LEADERS?of Barbados’ two major political parties came out in full support of their candidates who are slated to take to the platform tonight in the St John by-election campaign following the death of its representative, former Prime Minister David Thompson.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who arrived first with the Democratic Labour Party’s candidate Mara Thompson, the wife of the late prime minister, was in combative mood promising to fight as “if their lives depended on it”.
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur, leader of the opposition Barbados Labour Party was more pragmatic, noting that St John was “not a happy hunting ground” for the BLP in 50 years, but they would give of their best.
“We have a duty to democracy in this country, to participate fully in this campaign, to take it seriously and in addition to articulate clearly what ought to be the concerns of the people in St John,” Arthur said.
He said the BLP contender, Hudson?Griffith, was “as fine a candidate as has been brought to public life in recent times,” adding, “we do feel we have the superior candidate in this election”.
One of the main issues to arise after the post nomination process, was the controversial St John polyclinic where both parties cast blame on each other for the state of the unfinished project.
Minutes after Stuart criticised the former Barbados Labour Party government for neglect in completing the polyclinic, Arthur, the then prime minister, cautioned Stuart not to be too fast in condemning his party.
“The Barbados Labour Party did not close the St John Polyclinic and it is not a Barbados Labour Party bogey,” Arthur said in response to the question suggesting that the polyclinic was the BLP’s bogey.
He was speaking after the BLP candidate Hudson Griffith handed in his nomination papers at the Lodge School.
“It was closed in 1991, David Thompson had more than ample opportunity as minister of finance to restart it. He did not. He came back in 2008 and the Dems had three years to start back the polyclinic. If the St John Polyclinic is a bogey (and I have not so described it) it is a Democratic Labour Party bogey.”
Stuart said that his party would be answering criticisms they were responsible for the polyclinic.
“We will answer all of those criticisms. We were not responsible for the constituency of St John over the last three terms of the Barbados Labour Party. They had three two-thirds majorities; they had the largest revenue intake for any government since 1627 and they had a duty to do constructive work in St John. They did not do it and we will be dealing with that,” said Stuart to a string of “amens” from supporters.
Responding to a question where someone was quoted as saying the polyclinic symbolized “the neglect of the Barbados Labour Party of St John”, Stuart said: “Of course I agree. In fact I think the polyclinic symbolises the politics of vindictiveness and spite. Because having held St John up as the poorest constituency in Barbados, one would have thought that a humane government would have moved swiftly to deal with issues of poverty and degredation in St John. Rather than do that, they sought to accentuate those issues. We will be confronting them on these issues. We are not afraid.”
Asked if the campaign would be clean, Stuart said: “We cannot assure you that there will be a clean platform from the Barbados Labour Party. We can assure you that the Democratic Labour Party would be running a clean campaign. We know where their natural habitat is and we can’t deal with that.”