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JUST LIKE IT IS: Political rumblings


Peter Simmons

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A visitor from Mars tuning into Voice of Barbados on Thursday would have been coerced into concluding that something was happening politically.
An endearing and enduring feature of the calypso art form is the social and political commentary genre, and listeners were taken deep into the archives with themed music for the times.
The sweet melodies and biting lyrics of Gabby’s Politicians Making Mock Sport At We, Chalkdust’s The Driver Can’t Drive, Gypsy’s Captain, The Ship Is Sinking, Crazy’s In Time To Come, Malik’s World Cup Cricket, Gynner’s Stinging Bees and Bumba’s Three Blind Mice lit up the airwaves, providing a poignant backdrop to the political drama unfolding in this fair land.
While events in the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) captured public attention and dominated media headlines, only the purblind or those ignorant of political reality would deny or try to ignore the fissures within the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) which, should Prime Minister Thompson relinquish the reins of power, could become chasms and develop into an unseemly struggle for Ilaro Court.
The cleavages in the BLP were visible for some time. It is unfortunate that contrary to its traditional modus operandi, the dirty linen was being washed in public. All political organisations of repute have a resource of elder statesmen who, with the best interest of the party at heart, will intercede in times of crisis with a cooling-off period lifeline to allow reason to resume its seat pre-empting self-destruction.
The political cognoscenti know the elders, aka“grandees” in British politics, in both the BLP and DLP. They have no standing in their party’s constitutions. But that should in no way compromise their role or impinge on their capability to be a force for good.
Only arrant arrogance or the bewitching allurements of power would conspire to quarantine them on the party’s margins as yesterday’s men.
Recent events within both parties prompted the Barbados Youth Development Council to call on them to stop their public bickering which sends the wrong message to our young people. It is to be hoped that this call, highlighting the potential deleterious impact on a significant segment of our population, will be a sobering influence on the contending forces and meets with receptive ears.
But comess runs deep in the Caribbean DNA.
The lady caller with the Trinidad accent, proprietor and gatekeeper of “fortress Barbados” and vociferous send-home-the-Guyanese crusader, thought the BLP contretemps “healthy” since it publicly exposes the basis on which certain decisions are made. Bizarre, but unsurprising that what turns off representatives of the youth, turns her on. She likes it so.
All true supporters of the BLP and committed patriots will hope that the differences within the ranks of Barbados’ oldest political institution can be amicably resolved and the party will not be rent asunder.
That would be in the best interest not only of the party but of the country. Good democratic governance demands a strong, united Opposition functioning effectively as the Government-in-waiting.
All political organisations from time to time have their differences of opinion and squabbles, sometimes leading to parting of the ways. It is part of the architecture of truly democratic institutions where 100 flowers bloom, 100 schools of thought contend. The magnetic ambition of getting a bigger slice of the political pie remains, however, a powerful driver.
The call from the youth representative relates to recent happenings in both the BLP and DLP. In the immediate aftermath of the Prime Minister’s most recent Cabinet reshuffle made from his sick bed, volatile veteran Dr David Estwick reacted with volcanic fury the same night to his reassignment from the high-profile Ministry of Economic Affairs to ailing Agriculture.
Perceiving the shift as a demotion, he promised a media conference which was stillborn. Word on the street was that the elders had cooled his passion and he issued a tepid, conciliatory statement, accepting his new posting reassured by his mother’s mantra that “time longer than twine”. Those words were considered by some party people as insensitive and incendiary in these trying times.
In his column in the Advocate on Thursday 14, Hartley Henry, the Prime Minister’s principal political adviser, in-house spin doctor and touted kingmaker, wrote of an alleged conversation between two barbers lambasting Estwick.
Whether the conversation was real or contrived, it is amazing that he should let such harsh, condemnatory views about a senior parliamentarian and potential leader see the light of day.
In the same newspaper the next day, a deeply affronted Austin Husbands rushed into print to parody Henry’s conversation with his own barber shop banter in which Henry was given a severe tongue-lashing for “writing a lot of foolishness” and “trying to stir up strife in the party”.
Lest you forget, Husbands was DLP candidate for St James North in 2008 and is deputy chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority.
What venomous internecine squabbling. Former general secretary of the DLP, Lionel Sealy, put the icing on the gingerbread when he weighed in where many feared to tread. In last week’s Saturday Sun, he said consideration should be given to replacing Mr David Thompson as Prime Minister, “a position to which he can return once he has regained his health”.
Mr Sealy is the uncle of Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy. His loyalty to the party cannot be questioned. Whereas public criticism has been muted, I am told there are party people who would have preferred if he had kept his views to himself.
Against that background, it is clear that no one party has a monopoly on rumblings deep within its bowels. The real test will be how they are resolved, starting tomorrow.
• Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat.

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