“[Communication] was the Achilles heel in the camp of the Democratic Labour Party. It became an albatross around the neck of the DLP’s leadership. The party’s leadership became very distant from the people, and you really cannot isolate yourself from the population, the various interest groups, stakeholders and still maintain popularity, ” – Former Government Senator, pastor David Durant, as he gave his assessment last week on what went wrong for the former ruling party.
If it is one thing that pastor Durant got right last week in his analysis of what went dreadfully wrong for the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) during its just-ended ten-year tenure in office, it was its woeful ability to communicate with the general public – and we are not just talking here about the failure of the then Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to hold regular press conferences, even though that had long been a bane of ours.
However, credible engagements with the island’s Fourth Estate apart, the general communication and public relations void that became a hallmark of the last Government was such that it meant a blackout on even some of the most mundane information, including who was in charge of what at any given time.
Thank God for the Official Gazette, if not we would never have known who was acting for whom, who was the chairman of one public board or another or who had been granted one concession or another.
But even with the Gazette, all of this information was being communicated well after the fact.
To make matters worse, over the past decade there have been serious calamitous situations, such as the road collapse in St Andrew, that persisted for years and years without our having knowledge of the Prime Minister getting into his car once to offer a reassuring word to the long suffering residents, including the very outspoken Carlitha Andrews, who members of the media got to know on a first name basis because of the number of times that issue was highlighted to no avail.
The same thing happened when the south coast sewage problem emerged well over a year ago.
We vividly recall the then ministers of health and tourism, John Boyce and Richard Sealy, famously taking a dive into Dover Beach early on in the crisis, to assure Barbadians and visitors alike that it was safe to swim in the area and that there was no contamination to speak of. But that PR stunt was short-lived, and as the crisis worsened day by day, Mr Boyce and Mr Sealy dared not go that way again.
It is no wonder then, that Mr Durant now sees the need for a mea culpa.
But in hindsight it would seem as though while the 2013 re-election of the DLP by a slim majority should have served as a wake up call to the party that Barbadians were growing wary of the same, instead it was wrongfully interpreted by the party as a reflection of the will of a people for the status quo to forever remain.
How wrong were they!
Ironically, now that the party has suffered a most humiliating 30-nil defeat, it seems as though some within the party will stop at nothing to be heard, even if no one is actually listening.
So for once, maybe Mr Donville Inniss, Dr David Estwick et al may actually want to adopt Mr Stuart’s perfected strategy of staying mum – – some used to call it measuring twice and cutting once — at least for now, until the battle wounds are healed somewhat; until the new Government has had a chance to get both feet wet; until Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s austerity measures have sunk in a little bit, and until such time as the mighty victors can stomach an insult by the vanquished.
We have no doubt that the DLP will rise again some day soon, but for the moment the wounds are still too raw for even the mere mention of some of the primary horsemen of what some have already deemed the Barbadian equivalent to the apocalypse.
Therefore, time must be allowed to be a healer and perhaps after the party’s annual conference in August would be a good time for it to make a fresh bid for support, beginning, as Mr Durant would have, with a comprehensive apology.
Until then, it may be best for some eager elements to lie low.