Beware of persons bearing envelopes of cash on Election Day!
This warning comes from United Progressive Party (UPP) candidate for St James South Christal Austin, who voiced concerns that the issue of vote buying will once again raise its ugly head in the next general election, which is constitutionally due by June next year.
She argues that despite promises from the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to end the corrupt practice of vote buying following myriad accusations from the two major political parties in the aftermath of the 2013 elections, all signs point to an exacerbation of the scourge.
“This is the time when people will be coming looking to transact business on Election Day. I don’t know how big the envelopes are, but I have heard that some could go as high as $2,000 and people have already started getting flat screens and iPhones,” said Austin, who was speaking at a UPP spot meeting in West Terrace on Saturday night.
Speaking immediately after the 2013 general election, which saw the re-election of the DLP by a razor-thin parliamentary majority of just two seats, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart drew public attention to and expressed serious concern about the impact of alleged vote buying.
He did not say who was responsible, though the inference was clear, but vowed to take action to stamp out the illegal practice which, from various accounts, has become a feature of Barbados general elections in the last 25 or so years.
Close to five years have passed, another general election is approaching; but the country has heard nothing more from Stuart or Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite on the worrisome issue, which many believe to be undermining Barbados’ democracy as it frustrates the genuine free expression of the choice of voters.
However, Austin is charging that both the BLP and DLP have been paying lip service to the problem and the UPP stands ready to end the practice once and for all. She also assured voters that even though many may regard the UPP’s bid to form the next government as a pipe dream, the Lynette Eastmond-led party will not be shelling out a red cent in order to get votes.
“We have persons in the party, not just ready to talk but ready to bring legislation to end corruption at the political and governmental level. One of the things we stand against is the buying and selling of votes in this country,” she said.
“I joined the party because as a student of politics at the college and university level, it always bothered me that politics has always been synonymous with nefarious activity with corruption and lack of integrity. It has always been linked with mamaguying the people and pulling wool over their eyes. You don’t have to be a serious student of political science to know that it does not have to be like that,” Austin said.
The UPP St James South candidate also chastised those who accepted payment for their X, stressing that such persons were selling out their children’s futures for cheap trinkets while betraying the legacy of their ancestors who fought for the right to be included in the electoral process.
“It is rubbish because our ancestors fought so hard to vote and now for us to turn around and give it away so cheaply. Ask yourself it is worth it for a week’s pleasure. Invest your vote in the United Progressive Party and let us work for you for the entirety of our term, not just until the money in the envelope runs out or until the batteries in the phone dies or it falls and breaks.” Austin stressed.