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by Roderick P. Harris
In a matter of days, Thursday, June 2 to be exact, would mark one month since the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) membership voted for Dr. Ronnie Yearwood to lead that political institution. I, like many Bajans, have paid rapt attention to the president’s few speeches and actions since then.
On the night of his victory, the party’s membership welcomed him with open arms and celebrated the man who four years ago, in 2018, went up for nomination to represent the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
It was as though the party was content with simply having a fresh face at the helm. But those cheers aside, the good doctor, his advisors and supporters must know the comeback of that great Party is not determined by the noise in George Street alone. No matter how loud the congratulatory screams, Dr Yearwood must now prove himself and get real results fast.
Some would say it is early days yet, but I beg to defer. There was a buzz and an interest in the events of May 2 when he was elected. So far, he has failed at capitalising on that keen interest.
He has done very little publicly, if anything, to show why he is best fit to lead. He is still to outline a clear vision for the Party. He has failed to use the momentum of that election to endear himself to the masses. For the Party’s sake, I pray that he changes this publicly inactive strategy we are witnessing.
Dr Yearwood has taken the reins of the party yet by his absence, he appears to be lagging, lacking aggression and the will to go for the political jugular of the Government.
Why the hemming and hawing? Why should people be on social media with posts asking about the NEW president who should be making headlines and dominating the news?
He has claimed that the DLP was the “Dear Living Party” and the party of the people. Today, I am wondering if he still believes that which he said.
The people of whom he speaks are suffering daily.
The people of whom he speaks are faced with an increasing cost of living each and every day.
The people of whom he speaks must sit by and watch as one Barbados reaps all the sweets while the other Barbados sucks salt.
The people of whom he speaks must look on as the country’s leader globe trots and creates her personal legacy while they scratch their heads to find money to pay their bills.
The people of whom he speaks are subjected to living in a country where killing and bloodshed happen almost every week.
The people of whom he speaks are left with no political voice for the voiceless.
If the people are the focus of this renewed DLP, how is it that the president is not advocating for said “people”?
We are now in a period that can best described as Thomas Harris’ 1988 novel and the 1991 Hollywood horror movie: The Silence of the Lambs.
It was bad when the DLP did not speak publicly after the shock of the 2018 elections, but at least then the “people” had Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley and Caswell Franklyn speaking and agitating on their behalf. But there is no Opposition this toss, yet the party with the second largest majority at the January polls has gone silent. A political institution of 60 years is now mum.
It is now six months since the election, yet the last time we heard sound, logical and structured political opposition from the party was its response to Government’s Budget in March.
Mr President, a speech filled with cliches, catch phrases and rhetoric will not work. The people already get enough of that from the country’s leader. You continually say: “Come under the tent”, “The sun will shine on us all”, “There is no fresh guard or old guard but one guard” etc . . . Question: Why is that “one guard” not guarding the people at this perilous time?
The people want a voice that agitates.
The people want action.
The people want the Party of the great Errol Walton Barrow to regroup, rebuild, rise up and become the formidable adversary it once was.
The people are looking to the DLP to keep Government’s feet to the fire so that they can get the best governance possible and leadership that is not preoccupied on building a personal profile. Why the silence? Why the timid approach? Why no show of force? Why is the President and by extension the party silent? The party that has produced four of the island’s eight prime ministers has seemingly abandoned the people. How can this be?
I have been around long enough to know that there is no place for a continued one-party regime in Bim. I have voted for and against both parties. But I know the country needs both parties firing on all cylinders.
I have news for you Mr President, it is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. Whatever is going on in the DLP must hold the same weight as the issues plaguing and hurting the people.
The people are the ones to whom you will come a-calling. The people are the ones who will get you from George Street to Parliament.
What is sad is that your party is not devoid of fresh, youthful minds who can speak on these issues. It needs not be a one-man show.
Funny enough you have a good mixture since there are also some experienced former parliamentarians who can bring the political fight to the Government as well. What is the hold-up?
You are surrounded by some bright, fresh minds in Dawn-Marie Armstrong, Kemar Stuart, Ryan Walters, Courie Cox, Oldwin Skeete, Rasheed Belgrave and others.
The seasoned politicians still have much to offer: former president Verla DePeiza, former ministers Richard Sealy, Michael Lashley, Steve Blackett and your defeated presidential rival Dr David Estwick are but starting points.
There is no plausible reason why the party should be silent even if you are busy readying yourself – personally – for this new task ahead.
The party, or any institution for that matter, is and will always be bigger than any ONE individual.
This won’t be a catwalk, you will have to make some tough and unpopular decisions.
But, Mr President, the members have placed their trust and faith in you; it is now time to get on with the job of leading.
Mr President, trust your team. Get them noticed. Get people listening, lest the DLP finds itself complicit in a humiliating three-peat general election Bees-wash defeat.
This column was submitted as a Letter to the Editor.