Two of this country’s junior political parties are refusing to back down from the daunting challenge of contesting upcoming general elections, as they joined a chorus of opposition voices slamming Prime Minister Mia Mottley for springing a surprise poll on the masses, 18 months before constitutionally due.
At a press conference on Tuesday, former Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley confirmed his intention to vie for a seat in Parliament, though it was not abundantly clear whether St Michael West, where he served as MP for over a decade, would be his constituency of choice.
President of the Solutions Barbados party, Grenville Phillips III has also confirmed his intention to “shepherd” a full slate of candidates to the next poll, while vowing that on this occasion his name would not appear on any ballot.
Meanwhile, the considerably more established Democratic Labour Party (DLP), which previously introduced the country to 24 of its 29 candidates, has already released a statement rallying the masses to vote for change.
And the United Progressive Party (UPP) has also called on citizens to make the changes necessary to advance “our democracy”, with a promise to announce its candidates in short order.
Prime Minister Mottley’s shocking announcement has, for now, muted the voices, in Parliament, of Bishop Atherley and his choice of Opposition Senator, Caswell Franklyn, whose Unity Workers’ Union (UWU) is in the midst of a three-week standoff with Government over a slate of industrial relations issues affecting nurses.
Describing the PM’s motivations as “crass” and “callous”, Bishop Atherley, who is leader of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PdP), condemned Mottley for attempting to impose a one-party dictatorship, as he confirmed his intention to place his hat in the proverbial ring once more.
“You have a government with 29 representatives in the Lower House [of Parliament] and 12 people in the Upper House. That is 41 people. So what are you telling us when you say that you are calling an election to have one Government?
“When I hear that call within the context of the reality that we live in, what I’m hearing is a call for one-partyism in Barbados,” Bishop Atherley told a midday press conference.
“It would seem as though the Prime Minister wants that her voice is the only voice that is heard. It would seem as though the Prime Minister wants that the Government can dictate to us on everything and the people of Barbados can’t raise voice in query, or a voice in contradiction, or a voice in expression of an alternative view,” he added.
Atherley then outlined a number of motives that he believes may have triggered the PM’s announcement. He warned of possible internal conflicts within the ruling administration, dwindling popularity based on internal polls, severe austerity from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), including job cuts, and an intention to impose “alternative lifestyles”.
He promised further details of his party’s election readiness at a briefing on Thursday. Bishop Atherley acknowledged that the only party that could have been fully ready for the election is the one in power, but suggested that even they appeared to be somewhat caught off guard.
Nevertheless, the PdP leader addressed questions about his intention to continue serving as a Member of Parliament.
“The elections are a few weeks away. Unless something dramatic happens – that is, my Lord whom I try to serve suggests to me in clear terms that I should not run – yes, Joseph Atherley is planning to run,” he said.
DLP President Verla DePeiza reiterated her party’s readiness to take on the Mottley-led BLP as she disclosed that all 30 of the DLP’s candidates are accounted for. Barbados TODAY understands that among those slated to contest but who have yet to be publicly named is former Minister of Housing Michael Lashley who would be carrying the party’s flag in the St Philip North constituency.
DePeiza declined to comment on that and Lashley could not be reached.
However, the party leader maintained that since earlier this month when the DLP officially launched its election campaign, her troops have continued their work and have shared their plans, achievements and policies with constituents.
“This didn’t come as a surprise for us or for people who have been watching developments closely. That is why all the while we’ve been on the ground working and getting our message, our solutions, and our efforts out to the public,” she said.
“We had a very public launch on the 4th of December, attended by the Press, which signalled our readiness. We released the launch video again last night so that people who didn’t already know would be better informed about our candidates. . . . We didn’t have any ratifications since then as we were finished with our process since up to that point. So, I can assure you that the DLP as a unit is ready to take on the BLP government,” the political leader maintained.
Phillips, meantime, described the PM’s sudden election announcement as “abhorrent” and “terrible”, contending that political parties and the electorate should have at least a year’s notice of an election.
He revealed that 10 candidates were confirmed to run for the party, but the intention is to have 30 in time for Nomination Day next Monday. However, after two unsuccessful attempts at the polls, the structural engineer said he would not be among them.
“I offered myself twice to Barbadians. I offered them my best, twice. I offered them my career, twice. I offered them myself, twice. I offered them no corruption, I offered them a high degree of management… and they decided that they don’t want that. So, I am no longer offering myself as a candidate,” Phillips said.
“But I am still President of Solutions Barbados… and I don’t do things haphazardly. I’m all in.”