A former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Prime Minister today advised the Freundel Stuart administration against even considering a change to a republican system of Government at this time.
And Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford urged Government to maintain a focus on fixing the struggling economy instead.
“I will say this much, that from 1966 until the present time, Barbados has done remarkably well under our two-party system – democratic two-party system . . . and if you can tell me how the [economic] situation would be improved by doing that [becoming a republic], I’m all ears,” Sir
Lloyd said during an interview at DLP headquarters after a lecture he was scheduled to deliver was postponed.
Sir Lloyd quoted the country’s first Prime Minister Errol Walton Barrow as saying that the people of Barbados could choose republicanism whenever they wanted to, but that he wanted to deal with other issues. And he argued that today’s big issues did not include a change to republic status.
“The big issue now is not our constitutional status, but our economic status . . . that can come if the people so determine and whenever they want to determine it, but just tell me how that is going to solve the current problems,” he emphasized.
While contending that the current administration was trying “magnanimously” to solve the economic problems facing the nation, Sir Lloyd was of the view that the only way the country could emerge from the present doldrums was by selling hope to the people.
“It is not insurmountable, but it can only come through the frank education of the people through an explanation of how we got here. My fundamental question remains, ‘how did we get there?’”
He recalled the “very serious economic situation” that faced the country when he was Prime Minister in the early 1990s and his attempt to get all sides involved in the discussion for a solution.
The former leader also pointed out that his approach to Government by consensus led to the formation of the Social Partnership.
However, Sir Lloyd appeared to be still haunted by the ghost of the no confidence motion which led to the downfall of his administration, saying he had not gotten over it.
“For taking those actions, a resolution was put on floor of House of Assembly . . . a vote of no-confidence for taking steps to save the economy of Barbados. I am still living with that. Government could take steps to remove the criminal records of certain people in Barbados, but that vote still remains on the floor of the House [and] people who actually committed criminal acts had their records cleared, wiped clean,” lamented Sir Lloyd while emphasizing, “I didn’t commit any crime.”
Sir Lloyd’s 1991 austerity measures, including an eight per cent salary cut across the public service, led to widespread public protest. However, that intervention is believed to have saved Barbados from the clutches of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a possible devaluation of the local currency.
While not providing a prescription for the recovery of the economy, the former Prime Minister said the austerity measures introduced by the Stuart administration were only a part of the solution. He contended that job cuts were a natural part of any Government’s efforts to slash expenditure.
And with the country preparing to celebrate 50 years of independence next year, Sir Lloyd expressed regret about the process 49 years ago.
“My biggest regret is that we did not get consensus among the people of Barbados for that move to take Barbados into independence. We were divided and it is never appropriate for a country, particularly one like Barbados, to go into these situations without a consensus,” he explained.
He argued that quarrelling over matters like the colour of the flag and what the pledge should state were little things which should not have been allowed to create division.