Year in Review: Political changes

Last year was chockfull of news on the political front.

Whether it was general elections, internal party affairs or the Cabinet reshuffle in the last quarter of the year, there always seemed to be something happening and being discussed among the pundits and those who occasionally have a look-see into the goings-on.

In the dying embers of 2021 while people were making plans to usher in the new year, on December 27 Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced a January 19, 2022, poll that would see the largest number of political parties in recent times vying for the 30 seats in Parliament.

Elections dominated the news cycle on the last two days of that year as the contenders, including the nine running independently, headed to the Treasury to pay their $250 deposits. It continued on January 3, Nomination Day.

Leader of the Alliance Party for Progress, Bishop Joseph Atherley (right), and deputy party leader Lynette Eastmond (left), leading  their contingent of 22 candidates for next month’s General Election, to pay their deposits at the VAT Office in Country Road, St Michael, yesterday. (Picture by Sandy Pitt.) – (Picture by Sandy Pitt.)

With Mottley leading the ruling Barbados Labour Party who made a clean sweep a mere three years earlier in May 2018, and Verla De Peiza leading the Democratic Labour Party, news broke that Leader of the Opposition Bishop Joseph Atherley and his People’s Party for Democracy and Development were joining the United Progressive Party to field a slate of 20 candidates under the name Alliance Party for Progress. He would chair the party.

Although leader of Solutions Barbados Grenville Phillips was sitting out this election, there were 11 candidates under his party’s banner. Alex Mitchell and his Bajan Free Party had four candidates, the New Barbados Kingdom Alliance had two and the Barbados Sovereignty Party, two.

The latter’s Philip Nathanial Catlyn, running in St Thomas, sought a restraining order to halt the Elections until “the disenfranchisement of thousands of electors who are in quarantine due to the zoonotic COVID-19 viral pandemic is resolved beforehand”. It was tossed out.

The presence of the coronavirus pandemic brought some changes to how the more than 100 candidates engaged the 266 330 registered voters to woo them for their X. With the mask mandate still in effect fewer mass meetings were held. Meetings were live streamed via social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. WhatsApp was also used to spread messages.

Mottley and the BLP reclaimed all 30 seats issuing another crushing blow to the DLP.

The DLP’s first female president, former senator De Peiza who fought off contenders for their highest office after stepping up to lead in 2018, resigned on the 21st, citing failure to unite the party despite her other efforts, and ignite the country. In the interim, Steve Blackett, the party’s first vice president, filled the void until a special conference was held later.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley with the jubilant Barbados Labour Party candidates behind her, addresses the party faithful at Roebuck Street. (Picture by Sandy Pitt)

Following Mottley’s January 20 swearing-in as Prime Minister and Dale Marshall as Attorney-General, the new Cabinet was announced four days later and sworn in by President The Most Honourable Dame Sandra Mason on January 26 in a ceremony at State House.

During the announcement of her Cabinet the Prime Minister proposed an amendment to the Constitution to allow the appointment of then 18-year-old Khaleel Kothdiwala to the Senate. Her reasoning, “if you are old enough to vote then you must be old enough to serve” was in keeping with an election promise to engage Barbadian youth, bringing them “into the centre of governance and national self-determination”.

However, in March, debate on the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, was adjourned after Independent Senators failed to support it. Subsequently, Mottley said she would not pursue the appointment.

The proposed amendments included the appointment of two senators nominated by the party securing the second highest number of votes in the preceding election in the event there was no Leader of the Opposition to appoint two. The President appointed two additional Independent Senators.

Dr Ronnie Yearwood (centre) is congratulated by other members of the Democratic Labour Party, including former interim president Steve Blackett, after winning the presidential election. (Picture by Jameel Springer)

When May rolled around, political first timer Dr Ronnie Yearwood, who carried the DLP’s flag in St James South, was chosen to lead the party. The law lecturer at the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill Campus defeated former minister of agriculture Dr David Estwick 273 votes to 205.

Three months later at their annual conference, Yearwood made a stirring address in which he rallied members to unite and pledge a new inclusive politics gaining spontaneous applause from the audience. Among those attending was former Cabinet Minister and party stalwart Dr Denis Lowe whose death on September 16 threw the party into mourning.

The Cabinet reshuffle announced on October 22 by Prime Minister Mottley at the BLP’s Annual conference was a talking point for many individuals.

While Member of Parliament for the City of Bridgetown, Corey Lane, was appointed Minister of State with responsibility for Crime Prevention in the Office of the Attorney-General, Ministers Kerrie Symmonds, Ian Gooding-Edghill, Senator Lisa Cummins and The Most Honourable Senator Jerome Walcott were reassigned to Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Tourism and International Transport, Energy and Business Development and Health and Wellness, respectively. (GBM)

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