The new leader of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Verla De Peiza has declared her mission is to rebuild the fractured 63-year-old party and ready it for the next general election.
De Peiza, a former Government senator and the twice defeated candidate for Christ Church West, declared she was up to the task of rebuilding the party from scratch following the biggest thrashing in Barbadian political history, in which the incumbent failed to capture a single seat in the 30-seat lower house.
“It is no secret that the task going forward would be a challenging one,” De Peiza told Barbados TODAY, adding that she would work with whatever team she was given.
The first female to be elected DLP president during last weekend’s annual party conference, De Peiza was elected unopposed as two other party stalwarts vying for the position backed out of the race. Former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart stepped down from the party leadership after the election defeat.
The new leader and potential prime minister said she would be working to prepare the party for the next election whenever it is called.
De Peiza would not be drawn into commenting on the suggestion by party members and pundits that she and her new leadership team should distance themselves from the party’s old guard, made up mostly of members of the last Cabinet, and Stuart’s legacy.
“I respect the right of everybody to have an opinion, but that doesn’t mean I am going to express all of mine publicly,” De Peiza said.
A post-mortem is to be held “internally and externally” of the party’s performance in the failed general election campaign, she revealed.
But De Peiza’s rebuilding plans have already collided with the perspective of a senior member of the DLP “old guard”, former Member of Parliament for St Lucy Denis Kellman.
The brash former Minister of Housing and Lands described as “foolishness” suggestions that the party needs to rebrand and rebuild its image amid a litany of political woes.
Since the historic electoral humiliation, former business minister Donville Inniss, once seen as a candidate for the party leadership, faces money laundering charges from alleged bribery. And since coming to office, the Mia Mottley administration has claimed that it has been uncovering several alleged instances of corruption under the DLP Government.
“You know, this thing about rebuilding the image of the party is something that I don’t understand. I have been around in politics for a long time and I have been hearing this foolishness about rebuilding the image of the party,” Kellman told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
“Anyone who was at the party [conference] yesterday would know that there is not a problem with the image of the party. The largest crowd I have seen around the DLP is probably yesterday,” he claimed.
While avoiding comment on the impact that Inniss’s legal troubles would have on the party as it looks to the future under De Peiza’s leadership, Kellman said he would not question the judgment of the members who placed her there.
De Peiza’s priority, Kellman said, should be to focus on what has to be done in the country, such as development of the economy and ensuring that people have “a good way of life”.