A video of Democratic Labour Party (DLP) president Dr Ronnie Yearwood speaking sternly to party faithfuls at a recent meeting at The Alleyne School, St Andrew, has been making rounds on social media since early July.
All riled up, the president said at the time that he was the captain of the ship and would not tolerate infighting. He challenged members to tell it like it is to his face and not behind his back.
It appeared as though someone had rattled his cage. Without directly saying it, it came over as though he felt threatened by a force or forces within the party he leads. He appeared unsettled and some might suggest, overly-combative.
Some pundits on social media said his energy and passion would be better served if he would take the fight to Prime Minister Mia Mottley and the Government on behalf of the people. Others lamented the fact that since he was elected only a mere two months prior, his focus should be on uniting the party and rallying the troops.
Interestingly, after the president’s announcement of his four chairs of working groups last weekend, it would appear that he was bang on. There is a clear and present danger and threat to the party and some have identified leadership as a serious issue.
It is understandable that after two straight 30-0 defeats that the membership is longing for solid leadership, and only such stewardship will revive the 60-year-old institution. Many DLP loyalists have both openly and quietly suggested that berating members at internal political meetings is counterproductive in trying to rebuild an institution which has served the country well for over six decades.
In his recorded exchange the president said: “You are either with this party or you are not with this party. I will not tolerate, I will not contend with folks fighting this party from the inside. If you want to fight the Democratic Labour Party, you leave the Democratic Labour Party. The Barbados Labour Party cannot do this party anything. The Democratic Labour Party loses when the party fights against itself. We are our enemy; no one else is our enemy.”
Mr President, you are absolutely correct about the crippling effect of infighting but one must be careful not to confuse democratic differences of opinion or the right to question a particular stance or policy with notions of infighting.
While you embrace new faces to leadership roles in the party, one must still be mindful that there are some within the ranks such as former president Verla De Peiza, Michael Lashley, David Estwick, Ryan Walters, Kemar Stuart, Courie Cox and even Guy Hewitt, who can assist you on your political journey. Indeed, such is the nature of politics that disagreements can help in the development process.
Some Barbadians are wondering why they have not heard from the likes of Walters, Cox, Stuart and others with the same frequency that they did when De Peiza held the reins of leadership. People grew accustomed to some of these voices making solid contributions but not so since the May 1 presidential election.
The DLP president previously declared that members would have a voice.
In the video he said: “We will win but we will only win when we come together. Does that mean you do not have a voice in this Party? Of course, you have a voice in this party. You have a voice in this big tent…” The new political leader must embrace this stance, embrace those who agree with him, and also embrace those who may disagree from time to time.
To embrace both sides of the coin will help in the DLP president’s political growth and prepare him for the cut and thrust that there will be in the future. Dear DLP president, it is called politics. It is a nasty game by nature and you must be knowledgeable as to when to employ a carrot and when to use the big stick.
Every leader in Barbados’ political landscape has faced threats from within. There is nothing new under the sun. You must quickly realise that soft words can turn away wrath. There is a place and time for aggression and shouting but one must be keenly aware when and to whom this strategy can be applied. One runs the risk of it backfiring if not handled with tact and diplomacy.