There seems to be a split in opinion among die-hard supporters of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) over Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s timing in getting a spanking new $700,000 ride.
Barbados TODAY reported last Friday on the purchase of the sleek S-Class Mercedes Benz, less than 24 hours before Stuart had called during his Budget contribution in Parliament for personal sacrifice on the part of all Barbadians as the country grapples with severe economic challenges.
His move to acquire a new luxury vehicle has therefore created much national unease, including among staunch members of the ruling party’s National Canvass Team.
“We are of the opinion that the timing of the car was a wrong thing to do at this time, bearing in mind the sort of questions we have been getting about the Budget,” said spokesman Arnon Dyal, who emphasized that “it is a wrong move at this time” and that the Prime Minister should have taken into consideration the fact that “we are in tough times.
“Maybe the car should have been kept and then later on brought out,” he told Barbados TODAY, adding that this position had also been expressed during internal meetings of the ruling party.
Dyal also said the vehicle controversy as well the recent austerity measures announced by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in last week Tuesday’s Budget had only served to make matters more difficult for the team, which was focused on securing a third straight victory for the DLP at the polls, which are due here by the middle of next year.
“When we go canvassing we are confronted with people talking about the two per cent and the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) and the man in the street is concerned about that and the feedback we have been getting is that it was the wrong timing,” he stressed.
However, Stuart has brushed aside the criticisms of his new car, saying he did not own it, but merely had access to it. Furthermore, he has argued that the new vehicle was just a replacement, which was ordered in the Estimates of 2016-2017 but was only delivered a few days ago.
In support of her leader’s position, longstanding DLP supporter Jasmae Barton suggested that the entire vehicle debate was really much ado about nothing. In fact, she told Barbados TODAY that she did not see what the big deal was about while vehemently defending Stuart’s response to his critics.
“It was good for the Prime Minister to respond because a lot of people don’t understand that the car is not any particular Prime Minister’s car, it is the car of the Prime Minister’s position.
“If the Government changes tomorrow whoever is Prime Minister would be driving that car. When they demit, they can’t carry home the car,” she insisted.
DLP stalwart Lloyd Blackman further argued that ordinary Barbadians should not begrudge the Prime Minister the comfort of a new luxury vehicle.
“I think he is well deserved to have a new vehicle as a Prime Minister of Barbados. The Governor General, judges, the Attorney General are among the people privileged to have a car and a driver,” Blackman said, contending that it would be inappropriate for Stuart to turn up at functions in a vehicle, which does not befit the high esteem of his office.