With general elections constitutionally due here by the middle of next year, outgoing Catholic Bishop Jason Gordon today called for a clean and peaceful campaign void of corruption and mudslinging.
Gordon made the call in the wake of a recent warning issued by a stalwart of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) that the upcoming election will be the mother of all political battles in Barbados in which “who lives with whom is going to come up as part of that election campaign”, as well as the “same sex marriage thing” .
Derek Alleyne’s warning at a DLP branch meeting late last month came less than 24 hours after Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had publicly accused the Mia Mottley-led Barbados Labour Party of starting a smear campaign against him and fellow Cabinet minister Michael Lashley, in a desperate bid to win the Government.
“They want to undermine public confidence and trust in people,” Sinckler told members of the DLP’s City branch, while also cautioning that “this is going to be easily the nastiest campaign that would ever be fought in Barbados”.
However, while expressing concern that the country was headed down a very dangerous path, Gordon today suggested that an election code of conduct, similar to what exists in neighbouring Caribbean countries, needed to be immediately put in place.
“Our neighbouring countries, Trinidad and St Vincent, just two examples, have a code of ethics for elections where the parties actually sign up voluntarily to say that ‘we will adhere by these’. So things like how we would treat with others on the campaign platform and campaign financing, things like that. I think Barbados would do well to have a code of ethics for this election,” he said in the wake of allegations of vote buying that marred the 2013 poll.
However, while acknowledging that no one was prosecuted for the alleged vote buying, the Catholic leader also pointed out that the claims were also “never denied in the media”.
But while suggesting that Barbadians as a whole needed to take their democracy more seriously, he sternly cautioned that “once the instrument of democracy is bought and sold, that is my vote, it corrupts the whole of democracy”.
“There are strong laws in the Representation of the People Act that are already there that govern if somebody going up for office does something wrong. We don’t need new laws for this, but what we need . . . are citizens who take their democracy seriously and are willing to commit to a new kind of politics in Barbados and are willing to make sure and champion integrity for democracy in this country,” the Catholic bishop said.
“This is a road, if we go down that road we reach to the place where we give away our democracy and then what we have is an oligarchy – a group of very rich people who will run this country, and then it doesn’t matter who is in Government. The policies will be set not by the citizen’s desires, but by those who have vested interest.
“I think that is a danger and I think that is something we have to guard very seriously about,” he stressed.
Equally concerned about the domestic situation was Monsignor Vincent Blackett who said while “silly season” was usually the time when politicians “tear each other to bits”, he hoped none of that takes place during the upcoming campaign.
“One of the things the church would want to see is a peaceful election in Barbados and that we don’t have the kind of challenges that so many other people have, the fighting and that sort of thing.
“We have always had a peaceful election. Let’s hope and pray that will continue and that people would respect each other, especially when it comes to campaigning and tearing people down and dragging people through the mud.
“We are saying that we should not see that happening our way. I pray and hope that will not happen in Barbados,” Blackett emphasized.
Their comments came during a news conference today to officially announce the election of Bishop Gordon to the post of Archbishop of Port of Spain.
The archbishop-elect will be appointed to the post by the end of the year.
He replaces Archbishop Joseph Harris who resigned earlier this year.
Gordon will become the 11th Archbishop of Port of Spain with that archdiocese having responsibility for five dioceses – Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana, Curacao, and Suriname.