The Windrush Generation policies have affected my life in many ways. I immigrated to England in 1963 and experienced racism for the first time in my life. This led to me becoming a student of racism from 1977, when I came into consciousness of self, with a vision and mission. Part of the vision was made public in 1989 in my first publication entitled; Pride and Unity – The Dawn of a New Era, in which I stated that: “I had a vivid picture of a new political and economic order for the 21st century; new political awakening for Barbadians and other people of the Caribbean region; the uniting of my family as a single unit, toward the unity of African people; the acquisition of economic power by black people (reparations) and the end of Apartheid in South Africa and of the global oppression of ‘White Supremacy’ (racism)”.
Following that 1977 awakening, I became known for my human rights and social justice activism because I challenged the core principle of the British repatriation policies – the 1959 Mental Health Act. My case against the health authorities for human rights violations is still before the High Court after 40 years. Since 1990, I have been lobbying world leaders for a proposal to promote truth, justice, peace, healing, and reconciliation. However, in 1994 I had another experience of the unjust racial system, which caused me to become fearful for my life, so I resettled in Barbados. I often return to England, either on business or to visit family members as my wife, children, and grandchildren are still there. This year, I was on a three-week visit from April 13-30, 2018, which was my shortest stay since 1994. The news of the Windrush Generation broke on Friday, April 13, the day I arrived in England to participate in an event associated with the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, which was scheduled for the 16th to 17th April.
After hearing about the policies referred to as the Windrush Generation Scandal, which was not new to me, my mind was reawakened, and I had flashbacks about the 1959 Mental Health Act. Therefore, I began to pay close attention to some statements from Caribbean nationals that were being made publicly. I then asked myself a few questions; “Is the Royal Wedding of the 21st Century between a ‘White’ Prince and a ‘Black’ woman taking place on the birth date of England’s first ‘Black’ Queen Sophie Charlotte coincidental”? Also, “What does the Queen’s announcement that she was handing over the responsibility as Head of the Commonwealth to Prince Charles mean?” This is when I began to make the connection between the Windrush Generation Scandal and the Barbados General Election of 2018.
The 2018 General Election in Barbados (‘Little England’) was unprecedented in that Parliament was dissolved some six weeks before the date for the election was known. The date for election was made public shortly after the announcement by the Queen that Prince Charles was to Head the Commonwealth, which to my understanding means that all Commonwealth countries like Barbados that still swear allegiance to the Royal Family will now have two Heads, the Queen and Prince Charles. Please correct me if I am wrong.
With my mind searching for answers to the many questions, I returned to Barbados on April 30, which gave me time to participate in the General Election as nomination date was May 7, 2018. I made the decision to stand as an Independent candidate for the Constituency of Christ Church South, where I live, and to do as I did in the 1994 General Election when I resettled in Barbados. I was determined to continue lobbying for the electoral process to change. I wanted the names and symbols/icons of political parties to be on the ballot paper. However, unlike in 1994, in the 2018 election I decided not to vote for myself; neither did I want those persons who know me to vote for me. I told them I was voting for change.
The reason for my unusual action was that I wanted a change from the two party ideologies, which has been confusing to Barbadians for many years. The Barbados Labour Party, born out of the revolution process of the 1930s, was established in 1938 and was originally called the Barbados Progressive League until 1944. It is the oldest political party in CARICOM. The Democratic Labour Party of Barbados (DLP) came into being in 1955 when members of Parliament, led by Mr Errol Barrow, crossed the floor of a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Government. The DLP subsequently won the 1961 General Election and went on to take Barbados into Independence in 1966. The Barbados constitution prohibits political parties from contesting in elections. As a result of the origin of the DLP, the two parties have similar ideologies.
In the General Election of May 28, 1986, the DLP won 24 of the seats, leaving the BLP with only three seats. This led to the formation of the National Democratic Party (NDP) by defectors from the DLP government similar to what happened to the BLP in 1955. The new NDP was led by former Finance Minister Dr Richard Haynes and with its four sitting MPs, replaced BLP, with its three MPs, as the official opposition party in the House of Assembly from 1989 to 1991. The NDP with a similar ideology as the BLP and DLP contested the 1991 General Election but none of the candidates were elected. In the 1994 premature General Election called some 16 months before it was constitutionally due, only Dr Haynes regained his seat. In the General Election of January 20, 1999, none of the NDP candidates were elected and the reverse happened with the BLP winning 26 of the seats, leaving the DLP with only two seats in the House of Assembly.
These results of a 24 to three in favour of the DLP and subsequently a 26 to two in favour of the BLP, also brought an end to the aspirations of the NDP. In my opinion, it was clear that the people did not approve of crossing the floor but could not make up their minds as to which of the two parties BLP or DLP they really wanted. Alternatively, it could have been that something spiritually was happening and the ancestors wanted to put right what was wrong but were waiting for the appropriate time. Creator God and the ancestors are always on time. I was thought to believe that a long division sum that starts wrong, cannot end right. This logic applies also to political movements. Therefore, for me, it was wrong for Mr Errol Barrow to have crossed the floor from the BLP in 1955 and form the DLP when the people elected him as a BLP member. There should have been a by-election to give the people a say in his decision to cross the floor. The same applies to Dr Richie Haynes and the NDP.
The reality in Barbados is that we vote for individuals, not parties as there is no party name or symbol/icon on the ballot paper, only the candidate’s name and profession. This was until the 2013 election when a change was made to include the candidate’s address on the ballot paper.
The fact that no party is represented means that once a person has been elected, he/she can decide which side in Parliament they will sit and the people of the constituency for which he/she was elected have no say in the matter. This renders the people powerless. For the first time, this has come full circle for which there must be change. The ancestors whose rights had been violated or denied have spoken during the General Election of 2018 and also through the Windrush Generation Scandal of 2018 as this must be a wake-up call for black people. Those who have eyes must now see.
The BLP won all 30 seats for the House of Assembly, which means that the DLP must go back to the drawing board. The 2018 Election was also unprecedented in a few other ways. It was the first time that a number of new political parties (seven to be exact) and many females contested the election. Also for the first time, a woman had a chance of becoming Prime Minister as two parties were headed by women. However, the battle is not over, neither has the war on crossing the floor been won. As it stands, before the first sitting of parliament, a member of the BLP gave notice to the Prime Minister and to the Governor-General that he will not be sitting on the side of the BLP, but instead as an opposition member of parliament. There are many speculations as to why a member of the religious fraternity would betray the trust the people put in him and be the one to make such a move against the people’s decision. I am very concerned also to be hearing through news that Bishop Joseph Atherley is the Leader of the Opposition in parliament, which according to the dictionary meaning of ‘leader’ implies that there is an opposition party or that there are other members in opposition that he leads. To refer to Bishop Atherley as the Leader of the Opposition is the same as declaring the person who took part in a one man’s race as the winner by coming first.
Those in authority must desist from continually trying to confuse intelligent people of Barbados, in particular, the youth. Bishop Atherley is the lone opposition member in parliament who got there by default. I would like someone to show the young people that section of the Constitution, which gives a lone independent opposition in parliament the authority to appoint the two senators required for the Upper House. The people of the constituency that elected Bishop Atherley will have no say in his decisions until 2023 when the next General Election is constitutionally due. Therefore, it would be wise for the Prime Minister to act hastily to ensure that no other member of her BLP team can join Bishop Atherley without permission of their constituencies through by-elections.
The DLP was born during the period of the Windrush Generation in 1955 when thousands of Caribbean-born British citizens migrated to England. The year 1955 was also when the Caribbean, in particular, Barbados, was struck by the category 4 Hurricane Janet, the worse national disaster in the island’s history since 1898. The Honourable Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados has said she prays that Barbados does not experience a hurricane this year as the economy is not in any condition to respond to a disaster. If there is one bit of advice I would give to the Prime Minister, it is on crossing the floor, for which she does not have to pray, but to use the power given to her by the people and take urgent action and make the necessary constitutional change that would prohibit any other member of her BLP Government from crossing the floor, without first going back to the constituency to get a mandate from the people for his/her decision. The Barbados Labour Party is not only the oldest political party in CARICOM, but has lead responsibility for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, and should, therefore, lead by example. The people should not be put through another experience of what they have endured for the past 63 years (1955 to 2018). If action is taken by the Prime Minister to prohibit crossing the floor it would mean, that most likely, no other person would risk doing what Bishop Atherley did. His intention is most likely to follow in the footsteps of MrErrol Barrow and Dr Richie Haynes to form a political party or worse, that of Mr Owen Arthur whose actions were like most of the DLP members in the election, to prevent a woman from becoming the Prime Minister of Barbados. The DLP has been devastated for their attack on the Prime Minister and Mr Arthur’s legacy has been tarnished.
Finally, the Windrush Generation Scandal has strengthened the growing worldwide claim for reparations, which is about repairing the damage that had been done. The unprecedented victory by the BLP under the leadership of a woman indicates that Barbados is ready to start the process of self-repair as recommended in the report of the National Task Force on Reparations 2017. This is an indication that the reparatory justice claim of which Barbados is in a leadership position complements the finding of Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent & the Grenadines that ‘Barbados is not just an island, it is also an idea’.
Barbadians please seek information about our country and get to know its history.