and be in the vanguard in terms of protecting our rights and our freedoms.”