EDITORIAL: Let there be healing
The decision by a majority of the members of the Opposition to change their leader is a matter of moment not only for the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) as a private organisation, but also for the public at large because of the seminal role played by political parties in our system of governance.
The Barbados Constitution as our supreme law defines the relations between the leaders and the people. It declares our fundamental rights and freedoms and stipulates the composition of Parliament and the manner in which the major functionaries of the state are chosen and in particular the manner in which we choose our Prime Minister and our Leader of the Opposition and how we may also remove them from office.
Yet, it is surprising that it does not mention political parties, far less recognise their existence even though political parties constitute major planks on which a large part of our system of governance is constructed.
In one sense this is understandable because political parties are essentially private organisations. But they are private organisations affected by and concerned with the public interest, and it is because of their nature that they attract extraordinary public scrutiny and comment.
The change earlier this week in the leadership of the Opposition highlights this hybrid nature. In one sense the change has come about because of a decision by members of a private organization, but that decision was only imbued with the constitutional validity when the imprimatur of the Governor General was affixed thereto!
Our democracy gives the people the right to choose between our two major parties according as they see fit. Well established, united organisations committed to the public cause and welfare are therefore critical to our system of governance. Indeed with two major parties we may refer to the party in Opposition as the “alternative Government” and to the “Leader of the Opposition” as the “alternative Prime Minister.”
Against this background, and as protector of the public interest, we urge the Barbados Labour Party to heal the incipient fracture which has appeared since the change of leadership. The physical divide which was apparent in the House of Assembly on Tuesday does not bode well.
One hopes that it does not presage a deeper split, because the wider public interest will thereby be harmed, since a house divided cannot stand, and two or more united and purposeful political parties competing against each other make for a vital check and balance on governmental power. The freedom of choice at periodic elections places the voter in a position to maintain ultimate control over the political process.
This country owes much in recent times to the strengths of Mr Owen Arthur and Miss Mia Mottley working in the public interest, and while we are conscious that the public nature of the leadership contest may pose some problems for an instant healing process, the country’s interests which they have both been keen to protect are of prime concern in this context.
Our role as the Press is to ensure that the protection of the public interest is always the paramount consideration of our political and public institutions. In that role, as gatekeepers of that interest, we urge the Opposition and particularly Miss Mottley and Mr Arthur to make meaningful efforts to bridge the “divide”. The public interest requires it.