Coming out of various media accounts of last Sunday’s meeting of its Christ Church constituency branches that the despairing Democratic Labour Party (DLP) led Barbadians to believe was purposely convened to provide a full exposé on Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader Mia Mottley, three things immediately caught my attention.
First was the blatant failure, despite all the media hype, to deliver on the core promise of the meeting, interestingly held the same day that the BLP was winding up its 79th annual conference in Queen’s Park. But then, that should hardly be surprising to anyone because the present crop of post Errol Barrow/David Thompson Dems have established a clear pattern of making promises and then not keeping them.
Unlike in the glorious era of Errol Barrow and Cameron Tudor, the word of the DLP today is no longer its bond. Remember the pre-2013 general election promise that Barbadians would not pay tuition fees to attend the University of the West Indies? To do so would be a “retrograde step”, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart told the 2011 Barbados Community College (BCC) graduating class of mostly young people, some of whom would have subsequently moved on to UWI to read for degrees.
Despite the promise, some still ended up paying tuition fees before graduating because, three years later, the Dems made a sharp policy U-turn on financing university education. Unless Barbadians really have short memories, as the Dems seem to believe, how also can they forget the commitment given by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in the 2013 austerity Budget that the increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) from 15 to 17.5 per cent was just for a period of 19 months?
Well, as everyone knows, more than 19 months have passed and VAT is still at 17.5 per cent. Furthermore, in addition to VAT, we are now saddled with a 10 per cent National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL). There was also, to give another example, the pre-2013 general election promise of no public sector job losses. Yet, after the election which gave the Dems a second term, an estimated 3,000 workers unceremoniously were sent home.
Those who went to the Deighton Griffith School out of curiosity on Sunday evening to hear chapter and verse on Miss Mottley, would have disappointingly walked away empty-handed. All they were fed was a diet of more questions obviously aimed at adding to the speculation but the learned guest speaker provided nothing really of substance that could allow any right thinking person to conclude, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that what the Dems are imputing is definitely so. Talk about gimmicks!
With an approaching general election, Barbadians can expect more empty promises from the Dems again. But a promise is nothing more but a comfort for a fool, my great-grandmother repeatedly told me as a child, and it is about time Barbadians, who sometimes appear to be so easily gullible, come to this realization or they will simply find themselves being used again to achieve a political objective which has not really advanced their interests.
The second thing that caught my attention coming out of the Dems’ meeting was a revealing statement by Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, the sitting MP for Christ Church West Central. The average person may not have attached much significance to what he said but, in my case as a political professional, it provided an interesting insight as to the psychological state of the DLP going into a general election which they claim they will win convincingly despite most indicators suggesting they will lose big time.
“I believe we are spending too much time on the Barbados Labour Party,” Lashley said. Why would a party, which is so confident of winning, be so preoccupied with the Opposition? The reason is quite obvious. It is that the Dems are seeing the BLP as a much more serious threat to their political survival than they would wish their dwindling band of supporters to believe. Here is a case where one’s behaviour is at variance with one’s words.
For sure, someone who is insignificant and not regarded as a threat is contemptuously ignored. Hasn’t this been a trademark pattern of DLP behaviour in this dispensation? But it goes further. If the Dems are spending most of their time and energy talking about the BLP, as Lashley suggests, then it is clear that the BLP has a psychological advantage because it is setting the agenda and the Dems are in reacting mode. Certainly not a good position to be in during an election campaign!
The third and final thing about last Sunday’s meeting was Prime Minister Stuart’s ludicrous suggestion that a law passed in 1929, that is 76 years ago when Barbados was a fundamentally different place, somehow remains relevant in terms of effectiveness to address the issue of corruption today. How can this be when any smart primary school child recognizes that crime becomes more and more sophisticated with the passage of time? But then again, why should anyone be surprised because Mr Stuart’s narrative generally relates so little to the present or future because it is so focused on the past?
Listening to Mr Stuart sometimes, as he delivers his history lessons, one can easily form the impression that he believes Barbadians today must continue to support and be forever grateful to the DLP for introducing free education, national insurance, etc. back in the 1960s. The reality, however, is that those initiatives were solutions to major problems which faced Barbadians back then. Barbadians today face a new set of major problems but this government seems clueless in terms of coming up with effective solutions. Just look at the tragedy which has befallen our once thriving economy.
Yet the Dems repeatedly say, some arrogantly too, that they have nothing to be ashamed of. Is it on the basis of this dismal track record that the DLP is asking Barbadians to give them a third term? Seriously, how can Barbadians in their right mind provide such an endorsement? To do so would be tantamount to Barbadians saying that it is alright to continue living in misery because of governmental neglect so that a few men and women can continue to live happily.
That is a fundamental decision which Barbadians must make in the next general election. I have no doubt that the vast silent majority of Barbadians are of the view that Barbados can do much better than it is doing right now and that they deserve better too. In the final analysis, self-preservation is what always comes first for every human being.
By the way, have you noticed the signs of increased mobilization with the DLP camp? They are catching at everything, including straws. The general election is coming sooner rather than later — maybe as early as December or January. The timing of the election has more to do now with the economic nightmare which is unfolding, especially with the continuing worrying decline of the foreign reserves than when is politically convenient for the Dems. May Almighty Yahweh help us!