The election bell has not yet been rung, but the political sparring has begun.
Two vocal groups of about a dozen supporters each of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and the main Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) descended on Parliament yard Tuesday afternoon for the annual Budget presentation.
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley arrived at the north gate around 3:40 p.m. in a black sports utility vehicle bedecked in a bright yellow dress and a red scarf strung around her neck, to applause from the group of female BLP supporters, who instead of the party’s traditional red, were bedecked in blue t-shirts emblazoned with a loud and powerful message: Childless Women Have A Voice And A Vote.
This was in obvious response to recent criticisms levelled against Mottley and the Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Assembly Santia Bradshaw by Member of Parliament for St John Mara Thompson, as well as Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe, who had sought to pour scorn on the opposition parliamentarians over the fact that they are both childless.
Juanita Forde, who was among the group in blue, said she wanted to make the point that women without children were important too.
“Just because a woman does not have a child it does not mean that she cannot perform the duty of a mother. Such women can still have those parental instincts about them. So I support all women in general,” she said.
The demonstration was generally peaceful, but, at times, the BLP supporters traded strong words with an equally vocal group of women wearing the DLP’s new trademark white and blue “Facts” T-shirts.
By the time Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler arrived the tensions had eased somewhat, although there was obvious unease over what he was likely to announce in his dreaded package of austerity measures.
However, as if to put their minds at ease Sinckler, who was accompanied by his wife Arlyne, simply smiled as he was presented with a corsage by his daughter Tatiana King, while his wife received a colourful bouquet of flowers from Tavon Boyce, a form IA student at the Combermere School.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was also presented with a corsage on arrival just before 4 p.m.
When asked to comment on Tuesday’s Budget, DLP candidate for The City Henderson Williams said: “I am aware that everybody is looking forward to hear this Budget because persons anticipate that elections are in the air. But if I follow the lead given by the Minister of Finance, he has indicated that he will continue to ensure that the people of Barbados will be taken first.
“He will not try to have a scenario where he will focus on winning an election by providing goodies. I expect that the Budget will be balanced. It will focus on the key issues that we face.”
A noticeable absentee from Tuesday’s proceedings was former Prime Minister and independent St Peter representative Owen Arthur, who has recently been sidelined by a foot injury.
At one stage it also seemed as though parliamentary representative for St Philip West Dr David Estwick would be a no-show, but he arrived shortly after the sitting got under way.