We thought the lesson had been learned, its meaning pellucid and unambiguous. For 10 years, the previous administration chose to campaign for the office it already sought rather than govern with the power it already possessed. The results nearly consigned an economy and a society with it to history’s dustbin.
Now we are concerned at the resurgence, not two years hence, of old political habits and gimmicks ill-suited for the times in which we live and the urgent issues we face.
The people of this nation spoke with unprecedented clarity that politicking is the sort of thing which we will not tolerate.
The projection of the images of three key critics of the Government on the screen of the Annual General Conference of the Barbados Labour Party may have provided a moment of mirth for the party faithful and a source of derision if not contempt in the heat of political battle. But we are still digesting the unpleasant meal of our own homegrown version of Belshazzar’s fateful feast, where the Almighty had weighed a kingdom and people and found them wanting.
The fateful words “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” were writ large upon the wall, and soon kingdom and crown were lost to the ages. We rather thought it was clear that Barbados is tired of learning a lesson of biblical provenance.
The May 2018 poll was not so much a general election as a generational one. For the first time, people born in this century held the vote. An entire generation of Independence baby boomers took the full reins of government. Times have changed.
We submit that the images of Messrs Atherley, De Peiza and Phillips splashed so vividly on the BLP’s conference screens, derided as “Eeny Meeny, and Miney”, are not the three apocalyptic riders this country faces.
What should haunt patriots and partisans alike is the spectre of an unproductive, uninspired, unfair, innovation-averse nation of platitudes, bankrupt of ideas, bereft of energy and absent of hope.
It is a very real visage that may yet be visited upon us all should we now drop the ball of economic recovery and restructuring in favour of playing a dangerous game.
The Prime Minister is known for her abiding affection for what is known to political scientists as “optics”. For her, image is everything and presentation is paramount – notwithstanding a uniquely gifted political mind we have placed in the service of government.
Yet, despite possessing remarkable powers of oratory and persuasion, she must remember that a phalanx of no less capable intellects roam this land. For more than half-a-century have come the beneficiaries of a public education the length, breadth and depth of which few citizens of most countries on this earth are able to receive.
There are no mediaeval monks among us. The Prime Minister knew what she meant when she urged all hands on deck at the outset of her term in office. She is doubtless aware that there are many contemporaries and considerably more younger stars in our national firmament waiting, able and anxious to make a difference. These bright minds and keen hands must not be discouraged by the return of the spectre of politics as usual in Barbados.
Our economy can ill-afford the luxury of a discriminatory society where there are jobs only for the proverbial boys and where is practised another, more insidious proverb: “Who the cow likes he licks; who he doesn’t like he kicks”.
So we remind the Prime Minister that just as she is keen to put on a good show, she should also show us the workings in the margins of her decisions.
The Paradise debacle, the CLICO farmlands saga, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and universal health care, the sugar, cotton and black belly lamb industries, to say nothing of infrastructure, taxation, education, social services, public transport, solid waste management, renewable energy, water management and housing – all these and more should be writ upon the wall.
Together, let us all work to knock off each of these challenges for the good of our people and those yet unborn. There is plenty enough time to put a case to the people of Barbados for a mandate; this is not such a time.
There are far too many still reeling from the loss of jobs, unable to recover lost homes and opportunities. Many others labour under a heavy burden of taxation, while corporations rejoice at the lifting of taxes on them.
It is at such a time as this that we are troubled by the appearance of five stewards of state-owned enterprises, among them a minister’s spouse, at a party conference to deliver a rhetorical report card to the ruling party and not to the people of Barbados through reports laid in Parliament – while so many statutory bodies have yet to so account for their spending of taxpayer dollars.
We seek to remind the PM, as we inform many others who may be unaware, that the Constitution places the general direction and control of the Government of Barbados in Cabinet, appointed from those elected to the House of Assembly by the People. There is no mention of political parties nor accommodation for tribalism in our Supreme Law, no compact with an Old Boys’ or Girls’ Club.
The Constitution is clear and unmistakable as to where power devolves in this realm, who must exercise it and in whose interests. The People have spoken with awesome clarity and have no intention of ceding their power now that they have seen what it has lately done. All who claim, seek or hold keys to the political kingdom would do well to remember this.
For now is the time for all, not some, good men and women to come to the aid of our country.