I initially resisted the provocation to respond to the Prime Minister’s accusation that the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was “elitist”, since I recognized it was said to distract Barbadians from focusing on being worse off today than they were in 2008, when his party first came to office.
His equally ridiculous suggestion that BLP political leader, Mia Mottley, is an “arch conservative” and Barbados’ interest would not be best served under her leadership, was even more laughable. That statement demonstrated the PM’s conformity to author Piers Anthony’s assertion that, “when one person makes an accusation, check to be sure he himself is not the guilty one. Sometimes it is those whose case is weak who make the most clamour”.
The fact is that Freundel Stuart, who nauseatingly extols his working class origins in St Philip, was rejected by those same people among whom he lived, because they saw him for the aloof individual all Barbadians have since come to know.
In contrast, Ms Mottley has repeatedly had large victory margins in a working class constituency. Her success is due to the quality of her representation, not to circumstances surrounding her birth. This, PM Stuart, is what matters.
Your suggestion that the BLP is elitist says more about your perception of reality than it does about the BLP and its 79 years of providing a better life for all Barbadians.
However, given the context of Stuart’s statement and the occasion, it is necessary, for the record, to correct his grossly inaccurate assertion. First, the BLP secured adult suffrage – the right to vote – for all Barbadians. That act gave Barbadians a say in their future and allowed people of humble origins, like Mr Stuart, to be become PM. Was that the action of an elitist party?
Further, the BLP fought for workers’ rights and established the Barbados Workers’ Union to lead the charge for better working conditions for the working class. The BLP introduced minimum wages, protection of wages, holiday with pay, workers’ compensation and unemployment legislation. It also paved the way for thousands of casual and temporary public workers to become full-time employees with improved long-term benefits by legislating that anyone acting in a post must be appointed after three years. We also introduced maternity leave with pay.
The BLP transformed the education system, ensuring that the working class could better themselves. We moved a generation beyond “sixth standard” with the introduction of free secondary education, opening the St Leonard’s, Parkinson, West St Joseph (now Grantley Adams) and Princess Margaret schools. We pioneered technical, skills and vocational training, implemented Edutech and provided and equipped community resource centres. We also raised the school leaving age from 14 to 16 years.
In health, the BLP uplifted the working class by establishing international standards and universal access to healthcare. Initiatives ranged from our immunization (vaccination) programme; provision of the first health centres; construction of the QEH and five polyclinics; implementation of the home help service and the Barbados Drug Service to ensure average Barbadians could get quality medication free.
Furthermore, the so-called elitist BLP was the driving force behind the expansion of the credit union movement which helps thousands of working class Barbadians to own homes, land, vehicles and to start businesses.
We provided the first housing units – the Pine, Cave Hill and Grazettes, St Michael; St Matthias and Sayers Court, Christ Church; Six Roads, St Philip; Coach Hill, St John; and Belleplaine, St Andrew. This continued with Ferniehurst and Rosemont in St Michael, and Kensington Lodge and London Bourne Towers in Bridgetown. The BLP also developed for sale to only working class people, nearly 3,000 house lots.
The BLP then enabled thousands living on plantation tenantries to purchase the land they occupied at 10 cents per square foot through passage of the revolutionary Tenantries Freehold Purchase Act, 1980, which Stuart’s party was against. We created the Urban Development Commission and Rural Development Commission to improve the quality of housing, roads and business chances for working class people.
Further, we enacted the Status of Children Reform Act that gave legal rights to children born out of wedlock, and ended the concept of illegitimacy. These are just a snapshot of what the supposed elitist BLP did.
Conversely, the self-declared non-elitist Freundel Stuart administration stoutly refuses to communicate with the electorate, and has piled on or increased the rate of 30-odd taxes on the backs of the working class.
The self-proclaimed, more caring Mr Stuart himself stated no public workers would be going home, but within weeks 3,000 of them were axed. To add insult to injury, no public workers have had a salary hike in eight years, yet Mr Stuart and his colleagues reinstated the 10 per cent cut to their salaries and made it retroactive, and so collected hundreds of thousands of dollars.
These are but a few of the facts about your fanciful elitism in Barbados’ politics, Mr Stuart, which your misdirected misrepresentation can never change nor erase.