BLP COLUMN: Party still serving
As the region’s oldest mass political party, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has over the 72 years of its existence understandably experienced its fair share of stresses and strains, all of which it has successfully coped with to chalk up an outstanding and enviable record of service to the people of Barbados and its neighbours.
We in the BLP family are both absolutely sure and resolutely determined that there will be the same outcome with this our most recent challenge because of the overriding importance of what has always bound the members and officers of the organisation inextricably together – namely commitment to the principle that nothing or nobody must ever distract us from the purpose that has kept us focused for nearly three quarters of a century – providing A Better Life For Our People.
For in keeping with this philosophy we have been able to keep reaching out to one another while resolving to work out the personal differences which from time to time inevitably arise within any grouping of people whether they constitute political parties, religious institutions, schools or any other groupings.
And in keeping with that fine BLP tradition, the new political leader of the party, the Owen Arthur, immediately on being democratically elected to that position by a majority of the BLP’s elected members in the House of Assembly, made it absolutely clear that he was doing the same and starting the healing process.
Opposition Leader Arthur has quite rightly pointed out that political parties were just like families in which there were disagreements from time to time and in keeping with families, people would get over their differences, adding that the “party is big enough to accommodate dissent. There are people who are absent . . . but they are still loyal members of the BLP, and we are committed to working with them”.
But it is most important to recognise that the process of reaching out and reconciling, no matter how sincere and well intentioned it might be, must also take place with full respect for the established principles of the democracy which founding father Sir Grantley Adams fought so hard to achieve for all Barbadians, and which holds that the will of the majority is sacrosanct and must at all times be acknowledged and respected.
As Owen Arthur underlined soon after becoming Opposition Leader: “I did not ask them to put me here; the [BLP] parliamentary majority wanted Owen Arthur to lead them and I agreed,” adding that “there must always be respect for the will of the majority when expressed”.
In making this assertion, he was drawing attention to the hard fact that if the BLP as a body is not prepared to respect and practise democracy in its internal operations, then the public should in all fairness not be expected to trust it to adhere to the tenets of democracy when administering the affairs of the wider society. For it is the expressed will of the majority that provides the bedrock legitimacy for actions thereafter on their behalf.
But the principles of democracy are not pie-in-the-sky mouthings which are to be referred to for matters of political expediency. They are so vital that they are embedded in the Barbados Constitution which is nationally regarded as the supreme law of the land and to which all other laws are subordinate.
That same Constitution clearly and methodically sets out the conditions under which leadership of political parties is determined in the House of Assembly, namely that it is accorded to the persons who clearly demonstrate that they command the support of the majority of elected members of the House of Assembly forming the Government and constituting Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
It is in this context therefore that the new leadership of the Opposition and its resulting stewardship are to be seen as the embodiment and manifestation of the legitimate will of the majority of elected members of the BLP elected by the public to represent them in the House of Assembly.
• Beresford Leon Padmore is a pseudonym for the Barbados Labour Party.