It has been just under seven weeks since the general election, arguably Barbados’ most momentous exercise of adult suffrage. The general election has seen Prime Minister Mia Mottley achieve what no other political leader in the country’s history has ever done – the complete annihilation of all political opposing forces. The post-general election euphoria still very much engulfs the country but the past 48 days have also provided much food for thought.
It must be made pellucidly clear that the present administration has to be given every opportunity to exercise its mandate and to fulfil the promises made to the electorate. It would border on the ridiculous if citizens expected the island’s economic turmoil to be resolved overnight or without some measure of social pain. However, the overwhelming mandate given to the Mottley administration does not render it immune to intense scrutiny and/or public criticism. Nor should those criticisms be simplistically interpreted or dismissed as being anti-government. Politics in Barbados, like several other jurisdictions, has become so polarized that impartial criticisms are too frequently and casually politicized.
One observation made was Miss Mottley’s initial suggestion of a constitutional amendment to facilitate an Opposition being highly questionable. Barbadian voters clearly indicated that the majority of sitting members they wanted in their Parliament should come from the Barbados Labour Party. By their votes they wanted members of that party to represent their interests in all 30 constituencies. Those voters who stayed away from the polls and failed to exercise their constitutional right had no justifiable reason for grouse if they found the results unpalatable. Among those who had a reason for grouse, though, were voters who wanted a BLP candidate to represent them in the St Michael West constituency and went to polls and elected Reverend Joseph Atherley. Instead, now we have the anomaly of Mr Atherley being at one and the same time an elected BLP Member of Parliament and the representative of the Queen’s loyal Opposition. Since Mr Artherley has not indicated leaving the BLP we effectively have a BLP Government and technically a BLP Opposition, or perhaps a BLP ‘A’ team and a BLP ‘B’ “team” in the Lower House. But, if the silence of most of the population can be used as a gauge, it appears that Barbadians are very comfortable with this contrivance or simply don’t give a hoot.
The saga of the proposed Hyatt Hotel, and Mr David Comissiong’s involvement in stopping it from materializing under the Freundel Stuart administration, to his softening on that stance under the Mottley administration, as well as his political appointment as CARICOM ambassador, have all been carried out in the ‘best’ traditions of Barbadian politics. This episode is certain to go down in the annals of Barbadian politics as one of high humour where no one laughed but many have still been laughed at.
We note during the recent debate on the Integrity In Public Life Act that Attorney General Dale Marshall indicated he would strain every sinew in pursuing those who engaged in corrupt practices during the last Democratic Labour Party administration. But is this mere political bluster to give substance to as yet unsubstantiated allegations? Is it political posturing or simply a repetition of what politicians do – deflect attention from their own cohorts? Barbados’ history has previously seen threats by the late Errol Barrow to pursue corruption in the late Tom Adams administration and threats by Tom Adams to pursue corruption in Mr Barrow’s government. It is grandstanding that brings cheers from the gallery of the political faithful but which is nothing more than sound and fury signifying nothing. We wait on Coleridge Street, St Michael with pens and cameras to see where this latest vocal thunder will take us.
We note that Mr Marshall indicated that a special team might be appointed to assist with investigations into possible corruption. He did not refer to the Royal Barbados Police Force which is the agency that investigates crimes against the person and the state. Mr Marshall had this to say: “The courts are going to be involved and I want to say that they have already begun to put together a team of individuals to advise and to help direct the process. And let me say that this work will not be done by public servants. I have got the permission of the Prime Minister [Mia Mottley] to engage such skills as I need from outside of the public service and even from outside of Barbados to be able to help us to ferret out the incidences of corruption in Barbados that we know about, but for which we have no proof.”
We support Mr Marshall’s show of abhorrence to corruption and his quest to root out this scourge. However, we hope this new thrust is not simply to provide employment for some party faithful who might have themselves fallen short of the standards which he now seeks to champion. We already have an obese Government.
Perhaps one of the most comical occurrences in this post-general election period was provided by – of all entities – a member of the Fourth Estate. We were told by that institution that appointments to overseas missions were not political but simply the employment of the best possible persons available. When one considered that those persons were previously government ministers or government operatives, the slant reflected poorly on both the publication and the author. Are we now in an era where base partisan politics will be allowed to dominate every aspect of our existence in and outside of Parliament? Interesting times are ahead.