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DLP COLUMN: Thoughts of Errol Barrow

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

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Tomorrow, the nation celebrates another holiday in honour of the late Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, National Hero, Premier, Prime Minister of Barbados. A leader of immense vision and intellect, who engineered the formation of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) as a tool to ensure that equality of opportunity was afforded to all.
Barrow led the charge to bring change to a wide cross section of poor and vulnerable people. He once wrote in describing the philosophy of the party:
Democratic socialism is about planning and equality of opportunity. It has always been fundamental to our basic philosophy. We have tried to ensure that every child born in Barbados has the opportunity to develop the talents with which the Lord has blessed it regardless of the family circumstances into which it happened to be born.
That is why one of the first things we did when we won the Government was to decree that secondary education would be free [and subsequently tertiary education] would be free of charge. That is why we also introduced the School Meals Programme – for a child whose body is not nourished cannot benefit to the extent that it should from schooling even if it is free.
The success of that programme has been proven for all to see – some of the beneficiaries are now amongst our most vociferous critics. It was also part of the philosophy of the DLP that a people should be free to determine its own fate – even to make its own mistakes if you like . . . .
This principle of guidance that helped to define our political roadmap continues to act as a political compass. Today, we can proudly boast of adhering to these by facilitating the free travel on public service transport to all schoolchildren.
This act is not a simple policy decision but the manifestation of how we see ourselves as a vehicle of change. The notion of equality of opportunity has informed the party’s policy agenda to the point that we reconfigured the summer camp experience.
The Government continues to support the expansion of the summer camp programme by ensuring that each child is nourished when attending these activities.
Our introductions of constituency councils were viewed with suspicions as the free bus travel and summer camp programme. Over a quarter century ago Barrow reminded the country of the critics of the then social engineering taking place then; we still have the same critics 25 years later. They opposed the move by Barrow to go the route of political independence. The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) remained an elitist group of politicians bent on representing self-interest.
The change that we facilitated ensured that 50 years later we can continue to boast of free education. The importance of education was underscored by the fact that as a party we felt that . . . a strong, united and progressive Barbados could only be built if all talents of all the people could be utilized. This in turn meant that equal opportunity should be available for all to achieve their fullest potential . . . .  
What has changed, however, are the avenues through which the critics can launch their political assaults. They now have the Internet, social media, cellphones, etc. Their policy of “mash up and scorch earth” continues to unite them.
They have never constructed a policy agenda based on equality of opportunity. We, on this side are committed to the ideals of our founding father and the Father Of Independence. We will continue to build this country on the principles of equal opportunity for all.
We extend an invitation to all to join us on Errol Barrow Day for a political journey as we assemble at Independence Square at 9 a.m. on January 21 to part take in a scenic ride. Buses depart 10 a.m. sharp.
Happy Errol Barrow Day.