OUR CARIBBEAN: Local party politics and Minister Inniss
UNLESS THE prevailing depressing economic situation worsens to influence sustained demands for a snap general election, it seems safe to assume that by October, the latest, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s proposals in his new budget for “economic recovery” could well determine the nature and longevity of forthcoming political struggles for state power between the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
Constitutionally, we are still far away from scheduled general elections in 2018. But in party politics all things are possible, particularly during a prolonged troubling economic scenario that continues to stir passions over the quality of political leadership in both the Dems and Bees.
Truth is that while the Bees’ recent shocking leadership split has created stunning new challenges for that party – with the departed Owen Arthur now playing footsy politics as an “independent” parliamentarian – Prime Minister Freundel Stuart may feel compelled to continue walking the so-called “tightrope” for survival into new elections as his finance minister maintains tense engagements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in partnership, of course, with Governor of the Central Bank Dr DeLisle Worrell.
With possibly a trio of new national budgets still to be presented by the Stuart administration – with or without Mr Sinckler as finance minister – and both the Dems and Bees having that many annual delegates conferences ahead of fresh general elections, a new guessing game is reportedly doing the rounds about likely leadership changes for both the Dems and Bees.
So far as the Bees are concerned, it is inconceivable – though not impossible – that they could further add to their burden, following Mr Arthur’s resignation last month, by permitting lingering internal divisions, based on opportunism, damaged egos and more, to create new leadership challenges for Miss Mia Mottley.
To their credit, both the Dems and Bees have steered clear from rigging the results of party elections at annual delegates conferences. It is an abominable sin with which a few other parties within CARICOM have been tainted. Therefore, that’s not a factor to be faced by the incumbent Mottley at coming party elections – whoever her challengers – next year or else.
With Arthur gone and Mottley confronted with the challenges of sustaining party unity as perhaps the best card to play with hopes of replacing the Dems in government, questions are being raised about leadership of the Dems – after the incumbent and politically crafty Freundel Stuart.
Since it is most unlikely that the Dems would want to fall prey to post-Arthur leadership challenges facing the Bees ahead of new elections – either scheduled or snap – then they would be understandably anxious to maintain the Stuart leadership, warts and all.
However, since there are no guarantees of Mr Stuart remaining as party leader after new general elections – whether or not before 2018 – and given perceived lingering schisms within the Bees, then it makes sense for the Dems to also spend quality time strategising over potential candidates to assume the mantle of leadership, after the current incumbent.
One such eminent potential leader seems to be current Minister of Industry, Donville Inniss, a former minister of health who served as party general secretary right up to arrangements for the DLP’s recently-held annual delegates conference, but without making himself available for another term in that post.
The suave politician, with a flair for good public relations, is also recognised in some quarters for his frequent, and timely outreach for healing political wounds rather than exacerbating divisions and bitterness.
Whether or not he was simply playing a clever political hand by publicly embracing the BLP’s leader Mottley, on July 7, following a church service to celebrate her two decades as a parliamentarian, the fact remains that Inniss, then still DLP general secretary, did his friendly outreach, having earlier participated in the thanksgiving service at the Jackson Church of God.
And to her credit also, Mottley had offered a warm response by openly welcoming Inniss’ presence.
And on Sunday, Inniss, armed with his favourite musical instrument, the saxophone, was happily serenading the much appreciated contributions to this nation of retired Senior Medical Officer Dr Elizabeth Ferdinand who was deeply involved in the service of public health for over four decades.
Currently a much-favoured guest speaker at various private sector fora, Donville Inniss is clearly Dems leadership material in waiting. For a start, he could well return to the post of general secretary, well ahead of the next general election, whenever Prime Minister Stuart – voluntarily or otherwise – feels compelled to disclose the date.
• Rickey Singh is an experienced Caribbean journalist.