With general elections about a year away, a retired Democratic Labour Party (DLP) politician and senior attorney said Barbadians are fed up with the party he once served in Parliament.
At the same time, former Minister of Justice Keith Simmons, QC, suggested voters were caught between the devil and the deep blue sea based on the choices for prime minister, and this could result in widespread voter apathy come the next election.
Simmons, who served as minister in several other capacities, including health, education, labour and youth, told Barbados TODAY while people have had enough of the Freundel Stuart-led DLP administration, the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) under the leadership of fellow attorney-at-law Mia Mottley has failed to inspire energy among disillusioned voters, which means a large percentage of them will stay away from the polls at the next election.
“Mia Mottley is not getting any traction and the problem is disillusionment among the electorate. Unfortunately people are fed up with the DLP, so we have a serious problem . . . . I believe that the turnout at the next general election will be the lowest in the history of Barbados because people are fed up with politicians on both sides. From my experience of walking the road, a lot of people are not going to vote. If they get a turnout of 45 per cent they are lucky,” a frank-speaking Simmons said.
There have been no recent opinion polls to measure the public’s mood; however, the last poll published in February 2016 found that 62 per cent of Barbadians wanted a change of Government.
That poll, conducted by Systematic Marketing & Research Services, found only 20 per cent support for the Stuart administration and 40 per cent backing for the BLP, with 34 per cent refusing to divulge their party of choice.
It also found that Mottley had a 21 per cent approval rating – down from 48 per cent approval in a public opinion poll published by CADRES in 2015 – four points better than Stuart’s 17 per cent approval rating.
However, the DLP administration has since come in for widespread public criticism and ridicule over its handling of a number of issues, not least of which is the economy, which last Friday suffered its 18th downgrade since the party assumed power in 2008.
In the wide ranging interview with Barbados TODAY, Simmons stopped just short of accusing parliamentarians from both sides of showing nothing but contempt for the Barbadian public, accusing the politicians of being concerned only about their pensions.
It was for this reason, Simmons said, he was in favour of a system where voters could recall their parliamentary representatives if they were dissatisfied with the quality of representation they were receiving.
“My view is that our politicians, not only now, but for a long time, have not been telling the people the truth . . . . As a matter of fact I feel politicians on both sides just laugh at people because when they win a seat they forget about the people. They get a good salary and after ten years they get a pension. That’s not good enough. There should be a recall system in place in Barbados.”
Simmons, who sat as a magistrate, first in Bermuda from 1971 to 1973 and then in Barbados from 1973 to 1981, also took the opportunity to express his dissatisfaction with the justice system and the pace at which the wheels of justice were turning.
He was particularly concerned about the number of murder accused who have had to wait for as long as ten years in some cases to have their matters heard, and the number of people accused of gun crimes who might never have their day in court.
“I know people who have been charged with murder over the last ten years and I am not so sure that the preliminary inquiry has been heard yet. So young men are laughing at us. They shoot someone, they go in jail and after six months they get bail.
“I have cases 12 years old for persons shooting at policemen. If the person is innocent it means his life is on hold, but what about the victim if he is guilty? After 12 years the chances are that some of the policemen might have gone overseas, some of the witnesses could have died and the accused is back on the streets,” Simmons complained.
The senior attorney called on the authorities to modernize the justice system, and he criticized the continuing practice of taking statements by hand.
“Those days are out. There are electronic devices that when a person speaks it comes out at the other end as a statement. Why can’t we invest money in that area?” he asked. firstname.lastname@example.org