The money-laundering conviction of former Minister of Commerce and stalwart of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Donville Inniss is not the death knell for the party, assures one of the elders of the political institution founded by Sir Errol Walton Barrow.
This morning 98-year-old DLP veteran, Astor B Watts, told Barbados TODAY that he has seen the party go through its share of low points. He argued that the party would bounce back from the stain of Inniss’ conviction for crimes perpetrated while serving on the Freundel Stuart Cabinet.
“The party did not do anything. There is no denying that Inniss was a very strong member of the party, but we have to remember also that the case is not quite over because he still plans to appeal the ruling. It is still too early to say how this is going to impact the party, so we have to wait and see, but I believe that it is going to work out,” said Watts.
It took a 12-member jury in the Eastern District Federal Court in New York one hour and 52 minutes of deliberations, to find Inniss guilty of laundering $16,536.73 on April 17, 2015 and $20,000 on April 18, 2016, through a US company Crystal Dental Lab. He was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
In a statement issued promptly after the verdict by president of the DLP, Verla De Peiza, the guilty verdict was described as a cautionary tale for Barbados.
“It is also a cautionary tale for all politicians, persons in public life, and corporate entities. We all now need to learn the lesson of this bleak day and ensure that it never ever happens again,” she said. When asked this morning how her party would fare after this latest blow, which comes on the heels of an overwhelming rebuke from the public in the May 2018 polls, De Peiza made it clear that she had nothing further to add to the subject.
However, Watts, after whom the party’s signature lunch time lecture series is named, made it clear that now was not the time for the party to hang its head in shame but instead to pick up the pace as it relates to rubbing shoulders and galvanizing support for the party.
“I believe that we will weather this. The morale of the party is still strong. In fact, we are going to start back the lunch time lecture on Fridays and we are going to start in earnest, going around to various branch meetings and giving them the assurance that we are still as good as we used to be,” said Watts.
He contended that contrary to what may be floating around in the public domain regarding the inertia of the party, Watts told Barbados TODAY that the DLP was merely stepping back to push forward with more momentum. However, he believes that the party may have held back a little longer than it needed to.
“We should have come out sooner, we should have gone to people sooner and not wait so long. We have to plan and let the people know the plans that you have for them in their districts. This is a party with a strong legacy of serving Barbados and we need to let the people know how we intend to look after their interests,” he stressed.