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by Reverend Dr. David Durant
With a 30 – 0 victory by the BLP, the opposition DLP was left without a seat in parliament for the second time in three and a half years.
The DLP must now take this time to regroup, rebrand, refocus and develop a new strategic approach to recapturing the government at the next general election, constitutionally due in five years.
Let me hasten to say that as the opposition party with the most votes, 19 per cent of votes cast, the people of Barbados expect the DLP to represent them and to make sure it keeps the government in check.
You do not need to be in parliament to be a vibrant, dynamic, effective opposition party. Your voice can still be heard on the electronic and social media platforms as well as through your astute writings in the print media.
In 1983 the Prime Minister of Jamaica the Hon. Edward Seaga of the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) called a snap election on December 15, but the Hon. Michael Manley of the People’s National Party (PNP) boycotted the election to protest the refusal of the ruling JLP to update the electoral roll amid allegations of voter fraud.
This act resulted in the JLP under Hon. Seaga winning all 60 seats in the House of Representatives in Jamaica leaving the Hon. Manley’s PNP with no seat. There was a very low voter turnout of 29.49 per cent. Jamaica was without an official opposition from December 1983 to February 1989, but that didn’t stop Michael Manley and the PNP from speaking on national, social and economic issues from classrooms, auditoriums and on political platforms across Jamaica, representing the interest of the people as the unofficial opposition party.
On the 9th February 1989, general elections were held in Jamaica which resulted in the Hon. Michael Manley’s PNP winning 45 of the 60 seats, with a turnout of 78.4 per cent. Manley and the PNP fought valiantly from outside of parliament and earned a landslide victory.
The PNP also went on to win in 1993, 1997 and 2002. What a solid political comeback from zero. To the Democratic Labour Party I say, there is hope.
I would suggest that the Democratic Labour Party appoint a Shadow Cabinet, establish the Errol Barrow Gallery in George Street as the unofficial opposition seat of parliament and have a weekly debate on whatever is presented in the Lower House, utilising all the social media platforms – Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, the print and electronic media and full press coverage – to full advantage.
It would be to the party’s further advantage to have the two opposition senators selected by the DLP, representing the people’s interest in the Upper House – The Honorable Senate – with the Shadow Cabinet leading the charge from what could become known as the Lower House in George Street.
This would bring back some freshness, life, balance and interest to the cut and thrust of politics and lift Barbados’ democracy to a new level in this present situation.
I therefore encourage all the DLP candidates, and all party supporters, to remain strong and focused and work together diligently to find ways to preserve the honour and dignity of the party in the face of defeat.
There is hope; just remain patient. Don’t become disengaged because of disappointment and distance yourselves from your constituents. Let this temporary setback be instructive and allow the lessons learned to be the light along the path that will effect the changes needed to bring out the best in this noble party.
To the Democratic Labour Party’s team and supporters here and in the diaspora, I encourage you to embrace that deep conviction and endeavour to transform the disappointment of defeat into an opportunity to regroup, reflect, rebrand, reset, recalibrate and move on as you strive to see those extraordinary possibilities become the new reality.
The great Nelson Mandela said, “Do not judge me by my successes; judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” I will end with this quote from Harry Emerson Fosdick who said, “Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.”
The DLP will rise again. God bless our great nation and wonderful citizens.
This column was offered as a Letter to the Editor.