Former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart should feel free to defend his seven-year tenure in the country’s highest office. But not all of his most recent comments reflect the current position or direction of the Democratic Labour Party, President Verla DePeiza has suggested.
Last Sunday, during Stuart’s second public address since losing the reigns of government, he showed little contrition for the stewardship which resulted in a 30-0 defeat at the polls, suggesting that the previous administration ought to be proud of its ability to keep the country stable during a difficult time.
DePeiza was out of the island during Sunday’s meeting of the party’s St Philip North branch. But reacting to Stuart’s address days later, she stressed the need for its leaders to acknowledge that the people which they swore to serve, were unhappy with their leadership.
“We must acknowledge that the people were not pleased with us. We were in government and therefore we have to take responsibility. I have been pretty clear on that. It is up to us to impress the electorate that we are doing the right thing. That is our duty,” the DLP President told Barbados TODAY.
She, however, added: “He [Stuart] is entitled to his opinion though and he is especially entitled to defend himself however he sees fit…How that is received is a whole different story, but who best to defend them [former leaders] than themselves? They are the ones who are to defend themselves. Regardless of how it is received, you can’t take that from them.”
Two years since the last election, DePeiza says she is more concerned with moving the party forward than trying to defend its previous leaders.
“I am the President and I have spent the last few months outlining my vision… the defence of the last administration is to speak about the past. We are looking forward to what alternatives we can offer to the people of Barbados and that is a critical distinction that has to be made,” she said.
Depeiza argued that while the last administration was not all bad, a failure to instill confidence in the people was its undoing.
She agrees with Stuart that the Mia-Mottley administration has placed a clear distinction between the two parties by placing the business sector and capital above the social wellbeing of citizens. According to DePeiza, it is the DLP’s duty to once again provide an alternative to working-class Barbadians.
“Those people who said the two parties are the same over the last 20 months should know for sure that this is not true. I share the view that our mantra, ‘Barbados is more than an economy, it is a society’, that we took a lot of licks for, is a very succinct capture of how the DLP views its role in leadership.
But having said that, it will always be our responsibility to bring the people along with us, to have that idea of them and share it with them in a manner that they want to be a part of,” said DePeiza.
“Our policies have to be grounded in the people, not in business, not in finance, nor in capital. People have to be at the centre, giving them more opportunities and widening the scope of entrepreneurship so that we are not just servants of other people…. That is a part of our constitution and that will never change. How it manifests itself may change in terms of our policies, but that will never change,” she added.
When asked how much input previous party leaders are having on the DLP’s new direction she said “not much to be honest”, but admitted the party’s younger members remained open to the experience of those who served before them.
The DLP leader, however, took some umbrage with suggestions that the relationship between the DLP’s current and former leadership is under strain.