by Kareem Smith
The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) first female President Verla DePeiza is ready to defend her stewardship of the party amid suggestions that her two-year tenure has been tarnished with undemocratic attempts to exclude some members.
As she prepares to go head-to-head with former General Secretary George Pilgrim, DePeiza has accused some factions of absenting themselves as the party sought to rebuild after its 2018 election defeat.
With members of the “old guard” now returning to contest key positions, DePeiza has described this weekend’s conference as a test between the old and the new.
“What we have is a clear dichotomy: those who acknowledge that change needed to be made and got down to business; and those who want the old ways of doing things to remain.
“This is why I welcome the challenge. It will be a test of which direction the party membership wishes to take. I am prepared to press forward with the reforms necessary to make the party both functional and relevant. And I am willing to work with all who wish to work,” she declared in a statement obtained by Barbados TODAY.
Over last weekend, former Minister of Education Ronald Jones voiced support for Pilgrim at a DLP branch meeting on Sunday and accused current leaders of seeking to silence constructive voices within the party.
On the contrary, DePeiza argued that as former MPs, both Jones and former environment minister Denis Lowe are automatically members of the party’s General Council and could not be stopped from participating.
“Neither has availed himself of the privilege for the past two years. And clearly, also did not keep abreast of developments. They therefore were unaware of the reforms made, and found them not to their liking,” DePeiza argued.
“During the lockdown, meetings were held via Zoom, along with the rest of the world. Since the lockdown, we experimented with a mixture of online and in-person meetings,” she added.
Turning her attention squarely on her opponent, the former Government Senator argued that Pilgrim’s failure to attract an appointment to the senate despite serving as General Secretary under two sitting prime ministers is a clear lack of faith in his leadership.
“During that time, the plant at George Street was allowed to deteriorate. In two years, my team has accomplished much with little: the auditorium is transformed and primed to become a competitive commercial space,” she contended.
DePeiza has challenged rivals to scrutinize her performance based on her policies.
“From January of this year, when I delivered the Errol Barrow Memorial Lecture I sought to outline my policy position.
“The essence is a roadmap to balance and prosperity by promoting revenue generation outside of tourism, [promoting] food security, abandoning GDP as a measure of prosperity, and full dismantling of our education system to make it relevant for the 21st century; in short, making our people the focal point of our development,” she said.
DePeiza also addressed the party’s readiness for a general election which is constitutionally due in 2023 as well as the impending by-election in St. George North.
“We started candidate selection in October last year. We have a number of persons who have expressed interest in St George North. Our process is branch first, then Executive Council and General Council,” the DLP presidemt added.
“Sounds long, but realistically can be completed in one day. Our annual conference is this weekend, and immediately after,
this will be a priority,” she added.