New blood in St. George South
by Ted Taylor
St. George South has been in the hands of the Barbados Labour Party for all but two terms since 1976 and its reputation as a harbinger of the electoral outcome of the island made it one of the seats to watch in this election.
However, the reality of how votes were cast did not exactly live up to the expectation of a fierce battle between two home-grown combatants.
After the first four boxes, GA1 through GA4, were tallied it gave the challenger Dwight Sutherland a modest lead of just over 100 votes. Interestingly enough, the slight advantage came at the expense of two of the stronger Democratic Labour Party districts and set the scene for an intriguing outcome.
The next four boxes announced by veteran returning officer Trevor King reduced that lead to just five votes and revealed with some certainty that the swing needed to unseat the incumbent was being realised. Even though this did not represent a huge advantage for Sutherland where the vote tally was concerned, with the strongest Barbados Labour Party districts still to be announced, there was definitely going to be a new member of Parliament for this constituency.
Sutherland did in fact come down to the counting centre just after 11 p.m. and expressed gratitude to the constituents for the support he had received. He was quick to pay respect to his grandfather, a church leader and founder of the credit union movement, whom he credited as the role model for his own community spirit, he was also full of praise for his mother for the enabling environment she created.
He said he believed that his victory was largely due to fact that his campaign started immediately after he was selected as the candidate for the constituency and that it was his grassroots approach to politics that allowed him to build on his familiarity with the residents.
He admitted that the past two and a half years had been tough on his family but that it was largely because they stuck with him on the journey that he was able to stay in the fight the way that he did.
He acknowledged a common respect between himself and his opponent, Dr. Byer-Suckoo, but believes that he has learned from her mistakes and will not lose touch with the constituents.
He had high praise for party leader Owen Arthur and went on to express his deep gratitude at having a “maestro” walk the community with him in the later days of the campaign; it was in fact a source of great inspiration for him to have Arthur with him in the field. He said he further intends not to disappoint Arthur or “the people of St. George South” and was similarly full of praise for Sir Louis Tull for sharing strategies on how to win the popular vote.
His wife Juliette Sutherland and Mackie Holder also came in for honourable mention as two of the finest political strategists in the island and he has credited them as being critical to his campaign. In the final analysis he believes that it was his “ground game … in the church, in sports and in the community” that saw him first past the post; and “I see Dwight Sutherland in this community for the next 10 to 15 years”.
He also intends to be back in the community in the next few days to thank them for their support and begin to roll out his first initiative, a three-month plan that will include the creation of a database of needs within the constituency and turning the constituency office into an advisory centre for legal aid and instruction on securing loans and preparation for job interviews; the over-arching goal of which is “building St. George South.”
The final count was 3,642 for Sutherland and 2,965 for Byer-Suckoo.