The ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is charging that Barbadians were paid to participate in yesterday’s national March of Disgust organized by the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
Speaking on a local radio programme this morning, DLP General Secretary George Pilgrim charged that yesterday’s march, which is said to have attracted about 10,000 people, really was a reflection of how money can influence an election.
“Based on my knowledge, people were offered money to come and march,” Pilgrim said on Starcom Network’s Down to Brass Tacks programme.
“The fact that people were willing to turn up to the march and receive a gratuity for just turning up speaks [volumes] of what Barbadians should fear going into the next election,” he said.
Pilgrim further claimed that the BLP has opened “a call centre” with paid staff to mobilize people for the march.
“The amount of people that were called yesterday for the march, there had to be a call centre in place. That is one thing I want to thank and congratulate the party on, it’s assisting Barbados in reducing the unemployment figure.
“It is clear to me that the amount of people that were employed over the last five days that they have made a significant contribution to that [reducing the unemployment figure],” he stressed.
Pressed to substantiate the claim, Pilgrim responded: “The supermarkets were bursting on Friday.”
BLP representative Dale Marshall, who was also a guest on the programme, rubbished the claim. He explained that the party got volunteers from every single constituency to man telephones at its headquarters.
“I know because some of my young people went down to party headquarters and manned telephones. They do it during the general elections, they are not paid a cent. Not a person was paid for this so-called call centre,” Marshall insisted.
Pilgrim also alleged that Barbados was being sold out by the Opposition BLP, while warning that as far as the ruling DLP was concerned “Barbados is not on the auction bloc”.
He said: “If Barbadians took note of what has been occurring in Barbados they have to ask themselves, . . . ‘who ultimately stands to benefit if Barbados is auctioned . . . by the Opposition?”
“They cannot deny that they are telling investors not to invest in Barbados,” Pilgrim said.
However, Marshall took issue with the suggestion, saying for the DLP to even allege that yesterday’s mobilization had cost “vast sums of money that the BLP could only get it off the ground if they sold out to the highest bidder is rubbish.
The St Joseph Member of Parliament pointed out that political parties in Barbados get a small subvention from Government.
Therefore he said: “We all have to go out there and approach our base. There are old ladies who contribute $10, there are some individuals who will contribute more and . . . the reality is that until we reach the stage where political parties in Barbados are funded by the state we have to go out there and we have to get contributions,” Marshall said.
Meanwhile, the Leader of the newly-formed United Progressive Party Lynette Eastmond said there was need for a serious discussion about election campaign funding.
“I don’t know that there are any rules in place with respect to maybe a rent a crowd, but there certainly are laws in place with respect to the bribing of electors, and individuals who bribe electors and those who receive those bribes are committing a criminal offence under the legislation in Barbados.” she warned.