The Opposition Barbados Labour (BLP) is the first out the blocks to defy a direct request from Barbados Light & Power (BL&P) not to plaster any posters on its utility poles.
Raising safety concerns as it usually does in the lead up to a political campaign, the utility company said in a December 21 letter sent to all political parties down to contest the upcoming general election that they should “refrain from placing promotional items on Light & Power poles”.
The company did not say if or what action it would take against those who defied its request.
However, with the country gearing up for what has been described by Democratic Labour Party stalwart Derek Alleyne as the “election of all elections” by the middle of this year, BL&P said: “We are reaching out to all political parties before the next election season to ask that campaigners refrain from placing promotional items on Light and Power poles.
“Placing cloth, posters and signs on our poles pose a danger to our linemen and contractors. It is for this reason that over the years, we have consistently appealed to Barbadians to desist from the practice,” the letter signed by BL&P’s Manager of Communications and Government Relations Jackie Marshall-Clarke said.
She further cautioned that “if the spurs used to climb the poles come into contact with staples or nails, it could result in a serious fall and/or injury.
“In addition, some pole identification numbers are obscured by the posters and in the event of an emergency, Light & Power crews need to be able to identify these pole numbers.”
The letter went on to inform the political parties that permission from the Chief Town Planner was required in order to place signs, posters or billboards “in this manner, in accordance with the Town and Country Planning Act CAP 240”.
However, one senior member of the Town & Country Planning Department today clarified that permission was only needed from the Chief Town Planner for the erection of independent signs and billboards, but not for posters to be placed on utility poles.
“If it is a sign it has to come through us, but in terms of posters, that is not under our jurisdiction . . . if anyone wants to put up a sing or billboard then permission is required from the Chief Town Planner,” the officer, who requested anonymity, said.
He further explained that if signs were being put “on someone’s property” then it was up to the owner of the property to grant permission or ask for them to be removed.
Leading up to the 2013 general election BL&P had also sent out a similar letter to the main political parties asking them not to put posters and billboards on the utility poles, again citing safety concerns.
However, that has not stopped campaigners over the years from engaging in the practice.
Acknowledging this, and defending the party’s decision to erect brightly coloured posters of its candidates with the headline, ‘Ready to Serve’, on poles across the island, BLP General Secretary Dr Jerome Walcott told Barbados TODAY it had become virtually standard for all political organizations to place posters on utility poles during a campaign season.
“So I don’t understand what the furore is about. Within the next couple of weeks there is going to be a political campaign in Barbados and I am sure you are going to see hundreds of posters across Barbados on utility poles,” Walcott said.
However, with the BL&P citing safety concerns, the BLP was careful to use clear adhesive tape to affix many of its posters, and had avoided the identification numbers on the utility poles, Dr Walcott said.
“In terms of the posters I was at pains to purchase, on behalf of the party, about 12 boxes of adhesive tapes to use specifically for these,” he assured even though Barbados TODAY found several BLP posters fastened to the poles using staples when our team visited the St Philip West constituency, which is being contested by entertainer turned politician John King, earlier today.
“In terms of safety they [BL&P] are concerned about staples and steel tip boots. That is what I gathered and that is why I said we purchased 12 boxes of heavy duty transparent tapes to avoid that,” the general secretary insisted, while promising to double check the St Philip West posters.
In the meantime, General Secretary of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) George Pilgrim confirmed that he was in receipt of the BL&P letter.
However, he offered no criticism of the BLP’s poster campaign, while only stating that “we acknowledge receipt of the letter and we dispatched a note to the Barbados Light & Power requesting a meeting to seek clarity on matter”.