The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is calling on the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration to account for the annual $150 000 subvention that is not being paid to any opposition party since there is no opposition in the House of Assembly.
Member of the party’s General Council, Irene Sandiford-Garner on Wednesday said the Government should inform Barbadians what is being done with the money since the DLP was whitewashed in the May 2018 and January 2022 general elections.
During a press conference at the party’s headquarters, she said there were serious consequences to the withdrawal of the subvention from the 67-year-old political party in a small country like Barbados.
“It has implications because it prevents any opposition from functioning, and when you look at the vote tally, the party with the second highest number of votes should receive something to keep working because then you have no democracy.
“You have no opposition and then you go into an election before the due period, which is another issue altogether, and you further reduce the level of opposition that you have in a country. These are separate stories that deserve investigations and exposure because I don’t think Barbadians know or understand this first-past-the-post Westminster system Sandiford-Garner,” she said.
She said the DLP not receiving any funding from the state to finance the work that must be carried out by an opposing party is a matter of concern that must be reviewed because “no one anticipated that Barbados would ever be in a position where there was no parliamentary opposition”.
“The parliamentary rules on funding speak to parliamentary opposition. We are not parliamentary opposition so that means that we do not receive one cent from Parliament to function. And that is an element of our democratic and Westminster process that Barbados may need to reexamine because if you have an opposition starved of funding, it means that you have an opposition that is limited in its scope and that is not healthy for democracy,” the senior DLP member said.
Sandiford-Garner said the party has been financially supported through donations from people who are interested in democracy and understand the importance of having an opposition.
The DLP has not received the subvention, which is part of the $300 000 amount set aside annually for political parties that have elected members of Parliament, to assist them with their administration costs.
The DLP’s General Secretary Steve Blackett on Wednesday questioned whether the ruling BLP was getting all the money.
“We are not saying they are receiving it but we do not know if the Government is receiving the full $300 000 allocated in the Estimates for that amount. We don’t know, but what we can tell you most definitely is that this Democratic Labour Party is not receiving any subvention from central government since we lost the government in 2018. None of that money is coming to us,” he said.
Since 2018, Bishop Joseph Atherley, who became Leader of the Opposition after resigning from the BLP when it swept the polls 30-0, has called for the DLP to be given the annual subvention.
He was adamant, in an interview with Barbados TODAY, that the full $300 000 should not be given to one political party.
“My position has always been that the $300 000 was put there to help with political parties’ organisation and development and survival in Barbados in the interest of parliamentary democracy. The Dems [DLP] did not win a seat in Parliament and the regulation disqualified them from getting the money. But I have always argued that they should have gotten $150 000 as well.
“If the money was put there to sustain political parties, just because a party did not win a seat in Parliament, a party as established as the Democratic Labour Party should be given the subvention. The Dems are raising the issue again, I understand, and I still think that the regulations should be changed and that they should be given the $150 000,” Bishop Atherley insisted.
He noted that he was in no position to advocate for the subvention when he was Leader of the Opposition between 2018 and 2022 because he won his seat on a BLP ticket and not the People’s Party for Democracy and Development which he formed in June 2019.