The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), its gaze clearly fixed on returning to Government, Thursday night launched a Covenant of Hope, committing itself to standards to which it will aim, and a contract on what it has pledged to deliver.
Speaking to a packed Hugh Springer Auditorium at the Barbados Workers Union (BWU) headquarters, party leader Mia Mottley said she saw this contract with Barbadians as the commitment which will transition the BLP from Opposition to Government.
“We are of that Joshua generation, ready to take you forward. For this Covenant of Hope, with your will and your participation, can become a Government of Hope,” she said of the 22-page document listing five ‘visions’ and 10 ‘supporting principles’.
Wrapping up a three-hour long session in which former and current BLP Members of Parliament, Senators and candidates took turns reading out the pledges, visions and principles as a solemn oath to the country, Mottley said the Covenant represented “who we are and what we will fight for . . . It requires us going beyond the normal commitments and pledges to each other”.
She said the covenant was presented now “because the country is restless and some are beginning to believe that hope is not possible, and therefore the timing is opportune”.
“It has become necessary for us to let you know what we stand for and to give you the confidence of how we shall act in your name as Government,” she added.
Mottley spoke of committing to a standard in Government, “that no longer should people wonder where people come from to determine whether they should have a job, or who they know.
“This country must chart a bold new course that gives every Barbadian the opportunity to be successful,” she said. “This does not mean a politics of old. It means that instead of a politics of personality, we must have a politics of hope and prosperity.”
“We must build trust, and we must not feel as though we are hampered and held down by things of old but prepared to break new ground,” she said.
Presentation of the document through readings of excerpts by various members was preceded by a recollection of the party’s beginnings and early struggle by former Cabinet minister, Sir Louis Tull; and a recount of the BLP’s best years in Government under Owen Arthur, by Liz Thompson, who served in the Arthur Cabinet.
The content of the Covenant’s visions evoked memories of similar statements being made during political campaigns. However, Member of Parliament for St Joseph Dale Marshall made it clear that the Covenant was not a manifesto but an enduring pledge, a document for the electorate to hold against the party’s performance at any time.
“In the history of a political party it will produce many manifestos. This is because manifestos reflect the policies and priorities of a Government in waiting, and must change, adapt, metamorphose as the times and circumstances require,” Marshall said.
“A new manifesto is expected for every election,” he explained, drawing a contrast between such election promises and the new Covenant that the BLP sees as a lifetime commitment.
“In the life of a political party, it is expected that it will have only one covenant. A single solemn pledge to the people,” Marshall said.
“This is because the covenant gives expression to the principles which will guide [the party]. While policies change, principles will not. Manifestos change, and a covenant will not.
“Our party is not too timid to be willing to commit today, and for all times to internationally recognized principles of good governance,” Marshall said.
The former Attorney General explained the Covenant reflected opinions gathered from the people of Barbados. “We hold those opinions dearly and pledge to honour them,” he said.
As read out by various party representatives, the five visions of the Covenant of Hope are for:
1) ‘New national consciousness’ supported by principles of ‘strengthening the spiritual and cultural psyche of Barbadians’ and ‘fostering civility, inclusiveness and respect for diversity’.
2) ‘Vision for good governance’, supported by the principle that, the BLP, ‘stands for good and transparent governance’.
3) ‘Vision for a better society’, supported by principles of standing for an acceptable quality of life for all’; ‘the empowerment of the people’; ‘universal access to quality health care’; and ‘fostering civility, inclusiveness and respect for diversity’.
4) ‘Vision for a new economy’, supported by principles ‘for improving the livelihoods of all of our people’; ‘for fair treatment and just reward for all’; and ‘for development in a sustainable manner’.
5) ‘Vision for engaging the world’, supported by the principle ‘for achieving and maintaining global excellence in all of our endeavours’.