A heightened sense of apathy appears to be pervading the constituency of St James Central, currently represented by Kerrie Symmonds of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), who won the seat in the 2013 general election by 2211 votes to 1990 for George Hutson of the governing Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
As Barbados TODAY continued its Pulse of the People series during a two-hour tour of the constituency, the team found that there was a serious lack of interest in voting for either the Mia Mottley-led BLP or DLP of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
Most of the people interviewed – several of whom did not hide their anger – said they were so disenchanted and frustrated at the state of affairs in the country, such as a lack of job opportunities, the high cost of living and the apparent disconnect between their representatives and them, that they were simply sick of politicians who only came around during election time.
Of particular note, the majority of supporters who usually voted for both major parties said they were undecided about voting, or who would get their votes.
In fact, the most intriguing declaration came from a Hoyte’s Village man, known only as George.
“I voted for a man . . . Symmonds, but he can’t get my vote again. I support the BLP, but not Kerrie again. He don’t speak to me. He does pass in he big vehicle wid the windows up and go in the terrace by he friends. If the Bees send somebody else, I would vote fuh dem . . . but not he. And I ain’t voting fuh the other party [DLP],” said George, who has been living in the constituency for the past 60 years.
His friend, John Ross, left no doubt he was a DLP man. However, he told Barbados TODAY that no one would get his vote in the general election, constitutionally due next year.
“Freundel party belong to me. I voted DLP, but I done voting,” Ross declared, adding that he was fed up with the state of the country.
However, before driving off, the St James Central constituent, who is from outside of Hoyte’s Village, made an interesting remark.
“If the BLP send another leader, I would vote for the Bees. Mia does frighten me,” he said in reference to the Opposition Leader.
Not far away, in Hoyte’s New Development, the voices were more emphatic in favour of Symmonds, as supporters declared their undying commitment to representative and party.
“I comfortable with Symmonds. I will continue to support him. He helped me get my house . . . he does help people in the area . . . I supporting Kerrie,” Alvin Broomes said while on the way home.
“I would support Kerrie Symmonds . . . because I’m a BLP,” added Brenda King-Rouse in a pointed comment.
It was the same with a young Jedd Ifill, who was on his way out, accompanied by a visiting friend.
Ifill said Symmonds was a “decent man” who helped the entire community and was “the best man running”, while his neighbour Susan Clarke left no doubt as to how she intended to exercise her franchise come election day.
“Within the community he does get around,” she said of the parliamentary representative. “He works well in the community. There was George Hutson, but I more familiar with Kerrie. I have no problems [with Symmonds] really. I will continue to support him.”
However, there were those such as the “disenchanted” and “down-spirited” Arlene – she did not want to give her full name – who were not as willing to give the BLP legislator their votes.
Stifling under the weight of economic problems, Arlene said not only was she undecided, so too was her “frustrated and angry” daughter who was struggling to balance work and school.
“I am not sure if I voting. I am so disenchanted and down-spirited. I am unemployed now. I have a mortgage to pay . . . my daughter is at university struggling along because I can’t afford the fees. I fighting on my own . . . nobody don’t help me,” she lamented.
“My daughter don’t know if she is voting. She is frustrated and angry. She just got a job and she is using the money to help pay for her university fees and help me out. It is so hurtful that many of her friends who were going to university had to drop out because their parents can’t afford the fees.”
The pain in Arlene’s voice was palpable as she pointed to a neighbouring home which was repossessed by a financial institution because the family could not keep up with the mortgage payments.
“Things in this country are . . . I don’t know what to say,” the St James Central resident sighed.
In any event, not everyone was worshipping at Symmonds’ altar. Michelle Blackman and her daughter Debra have both been supporters of the DLP.
Standing outside her Hoyte’s New Development home as her daughter awaited a bus, the mother of ten made it clear that she would not support Symmonds. However, this did not mean she would be voting for the DLP come next election.
“I don’t like how they running the thing [country] and the whole thing should change. I undecided now . . . I would have to see what they [the next DLP candidate] is offering first. Yuh can’t trust nobody these days; they does come wid one story and there is another,” Blackman said.
“I don’t think I noticed any change in anything from before. I supported George Hutson . . . but I would have to see what the next candidate was offering before I could decide if I voting . . . so right now I am undecided,” added Debra.
Over at Bagatelle Park, a husband and wife, both public servants and both speaking on condition of anonymity, came to similar conclusions for personal reasons.
“I think I am going to withdraw my vote this time . . . for the DLP,” said the husband, who complained that he had yet to receive his 2013-2014 income tax refunds, and that his standard of living had dropped.
His wife on the other hand said she was undecided, lamenting an effective cut in her salary.
“If you are going increase my taxes and not going to increase my wages, I have taken home less money than I took home before . . . and you got mortgage to pay and all such like,” she pointed out.