Two political scientists say the reportedly tumultuous meeting of a Democratic Labour Party (DLP) General Council meeting over disciplining a member was a clear reflection of a leadership divide within the political organisation.
However, another political scientist Senator Dr Kristina Hinds was adamant there was nothing out of the ordinary about occurrences like this in a political party or any other organisation.
“These things happen in political parties. There are divisions of opinion about what should happen; there are different perspectives within any organisation including political organisations,” the senior lecturer in political science and head of the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) told Barbados TODAY.
However, regional pollster Peter Wickham and retired head of the department that Dr Hinds now leads at the UWI, Dr George Belle suggested there was more significance to the DLP situation than that.
The three political commentators were speaking to Barbados TODAY after DLP president Dr Ronnie Yearwood and general secretary Steve Blackett denied reports that the latter had stormed out of Wednesday night’s meeting and tendered his resignation.
According to a source at the General Council meeting, there was discussion about possible disciplinary action against former candidate for The City, Kemar Stuart for organising a public meeting at Baxters Road on April 2 that was not sanctioned by either the general secretary or council of the party.
“I don’t think there is anything unusual about differences of opinion or efforts to discipline party members because they have done things in a way that are contrary to how other members think they should be done,” said Dr Hinds, an Independent Senator.
“It may also happen in the BLP but they may be a little better, at this stage, in managing that getting into the public sphere…. There are divisions and differences within political parties. I don’t think it is anything unusual….I think it needs to be managed.”
Fellow political scientist Wickham said, however, that he had received reports from the meeting “which indicate that all is not well within the DLP”.
“But this we already know. Essentially, this stand-off between the old guard and the young turks has come to an unsurprising head,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“I can understand that Ronnie feels he needs to take back control, but frankly the horse had already bolted and, sadly, I think we’re seeing a desperate struggle on his part to maintain a grip on an organisation he was never truly accepted into.
“It’s clear that he believes that his priority is to attack the Government but I continue to stress that he needs to put the DLP house in order first, and he can’t do this without bridging the divide between the old and new,” the political scientist contended.
He added: “Someone needs to impose some discipline within the ranks of the DLP and members of the old guard need to be told they need to line up in support of a new direction as this nonsense of haphazard meetings popping up all over the place is not helping their image.”
“The problem is that it’s becoming clear that Ronnie is not the person who can do this,” Wickham declared.
Dr Belle shared Wickham’s sentiments, insisting that the conduct of the General Council meeting, which had been described by a member who attended as tumultuous, demonstrated that Dr Yearwood was not in full control of the DLP.
“In my view, what it has done is crystalise that there is a section within the party. I saw it from outside of the party that there are people within the party who are questioning the authenticity and credentials of the leadership, and that would be pointing directly at Dr Yearwood,” he told Barbados TODAY.
The retired senior lecturer in political science asserted that Blackett could not be the one whose leadership was being questioned as he supports Dr Yearwood.
“So it means that there is a crystalised divide within the party. So what happened on Wednesday night demonstrated a reality to that division. I think it is pointing to the need for the Democratic Labour Party to again settle the problem of leadership,” Dr Belle argued.
He said the party now needs to come to grips with choosing the right leader to rebuild it and queried how long it would take to settle this issue.