by Marlon Madden
With just days to go before the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) holds its 65th annual general conference, there appears to be a growing lack of confidence in its current president, with a suggestion that democracy within the political party is under siege.
The concern was expressed on Sunday, during a branch meeting, by some DLP stalwarts who suggested that stumbling blocks were being created to keep George Pilgrim
from contesting the party’s presidency and others from running for office.
Former Minister of Education Ronald Jones, who said he supported Pilgrim to lead the DLP into the next general election, suggested that the current president, Verla DePeiza, was afraid of a contest.
Warning that now is not the time for division, Jones insisted that anyone who wanted to run for office should be allowed to do so.
And questioning why no conference material has been heavily circulated ahead of the September 25 to 27 conference date, Jones said he was still unaware “who is running
for office and which office”.
“Why is this? We should not fear contest in our party. Our internal contest should take on national characteristics, albeit at a lower scale. Nothing is wrong with that,” he said.
“I want to say to the current leadership of the party . . . to respect the democratic ideals of the party, remove the restrictions and alterations which you have put in place to debar persons from being candidates or being successful at the polls.”
In addition to the election of officers and members of the party’s general council at the conference, the DLP is expected to make amendments to its constitution and rules,
as well as appoint auditors.
Only financial members will be allowed to vote.
Jones, who questioned the lack of executive meetings, though acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic, said he was aware that thousands of Barbadians were still interested in joining the DLP, but suggested that some were being ignored.
“I am told we have had so many persons who have come forward to want to be candidates, and more persons who want to be members of the Democratic Labour Party. And we should do everything to facilitate those persons,” said the former government minister.
Meanwhile, former Minister of Environment Dr Denis Lowe pointed to what he called “cannibalism” within the DLP, saying it was making it more difficult for the wounded party to make its pitch to residents.
“We have to be explaining ourselves as to why it is that a simple challenge for an office should become such a crazy, crazy journey. It is not necessary. Democracy means that we put things up there, we have our choices, we choose who or what we want and we put it before the people who make the decisions . . . and we live with the decisions until the next general conference,” he said.
Adding that Pilgrim had his full support, Lowe predicted that “come a week from now, a new president will be in place”.
“A new agenda must be put in place. And a new type of leading must be put in place. I propose to you that Barbados as it stands today, the challenges it faces today and the things that need to be done today, needs a certain type of leader. That leader must be a transformational leader and set a new way for the party and its members. Transformational leadership is required,” he said.
During his address to the modest audience, which included several former DLP government ministers, Jones also questioned if people were “creeping towards surrendering” their rights in Barbados.
“Are we moving quietly towards a dictatorship, a dictatorship of the proletariat, a dictatorship of the citizens of the country, or a dictatorship of the Labour Party?
“Will we wake up one morning to realise that we have been coerced into silence so we will accept everything or anything that is placed before us? Even hungry men or hungry women must make a choice as to what they will eat from the plate; even starving men or starving women must do that,” contended Jones.