Thousands of Barbadians shrugged off rain and sun to march through Bridgetown then assemble at Jubilee Gardens to hear political and non-political speakers repeatedly calling for a change in Government, with some saying the wait for elections next year is too long.
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, the final speaker for the march, organized by the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and titled, March of Disgust, said that Saturday’s action was just the beginning, and while asking those present to give her feedback on their mood in the coming days, she asserted that the people could not wait 51 weeks until the constitutionally due date of elections.
Though it was billed as a march for Barbadians in general, the Opposition party displayed full unity when the former General Secretary George Payne, a person often touted as more of an Owen Arthur sympathiser than a friend of Mottley, made clear his feelings that the former prime minister should stay away from the governing Democratic Labour Party, retire and concentrate on writing his memoirs, and leave Mottley to lead the BLP.
The march, that wound its way through City streets to return to its starting point, Jubilee Gardens for a rally that spanned some three hours, garnered support from pan-Africanists and other activists, religious persons, and members of the private sector.
Amid intermittent showers, marchers stood their ground forming a sea of umbrellas as they made their way down to Lower Broad Street.
BLP speakers, who took to the stage at Jubilee Gardens, emphasized that the march was but the beginning of things to come as the party prepares to crank up pressure on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to call an early election.
This point was emphasized by St James Central Member of Parliament Kerrie Symmonds when he told the audience to prepare for more acts of protest.
Mottley drew her energy from the crowd and was so moved that she departed from her planned presentation.
“Having taken instructions from you the people, we are now going back to talk with the other partners in this country [and tell them] that Barbadians cannot take 51 more weeks of this.
“We will resume consultation with the Social Partners [Government, Trade Unions and Private Sector]. They don’t invite us to the meetings, but we will ask to meet with them.”
The Opposition Leader also said that she would be seeking further feedback from the marchers, who she asked to consult with other Barbadians on the way forward.
“I am not taking any further action until you come back to me with a clear message, not just from the 10,000 here, but from the other people. I am asking you to go and be missionaries.
“In the same way all of us love our country let us go beyond the extra call of duty, put in that extra bit of work, talking. Talk to the people, and you get the message to us and we will go back to the Social Partners, and we will return and plan our next move and come back to you.
“I believe that if you stay true and do what we ask you to do that we will be able to get rid of this incompetent Government before [the elections are due].”
Payne, the Member of Parliament for St Andrew, made clear that he remains a friend of Owen Arthur. “I have no problems with the former Prime Minister of Barbados.”
However, “my advice to Owen Arthur would be to leave the Political Leader of the Barbados Labour Party alone,” he said.
“Mia Mottley has been elected leader of the Barbados Labour Party and if the Barbados Labour Party wins the next elections she is going to be the Prime Minister of Barbados,” Payne added.
Noting that Arthur has been touted to chair the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s Economic Council that advises Government, Payne reflected that not too long ago DLP parliamentarians had referred to Arthur as “a boy in the yard”.
Payne noted that Arthur “led the Barbados Labour Party well, and we know that he is not a boy in the yard.
“But if the former Prime Minister could accept an advisorship from the Democratic Labour Party – and I believe he would – well then he would be a boy in the yard.
“My advice to Owen Arthur is very simple . . . stay clear of the Democratic Labour Party.
“My further advice to Owen Arthur is to write his memoirs,” the BLP MP said. (GA)