Social activist and attorney-at-law David Comissiong is appealing to Barbadians to reject the “serpentine advice” of “any agent of deception” who encourages them to accept money from candidates during the campaign for the pending general election.
Without mentioning Prime Minister Freundel Stuart by name, but in what was a clear reference to the Stuart’s recent recommendation to supporters in St Peter, Comissiong used some rather searing language to describe the country’s leader and his advice.
“I implore you to ignore any agent of deception who sets out to lead you into temptation and evil with serpentine advice that you should take the money of political operatives who will soon be on a mission to seduce you during this election season and to buy your vote,” Comissiong said in a press release this week.
“Indeed, the vile practice of vote buying has become so widespread in Barbados that the agent of deception who advises you to take the money cannot but be aware that members and supporters of his own political party will in all likelihood be among those dishing out hundred dollar bills in exchange for votes,” he wrote.
Addressing the opening of the campaign office of Democratic Labour Party (DLP) candidate Dave Chief Cumberbatch at Mile And A Quarter, Stuart appeared to suggest that at least one of the political parties other than the DLP was underestimating “the intelligence of ordinary people” by offering them cash for votes. And he advised those who had been approached to “get some”.
“The worse thing you can do in politics is to underestimate the intelligence of ordinary people,” he said.
“I have made it very clear to the people [in my constituency] of St Michael South and I am making it very clear to the people of Barbados – I say this unapologetically – if money starts sharing around try and get some. Do not get it by illegal means, but if money is sharing around, get some. Because this kind of political cynicism that is manifested in Barbados has to be confronted, but that is not another way of saying that if they want to be cynical you cannot show that you are more cynical than they are. So if they sharing out money, take some.”
However, Comissiong said this was tantamount to “devaluing yourself as a human being”, as he reminded Barbadians of the slave trade during the 18th and 19th centuries when “rich white people were actually buying and selling our ancestors as if they were mere animals or things”.
“Why then would we want to allow any misleader to convince us to reduce ourselves to so low a moral level that, once again, people with money are made to feel that we are for sale?” he asked.
The attorney also made it clear that vote buying was illegal here, charging that the “Great Deceiver must know that the citizens of Barbados cannot take the money without breaking the law”.
He also advised that those who accepted cash for votes were helping to destroy the country, arguing that “the insidious and growing practice of vote buying” had already left a large number of Barbadians convinced that politicians were “tawdry hustlers and con men”.
“The people of our country are already rapidly losing respect for the men and women who are supposed to be their national leaders. And when a critical mass of a population lose respect for the men, women, and institutions that are supposed to provide national leadership, the nation is lost.
“Furthermore, the vile practice of vote buying is gradually and sedulously stripping many of our youth of their idealism and moral values, and is also threatening to subvert the integrity of our electoral system, and by extension, our entire system of governance,” Comissiong charged.
“Do not permit anyone to persuade you to become an accomplice in the destruction of your own native land. Always, set out to do the right and moral thing ,” he advised.