ONLY HUMAN: Doesn’t the truth matter?
If the feedback on the ground is a good gauge of public sentiment, the upcoming general elections will be the biggest political battle ever in Barbados.
Being on holiday for the past two weeks, I had time to traverse the island and talk with people of all ages and from all walks of life, and to a person, they are keyed up and ready to vote. Even those who suggest they aren’t going to the polls are tuned in and speaking out.
For the most part, I heard the familiar arguments supporting either side. That is, those for the Government are adamant that they should be given another term as they inherited power at a time the world economy went into a tailspin and never got a chance to settle in. And to compound matters, the visionary leadership of Prime Minister David Thompson never got going as he became terminally ill and died.
So as far as they are concerned, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was dealt a bad hand from the outset, and in all fairness should be given another term.
Those who supported a return of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) argued that the Government’s failure could have been avoided had they not pursued their party’s “freeness” programme.
An example of this, they argued, was the introduction of the free bus fare policy for schoolchildren which has only served to put unnecessary financial pressure on an already struggling Transport Board.
That is why though no new buses were bought since 2008, the Board still had to be bailed out for more than $60 million through a supplementary, and most recently, a loan from the National Insurance Scheme in the last several months.
These BLP supporters contended that the precarious financial situation at the Transport Board typifies how the economy has been handled. And they claimed Barbados faces greater fiscal ruin if the DLP is allowed to continue in office.
As I said, familiar arguments. This suggests the propaganda machinery on both sides is getting through to supporters and they are dutifully spreading their party’s gospel.
What I found more fascinating though were the distorted facts and lies being spread by operatives on both sides.
These include unprintable accusations about who is securing their financial future and how they’re doing it; those who keep cussing each other at private meetings yet publicly give the impression that they are together; which people are conspiring to undermine their leader; who “brekking” for themselves; who sick but trying to keep it quiet; who has money problems and looking for a political job to get them out; and the list goes on.
What disturbs me is that for supporters on either side these underground rumours seem to have more currency than factual analysis and legitimate arguments.
The consistent and widespread repetition of these accusations demonstrates this.
For operatives on either side, it seems the truth does not matter. The facts do not matter. They have their own facts and consistently spin their concept of reality to capture the imagination.
They have managed to convince their supporters that when certain facts are presented they are no more than partisan opinions, and those whose analysis goes against their cause are closet opponents.
What’s more, they mix up facts with positions previously taken – akin to comparing apples with oranges – and muddle the situation to suit their ends.
Of course, this is nothing new, but I have never seen it this bad.
The fact is, the most important issue facing Barbados is dealing with its fiscal deficit, just as that is the defining issue in much of Europe. We need to hear what each party plans to do to turn this country around, and not stupid gossip and mud-slinging accusations.
The crisis we find ourselves in is a political creation and can best be solved by a political solution. As voters, we therefore need to insist that politicians outline their plan and we should rebuff their adventures into character assassination and frivolity.
Though this may seem self-serving, I must say that this newspaper is important to Barbados more than ever. At least we strive to get the facts and present the merits and demerits of each issue. Admittedly, we don’t always get it right, but at least when we’re wrong, we say so.
That we were seen by the BLP as a DLP rag-sheet when they were in power, and now portrayed in the same manner by the Dems, says much about our independence.
To us, the truth does matter.
• Sanka Price is the SATURDAY SUN Editor.