BLP COLUMN: Country still downbeat
By the time this is being read, Barbados at long last would have had an official announcement of the date of the St John by-election to fill the parliamentary seat caused by the death of its MP, Prime Minister David Thompson, but not the name of the candidate chosen to represent the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in the contest against Hudson Griffith of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
The public has of course been contrasting the speed and decisiveness with which Opposition Leader Owen Arthur launched Hudson Griffith’s campaign in St John way back on December 4, as against the long length of time that the DLP, under Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, has allowed to elapse and the bizarre cloak of virtual silence and mystery that has shrouded the party’s naming of its candidate, given that Mr Thompson had died on October 23 and was buried on November 11, 2010.
The prompt action by Mr Arthur of course clearly reflects the deep respect we in the BLP hold for the people of St John and their right to be given the longest possible time in which to get to know Mr Griffith, even though he had grown up among them as a student of the Lodge School and had deepened his relationship with them and their issues as the campaign manager for Mr Tyrone Power in the 2008 General Election. This has been followed by the opening of its by-election campaign headquarters at Carters, St John.
On the other hand, people in St John and elsewhere have been saying that by its outstandingly slow approach and information blackout, the DLP seems to be saying that the constituents’ support for their eventually named candidate was a foregone conclusion and therefore the Dems could afford to allow for the barest possible time permitted by law, and that in light of their faithful support for the DLP since 1958, such matters as sensitivity to any appearance of disrespect would not be of major concern. Perhaps of greater priority to the DLP is the limiting as much as possible of exposure to the scrutiny its government is bound to undergo for its stewardship in St John in particular, and the nation in general.
All of this uncertainty would have contributed to the rather low-key tone of the 2010 Christmas celebrations that has drawn a great deal of comment, and not just because of the prevailing tough economic circumstances either. Rather, the very restrained national mood seemed to have been conditioned by the harsh realisation by the public that the merriment of Christmas would be even more temporary than usual because of the increased economic pressure that certainly awaited them from New Year’s Day, thanks to the staggering November Budget.
This would be through a sizeable price hike in bus fares and the full blast of a 17.5 per cent VAT, coming on top of an already painful higher excise tax on gasolene and the soon removal of tax free allowances for travelling and entertainment and for savings in credit unions and mutual funds, followed by the imposition of a drugs dispensing tax for prescriptions filled at private clinics.
No wonder then that Barbadians at large are experiencing a level of dispiritedness that is more chronic, deeper and more widespread than many can remember. Thank God the BLP is ready to rescue the country.
• Beresford Leon Padmore is a pseudonym for the Barbados Labour Party.