If the event staged by our Government in Bridgetown last Wednesday –– the launch of Barbados’ 50th Independence Anniversary Celebrations –– is anything to go by, it is clear the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration intends to use the celebration of this significant national milestone as an extended DLP general election campaign –– all at the expense of the citizens and taxpayers of Barbados!
And I am not referring here to anything that was said or done by the artistes who performed at the event –– all of whom acquitted themselves well and did justice to the occasion. Rather, I am referring to the partisan political strategy and intent that undergirded the event.
Indeed, as soon as Prime Minister Freundel Stuart opened his mouth to speak at Independence Square last Wednesday, it became clear to all of us who were present that the DLP general election campaign had begun.
I say this, because virtually the very first thing that came out of Stuart’s mouth was his standard partisan exculpatory speech about an “international recession” and Barbados (and by extension Mr Stuart’s DLP administration) doing the best it can in difficult economic times. This, as we all know, is the settled upon political propaganda message the DLP intends to sell the country via a strategy of constant repetition.
It is clear Mr Stuart and his political handlers have taken to heart the famous Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda nostrum that if one repeats a message often enough –– even a patently false one –– it will eventually come to be regarded as the truth.
And so, it would appear that we can expect Mr Stuart and the DLP administration to carve out multiple dates during the course of this 50th anniversary year for use as occasions on which they will utilize the taxpayers’ money to stage elaborate events at which DLP spokespersons (such as the Prime Minister) will feature very prominently, delivering self-serving political messages, and Opposition representatives (such as Ms Mia Mottley) will be consigned to the role of spectators.
This is all very cynical, but also very sad and tragic for the people of Barbados, for it means that the priceless opportunity to use our 50th anniversary year as a serious national stocktaking exercise will be lost.
Once again, the ugly spectre of tawdry, opportunistic partisan politics is threatening to reduce what should be a profound and historic national commemoration into an exercise in meaninglessness.
In fact, I can assure Prime Minister Stuart that he converted the speech he delivered at Independence Square last Wednesday into an exercise in “meaninglessness” as soon as he launched into his all too familiar “international recession” apologia.
Indeed, the male spectator standing next to me immediately turned to me and asked where “that old stuck recording” had come from! And, as I looked out across the crowd standing, like me, on the area abutting The Careenage, I noted that virtually no one was paying attention to the Prime Minister’s words.
Just imagine, the Prime Minister is addressing a crowd of Barbadians on an occasion as auspicious as the launch of our 50th Independence Anniversary Celebrations, and virtually nobody is listening!
And I am confident that their failure to listen had nothing to do with a lack of interest in or regard for the Independence and sovereignty of our nation. Rather, it had everything to do with intelligent Barbadians recognizing humbug when it appears before them.
What intelligent Barbadian can take you seriously, Mr Stuart, with your talk about Barbados becoming the “greatest nation” in the world, when it was you and your administration that fractured the Right Excellent Errol Barrow’s policy of free university education, thereby causing in excess of 3,200 Barbadians to drop out of the University of the West Indies? How is Barbados going to advance when the only resource we have is our people, and when the only meaningful future development available to us has to be based on the educational attainments of our people?
How can any sane Barbadian take Mr Stuart seriously when all that he and his administration have done over the past eight years is to inculcate a sense of hopelessness and learned helplessness in the Barbadian people with the DLP’s constantly repeated pathetic message that Barbados is a small and fragile nation caught up in an international recession, and that there is nothing we Barbadians can do about our predicament other than to relinquish the precious social benefits that mean so much to the broad masses of our people?
(It is indeed tragic how Mr Stuart and his ministers have taken their own lack of imagination, initiative and sense of purpose and projected them unto the traditionally strong, resourceful and determined Barbadian people!)
How can we have any confidence in an administration that constantly colludes with a coterie of rich white businessmen, granting them all kinds of outrageously privileged contracts? Doesn’t it trouble Mr Stuart that several of these contracts obligate the masses of black Barbadian taxpayers to fork out millions of dollars every year to rich white businessmen
for many years to come?
Isn’t Mr Stuart aware that actions like these are effectively destroying the very Independence and sovereignty of Barbados that he is purporting to celebrate?
It is surely the supreme irony that, in the 50th year of its Independence journey, Barbados finds itself saddled with a governmental administration that –– of all the governmental administrations it has possessed since the advent of universal adult suffrage in 1950 –– is uniquely distinguished by its lack of commitment to the “Independence” values of sovereignty and self-belief!
The real challenge facing us –– the people of Barbados –– during this 50th anniversary year is being able to look past the “smokescreens” of partisan celebrations which Mr Stuart’s administration has planned for us, and to commit to a serious collective national decision about what we need to do as a people to extricate our nation from the morass that it currently finds itself in, and to get it back on the road to real pride, sovereignty and development.
(David Comissiong, attorney-at-law, is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)