OUR CARIBBEAN: Divisive politics – questions for the PM
MORE THAN half a century after the English-speaking Caribbean started the process of dismantling age-old colonial relations with Britain, our politicians and parliamentary parties across this region continue to betray a slavish attachment for party politics that perpetuate divisions in preference to the consultative process to stir passion for national unity and productivity.
Currently, the governments of Barbados and Guyana are involved in state-directed arrangements and programmes to mark the first half -century of political independence from British colonial rule – first Guyana in May 1966, secondly Barbados some six months later. Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica had made that change four years earlier.
The political culture on display in both of these countries by the governing administrations reveals a shared passion to treat political independence anniversaries as a ruling party/governance affair – without meaningful consultation/involvement by the parliamentary opposition, often the other major national political force.
In Guyana documented archival records confirm how an Anglo/American deal had succeeded in denying political independence to Guyana under the leadership of then Dr Cheddi Jagan during years of “freedom” struggles.
In Barbados Errol Barrow was simply anxious to avoid “loitering” on “colonial property” and to set in process a united, stable nation as a good example of post-colonial reconstruction.
There has never been any serious claim about Barrow, the lovable nationalist and regionalist, engaging in petty, partisan politics when the circumstances and developments required national, united approaches.
As a Caribbean journalist who has also covered events and developments over many years in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, I am, therefore, saddened by the current public protest by leader of the parliamentary opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), Mia Mottley, that her party has been excluded, shut out, from any official involvement, as organised for implementation by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
Mottley demonstrated her anger over this development when she addressed the launch last week of her BLP’s Cornerstone of Nation Building exhibition that showcases the party’s varied contributions over the years as one of this region’s oldest parties. She laid the exclusion blame squarely at the feet of Prime Minister Stuart for her party’s exclusion from the official Independence Committee established to organise commemorative activities pertaining to Barbados’ independence.
Why should such partisan politics continue to be nurtured in Barbados, Guyana, or in any other CARICOM state by governing parties that are anxious to be treated, and accorded respect, as being national organisations representing very sizable segments of the population in whose name they speak?
This sort of partisan, cock-eyed politics should not be encouraged in any of the partner states of CARICOM, where multi-party parliamentary democracy has evolved as the norm. For current governing parties to be allowed to get away with this display of political contempt at a time of celebration of half a century of political freedom from British colonial rule would be to invite further hurtful political arrogance.
Incidentally, what is the official explanation by the “national committee” established by Prime Minister Stuart’s administration to organise commemorative independence activities, to so glaringly ignore the parliamentary opposition BLP which, like today’s ruling DLP, remains a major, respected national institution of Barbados?
Surely, it cannot be an oversight by the committee. Even more perplexing would be to assume that the commemorative committee was simply carrying out an official mandate!