“Many Thanks, Mr Arthur”
Like so many Barbadians considering their options for the upcoming General Election, I found myself in a quandary in trying to decide what to do with my vote on 15 January 2008. But knowing the history of the struggle for adult suffrage I feel compelled to place my ‘X’.
When I look at the main opposition, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), it seems a shadow of its former self. The DLP is still to convey a real sense of urgency to be the next Government of Barbados. As leader, Mr Thompson gives the impression that he adheres to the notion that governments lose election, oppositions don’t win them.
While there is some truth to this, political change in Barbados has always featured an opposition able to capture the popular imagination of the people. Campaigning around a slogan “time for a change” will be insufficient to win popular support.
Barbados is accustomed to strong political leadership and in his twenty years in Parliament and nearly ten as leader of the opposition, Mr Thompson is still to demonstrate his true political strength. His may be a case of too easy, too soon but whatever the cause, Mr Thompson needs to canvass a national constituency if he desires to become the next prime minister of Barbados.
Along the way, Mr Thompson also needs to let us know who his minister of finance will be. We Bajans are too cautious with our money to adopt a wait and see attitude on this issue. However, I give him full marks for displacing Mr Mascoll. The ‘Hardwood’ saga confirmed Mr Mascoll’s poor lack of judgement and possibly much more. Mr Thompson convinced me that Mr Mascoll should never get control of the Barbados treasury and definitely not the leadership of this country.
But what is the alternative?
There is no question that Mr Arthur is the most remarkable political operator in the history of Barbados. The emergence of ‘Owen Dems’ demonstrated his political skill and the success of his ‘politics of inclusion’. But to what end?
The Monday, 17 December 2007 edition of the Daily Nation revealed a side of Mr Arthur that drove fear in me. The report that he had a “determination never to see the DLP hold the reins of power in this country”, revealed the dark side to his ‘politics of inclusion’.
Having read political science and having lived in and worked on two general elections in Guyana, I was struck by what sounded to be the words of a megalomaniac. I heard in Mr Arthur’s assertion echoes of Linden Forbes Burnham, who similarly drunk on power, created a constitutional presidency and then an executive presidency to allow him to remain as President of Guyana until his death.
It was the first time I became suspicious over the political agenda to create a constitutional presidency in Barbados. I always assumed it was part of the ‘politics of inclusion’; to satisfy one woman’s personal ambition. But when I considered the Government’s recent attempt to amend the Constitution of Barbados to usurp powers from the Governor General to appoint civil servants, another component of the ‘politics of inclusion’, I realised this Government has become intoxicated politically to dangerous levels. Where will it end?
Over the years, we have absorbed the crossing of the floor of Parliament and the transferring of political allegiances by opposition members mesmerised by the ‘politics of inclusion’. We have swallowed the use of National Honours to bestow an obscene number of Knighthoods on his party faithful, including the unprecedented knighting of a serving minister of government. How much must we bear?
Our economic indicators and physical infrastructure – new airport, new highway and new Kensington Oval – are used to suggest prosperity. But in reality there is an underside to this fairytale of poverty increasing to such proportions that even Dame ‘Auntie’ Olga Lopes-Seale, one of our most outstanding humanitarians, was forced to admit to “poverty all over this island” in her recent message for Christmas (Daily Nation, 20 December). Growing poverty coupled with moral decay and the erosion of traditional values is being manifested in corruption, crime and violence. What is to come of us?
And when we complained about the cost of living, the Government blamed it on us for buying too much lunch, then on imported inflation, then on merchants for price-gouging and finally, us for our high standard of living. It was never their fault. Only with elections looming have we seen some compassion. And when we asked for help with the price of vegetables we were told to plant our own. But the majority ask, on what land and with what time? Show me the love.
Notwithstanding worsening social infrastructure – social welfare, medical care, education and housing, the Government continues to give income tax and duty-free concessions to the ‘aristocrats’ living in gated communities. These are Mr Arthur’s so-called “saviours of this country”, who he argues, “the future of Barbados is tied up with” (Barbados Business Authority, 20 March). What about the rest of Barbados? Political hand outs, weedwackers and promises that better will come, are not enough. Enough is enough.
I agree with Mr Arthur that Barbados needs a new beginning but I do not think he can provide it. You cannot put new wine into old wineskins. Mr Arthur has fought the good fight and has run his course and I think it is fitting for us to say to him many thanks for his stewardship. He is good to go home.
I feel that in the interest of democracy and our country, I think we need to look to the East and to the Team Thompson, equal in my estimation to those who formed the Government in 1994, to secure our future.
But a warning to Mr Thompson if he does get the support of Barbados next month; Be minded that we expect Ms Mottley to keep a very watchful eye from the opposition.
May democracy continue to flourish in Barbados! God bless this land.
28 December 2007
Editors Note: Guy Hewitt is a minister of religion and social development specialist. He can be contacted on <email@example.com>
© Guy Hewitt, 2007
This piece was printed unedited with not one word changed. The red and bold highlighting were added by the BFP editor.