‘All above board’
Controversy has hit the 2013 general elections campaign even before the two main political parties officially mount their platforms.
After clashing with the then Opposition Democratic Labour Party over the unprecedented erection of billboards in 2008, the Barbados Labour Party this morning did the same thing, with its Deputy Leader Dale Marshall saying the action was lawful. But while making it clear he personally had no problem with this form of electioneering, Minister of Health and St. James South MP Donville Inniss said the BLP was a “hypocritical copycat”.
As the issue became one of the early talking points one day after Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced a February 21 election date, Marshall told Barbados TODAY the BLP, which erected its first billboard near the St. Lucy Parish Church, had followed the letter of the law.
“The criticism we had of the Democratic Labour Party was that they put up billboards unlawfully. Under the Town Planning Regulations temporary structures can be erected for a period of not more than 28 days, but you must in writing notify the Chief Town Planner of your intention to put up such structures, having of course obtained the permission of the land owner,” the St. Joseph MP said.
Marshall said his party would remove its billboards after the 28 day period the law allowed, pointed out that the BLP delivered the required correspondence to the Chief Town Planner this morning.
“We notified the Chief Town Planner of the exact location where we will put the billboards. Last election the Democratic Labour Party, without going through the formalities, just flung billboards into the Barbadian landscape … and that is the objection we had,” he explained.
Speaking in a telephone interview, however, Inniss accused the BLP of being hypocritical.
“What they have done is very hypocritical, to criticise the Democratic Labour Party for putting up billboards and now they have come and do it. But I realise that a lot of things that the Democratic Labour Party did in the 2008 election that the Barbados Labour Party has copied, except the hearts and minds of Barbadians.
“Personally I don’t object to it, I see nothing wrong with parties putting up billboards. We have done it before and we will continue to do it in the Democratic Labour Party, but it is hypocritical for the Barbados Labour Party to make a big song and dance about it in the last election and now they are the first out of the blocks with it,” he told Barbados TODAY. St. Lucy MP Denis Kellman shared similar sentiments.
He wrote on his Facebook page: “The copy cats are so backward that they have now taken us back to 2008. Billboards are they the same ones they claimed were done illegally? They are now 5 years behind in their thinking and strategy. They are stale in their ideas and offerings.”
Billboards will not be erected in every constituency but will be placed within highly trafficked areas.
“A billboard may help to influence a group of electors in a particular area without being in the area in which they vote. We’ve employed a very careful strategy but equally you will find that billboards are just part of what we’re doing. The idea is that whatever we do will be tastefully done and sensitive to how Barbados operates and how Barbadians operate,” Marshall explained.
During the 2008 general election campaign then Prime Owen Arthur accused the DLP of “breaking the law”, saying it had failed to seek and acquire permission from the Town Planning Department and the owners of property where the billboards were located.
“The erection of such billboards requires two sets of permissions — one from the owners of land and also applications must be made to the Chief Town Planner… The DLP has done neither,” Arthur said.
Marshall, Attorney General at the time, added that the DLP’s 2008 action was “invidious”, claiming it was aware of the laws governing billboards, but had erected them knowing Town Planning could not effectively deal with the matter before polling day.
That was because the enforcement notices issued by that government agency would have allowed for a 28-day period before action could be taken against the billboards.
In response, then Opposition Leader David Thompson called the issue a “red herring”.
“I don’t think that productive time can be spent by me responding to every red herring that the Prime Minister tries to draw across the trail in this election to divert the people of Barbados from the serious issues that affect them every day. This is just political fluff,” he said.†(DS)