What began as a “march for justice” by the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) ended with a call for healing of the nation by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, suggesting that the country was sick.
Hundreds of Barbadians took to the streets yesterday in a “white march” to protest against the Freundel Stuart administration’s handling of the country affairs.
Addressing the protesters at the end of the march from Heroes Square, The City to Browne’s Beach, a stone’s throw away from the Office of the Prime Minister on Upper Bay Street, Mottley urged citizens to respond with their conscience to the manner in which the country was being managed, no matter who was in power.
Speaking from the back of a truck in the car park at Browne’s Beach, she told the gathering, decked mostly in white, the protest action was not about the Opposition party or the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP), but about the future of the people.
Using as her mantra and refrain, “the power of the people is stronger than the people in power”, she encouraged Barbadians to keep their Governments under close scrutiny, while reminding the crowd that following a similar march in 2014, the Stuart administration eventually repealed the “wrong, disproportionate and unconscionable” Municipal Solid Waste Tax.
“And we walked, and they made mock sport and fun at us; but at the end of the day, even when they wouldn’t take our letter at Government Headquarters, they repealed the tax,” Mottley said to loud applause.
In reference to another controversial Government project, the now collapsed Cahill Energy plasma gasification plant, she again drew the people’s attention to a warning she issued in Parliament about “a wicked and iniquitous act of the signing of contracts in our name which to this day have not been produced to the people”.
However, the Opposition Leader noted that after one year of various degrees of protests, that contract for the construction of a waste-to-energy plant at Vaucluse, St Thomas was now dead, “even if we have to pay millions of dollars for it to be dead.
“I say to you today that the power of the people is stronger than the people in power,” Mottley repeated.
She told the rally that her party was not “here to bring down a Government”, but to send a clear message about the power of the people and to stress to the administration that “we the people are watching”.
She added that every decision of this administration would be closely monitored.
“Every bill that is passed, every contract that is awarded, every project that is started without planning permission and every salary increase that is given, must be watched, monitored and responded to by the citizens.”
Mottley also had a sobering message for her party, particularly if the BLP formed the next Government.
“And I say to the members of the Barbados Labour Party a new day is dawning because we, too, whenever the people would like us to be in Government, will be kept in check by the power of the people. You cannot educate a people and ignore the voice of the people,” she cautioned.
Mottley also highlighted the recent proposed restoration of the ten per cent salary cut to parliamentarians, layoffs in the public sector and the imposition of university fees.
She said the children of poor and middle class Barbadians could no longer go to university because of a “nonsensical decision” that has sought to split this country.
“I say to you that this country needs healing,” the BLP leader said.
Mottley said the campaign for political and social justice was not an overnight struggle, nor was it about elections
or a victory for her party, but about a movement for
She emphasized that the BLP would be subjected to the same scrutiny since “in this year, our 50th anniversary as a nation, independence will only mean something to people, if people can experience freedom and justice. And if they cannot experience freedom and justice, then we have a duty to make it happen.”
The Opposition Leader pledged to work with whoever was willing to achieve this goal, not in the name of party alone, but in the name of the people and history of Barbados.
Meantime, Mottley’s parliamentary colleague Kerrie Symmonds tore into Government for its announced plans to restore the ten per cent, adding $20,000 to the Prime Minister’s salary and $15,000 to that of his ministers.
This decision was reason enough for the people of Barbados to stand up for justice, Symmonds said to rapturous applause.