While declaring that today was “a good day for the people of Barbados” in expressing relief that the long wait for a date for the general election is finally over, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) is taking Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to task over the conflict with the previously set regional examinations.
There was a collective sigh relief across the political divide today after Stuart announced that Barbadians would go to polls on May 24, 2018 to elect a new Government, with Nomination Day set for May 7.
However, both dates conflict with the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations, which have already begun and are scheduled to continue through to early June, leaving BLP leader Mia Mottley to describe as bittersweet, today’s announcement made through the Barbados Government Information Service.
“We are conscious that there may be some students who are first-time voters who are anxious about two momentous occasions in their life which may clash. This Government therefore needs to explain to this country as soon as possible about what arrangements would be made to minimize this anxiety,” Mottley said in a video posted on the BLP’s Facebook page, while accusing Stuart of making a poor choice, even though he had five years to make a decision.
“The truth is some may say this is a strategy on the part of the Government. This is not a strategy, it this is a royal fumble. He had five years to try to choose a date and ended up choosing dates that will cause significant inconvenience to two large sections of the community.”
On Election Day students will sit CSEC examinations in Geography, Agricultural Science and Industrial Technology, while there will be examinations in Visual Arts, Music, Electronic Document Preparation, Textiles and Chemistry on Nomination Day.
This notwithstanding, political parties and independent candidates welcomed the news that Stuart had officially notified Governor General Dame Sandra Mason of the election and nomination dates.
Seven political parties, including the BLP and the incumbent Democratic Labour Party led by Stuart, have declared their intention to contest the poll.
The other contenders are the United Progressive Party led by Lynette Eastmond; Solutions Barbados, led by Grenville Phillips II; the Barbados Integrity Movement led by Neil Holder; the People’s Democratic Movement of Mark Adamson and the Alex Mitchell-led Bajan Free Party, a coalition of the Kingdom Government Party and the People’s Democratic Congress.
Unlike Mottley, Phillips did not raise the issue of the CSEC examinations.
However, he was simply pleased that today’s news “provided some certainty and a way forward”.
We want to thank the Prime Minister for restoring some certainty to the country. We are ready and we are a united team,” the Solutions Barbados leader said, while revealing that should his party win it would make it mandatory for the Prime Minister to give one year’s notice of the election date.
One of the most controversial candidates in next month’s poll is the independent Natalie Natlee Harewood, who will contest The City seat held by the BLP’s Jeffrey Bostic in the last Parliament.
The retired prostitute has caused quite a stir and her performance will be closely monitored.
She could barely contain her excitement today, saying she was ready for her first political fight.
“I am so excited, I am so overwhelmed, I am also a little jittery but I am ready and I am prepared for election and nomination. Do you think I came this far to back out? The bell has been rung so it’s time for me to go. The response has been great, the support has been great and I know that I am going to win this,” a confident Harewood said.
“I already have my nominator, I have my seconder, I have everything. This is not a joke, Natalie Harewood is ready and I will never back out,” she added.
Another candidate in the race for The City is Lynette Eastmond, the leader of the one-year-old United Progressive Party, and a three-time losing candidate in St Philip West.
Eastmond said this morning that the announcement came as no surprise to her party, which is fielding 24 candidates for the contest.
“The announcement isn’t a surprise to me. As I kept saying to people it would be called soon. We have started the process with our campaign so we simply continue to roll out our campaign. We have been getting an excellent response and we believe that we will do well when polling day comes,” Eastmond said.
There was less certainty, however, from BIM’s camp, with Vice President Stephen Belgrave unable to reveal the number of candidates on the party’s ticket.
“We are pleased that the election has been called and we will form the next Government. Our candidates are ready but at this point I am not going to announce them,” said Belgrave, who, when pressed, refused to confirm if the party would be able to field candidates in all 30 constituencies.