In the 1986 general election in Barbados, Dr Don Blackman went the length and breadth of Barbados warning black Barbadians of “white shadows” who were the true powerbrokers in the island. He described these “white shadows” as persons who controlled or sought to control black politicians in order to serve their own economic purposes with little or no consideration for the black masses. His message then related more to racism than classism, it resonated with the black masses and contributed to a massive Democratic Labour Party (DLP) victory.
Fast forward 32 years later, and if Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and many of those on his 2018 DLP political platform are to be believed, classism and “black shadows” are the elements at play in this general election. The question is, however, will Mr Stuart’s sales pitch resonate with the masses sufficiently for him to garner another five years? Many who have lived it will attest that the overall economic circumstances that currently exist in Mr Stuart’s 2018 Barbados, are worse than those that existed in Bernard St John’s 1986 Barbados. There are many who will also opine that the DLP’s playing of the race card in 1986 was much easier then than the party playing the class card today in this general election.
Much of Mr Stuart’s arguments about Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Leader Mia Mottley’s sense of entitlement because of family “bloodlines” are palpably unfair. Miss Mottley is neither responsible for the circumstances of her birth nor is it to her discredit that she was born into privilege. This attack against Miss Mottley has not been precipitated by her social conduct or utterances that suggest she believes her surname entitles her to high public office. Instead, this perception has been created and fuelled as a result of statements made of Miss Mottley by others – firstly by former Chief Justice Sir David Simmons who spoke about her “bloodlines” more than a decade ago and recently by her cousin Mr David Comissiong who spoke of her coming from good “stock”. Should she be nailed to the cross for statements which she did not make, and which in themselves, are not sinister in nature? Has the DLP convinced anyone that Miss Mottley has done anything – other than being born – to contribute to the playing of the class card?
Former Speaker of the House of Assembly Mr Michael Carrington has sought to introduce sexual orientation into the campaign. His demand that Miss Mottley declares her sexual orientation is ill-advised to say the very least. Why only Miss Mottley? If Mr Carrington is so inquisitive about matters related to the sexual orientation of politicians, he should listen to the average Barbadian and he would not be surprised to discover that there are some persons who would also like to know the sexual orientation of some members of his DLP – past and present.
However, Miss Mottley does have questions to answer.
She has developed a strategy of not answering relevant questions of national importance but has instead allowed others – including her father – to answer for her. This does not portend well for someone seeking to sit in the highest political seat in the country. Miss Mottley is not a law unto herself and questions related to the public purse, be they pertaining to tax waivers for her father, building contracts awarded and monies paid to Jose Y Jose despite shoddy work as acknowledged by the Auditor General, contracts awarded to Veco for the building of Dodds Prison, among others, are deserving of answers. And these answers should not be coming from surrogates. Miss Mottley’s knack of threatening lawsuits rather than providing answers of public interest could be interpreted as political bullyism. And this is not behaviour to foster in a thriving democracy. It only gives detractors ammunition for their accusations of despotism and entitlement.
On the other side of the coin, Mr Stuart and the DLP have plenty of unanswered questions. They have spent much of their campaign attacking Miss Mottley rather than dealing with their economic stewardship. It is a deliberate strategy since the BLP can bring evidence to substantiate charges of economic mismanagement, while the Stuart administration can only retreat into the well-worn excuse of the world recession. Both parties recognize that thousands, if not all Barbadians, have grown tired of hearing this lament over the last ten years, whether justified or not.
Miss Mottley’s campaign has been vigorous, energized and well organized. Indeed, some suggest she has been campaigning since being returned to the chair of Opposition Leader in 2013. She has had considerable assistance in the private and public sector and the trade union movement. And there have seemingly been a few moles in the works. We cast no aspersions on the character of Mr Comissiong, but anyone with a modicum of political impartiality must now be questioning his role in preventing the Hyatt project on Bay Street from materializing. Was this ‘uncaped crusader’ preventing a project that spelt jobs and foreign exchange for Barbados from coming to fruition because it would have made the Stuart administration look good, or was it truly about environmental aesthetics?
Many questions might remain unanswered on Friday morning, but tomorrow night one question will indeed be answered. Will Miss Mottley create history or will Mr Stuart be punished, not by laughter, but by rejection? The clock is ticking.