There is still uncertainty about which of the six candidates contesting the St George North by-election will be participating in upcoming debates, even as the deadline for the parties to confirm their attendance passed on Monday.
Barbados TODAY understands there has been talk of a boycott of the event that is being hosted by the Barbados Association of Journalists and Media Workers (BARJAM), with one opposition party leader who has agreed to participate claiming he has been approached by others to snub the debates.
In correspondence dated October 13, BARJAM president Emmanuel Joseph informed the leaders of five political parties of the framework for the two live debates proposed for October 29 and November 6 at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC).
“Please indicate by Monday, October 19, if your candidate will participate in the debates. Also, indicate any queries or changes that you would like made. Please note that all of the parties and their candidates must agree to any changes so that no candidate is disadvantaged,” he wrote.
Subsequently, at a meeting attended by representatives from five of the six parties on Sunday, certain changes were agreed on, in principle.
Thus far, officials from the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), Solutions Barbados and the Bajan Free Party (BFP) have confirmed their participation with Barbados TODAY. However, up to press time, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), the People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP) and the United Progressive Party (UPP) were undecided about whether their respective candidates would attend.
This was confirmed by Joseph, who indicated that final decisions would be made after the three parties discuss.
However, the BARJAM president denied having any knowledge of a boycott and indicated that such plans would be inconsistent with the discussions held on Sunday.
Solutions Barbados candidate Grenville Phillips said he was “happy to participate” in the debates, but charged that some other opposition parties have been challenging the legality of the proposal and had solicited his support for a boycott.
“I didn’t think that was correct because anyone can organise a debate. I have been on panels with different media houses that organise debates with different candidates, so I couldn’t see the rationale for that at all,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“I will have to see if the others who are encouraging us [to boycott] decide to participate. If they do, then clearly it was simply mischief that they were trying to do, but we were actively encouraged to boycott it.”
On Monday morning, DLP president Verla DePeiza revealed that even after Sunday’s meetings, the party’s top brass was still not very comfortable. She said a final decision would be made in the afternoon, but up to press time, no definitive word had been given.
However, on Sunday night, the DLP’s candidate Floyd Reifer seemingly poured cold water on the debates.
“Politics is about representation. This isn’t the time for grandstanding when people are suffering, hurting, unemployed and frustrated. Every spare moment I get, I will spend with my people,” he declared during a political meeting.
PdP leader Bishop Joseph Atherley, meanwhile, indicated that some of his party’s concerns related to the proposed topics, the number of people allowed in the rooms and the implications of such a large slate of candidates.
He reiterated concerns he had expressed about potential interference from the ruling BLP, ever since Prime Minister Mia Mottley made the announcement about the debates nearly a month ago.
“We maintain that things like this cannot come from the Prime Minister or the political leader of the BLP; but the debates are not necessarily the purview of the EBC either. Media can organise them which, I presume, is what they are trying to do. It is just a matter of having the right framework and there were some changes proposed, and once they confirm today then we will go from there,” Atherley explained.