EDITORIAL: Focus on Barbados’ next step
THE DEMOCRATIC LABOUR PARTY (DLP) has every reason to celebrate its diamond anniversary with a sense of pride and achievement, given its role in the development of this country over the past five and a half decades.
Even its most strident detractors cannot but laud the many landmarks under its stewardship. There were many seeds of doubt when those young Turks took their bold step at Lands End, St Michael, in the mid-1950s. Time has proven them to be visionaries and left many a doubting Thomas aghast.
Today Barbados can look back with pride at the tangibles thanks to the Dems: social security legislation, universal free secondary school education, school meals, the Barbados Community College and, of course, political Independence, among a long list of notables.
It would be difficult to talk about this great political institution and not mention its most notable leader, the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow, who was able to bring together and command a corps of loyalists who captured the imagination of the people in general.
It has not been a party without problems and certainly has not had an unblemished record. The public has responded appropriately, speaking via the ballot box whenever it saw the deficiencies. But the DLP has proven itself to be a resilient organisation and has consistently thrown up capable leaders through all the changing times.
The DLP, however, cannot live on its legacy, good as it may be. It must adapt to the new Barbados it helped create, where political loyalties, previously passed down through generations, are no longer guaranteed. There is a more sophisticated electorate with no firm partisan political ties; and there is a growing level of cynicism amongst many of the millennial generation, who are critically concerned about “what’s in it for me” while also viewing politicians and political parties as serving their own narrow interests.
The DLP must address this new normal. Like any other political party, it must become more transparent about party financing and its operations. It must place greater emphasis on succession planning and on reforming the way elected parliamentarians do the people’s business, whether in government or opposition. The archaic practice of parliamentarians being, in essence, part-time (serving while having another job) must not continue.
Most certainly, Barbadians want to know that the DLP is a reliable and trustworthy party and they are crying out for a clear sense of what the party’s current leadership will do going forward to accomplish the country’s greatest good. The legacies of yesteryear will not suffice for tomorrow.
On this occasion of a significant milestone, DLP leader and Prime Minister Freundel Stuart should use the opportunity to outline his party’s vision and agenda for the country for the next 25 years. It is a time to speak to and embrace all Barbadians beyond narrow partisan political interests.