Bye, Benn!

by Roy R. Morris

Flashback: Haynesley Benn about to hand in his nomination papers in February.

It is now all but certain that whenever an election is held in St. Peter again new candidates will be representing both the ruling Democratic Labour Party and the opposition Barbados Labour Party.

Highly placed sources told Barbados TODAY over the weekend that DLP candidate in the February 21 general elections, Haynesley Benn, who had been resisting party pressure to step aside to allow for the grooming of a replacement, is to be given a diplomatic post.

According to the source, a proposal to have Benn appointed as consul general in Toronto, Canada was placed on Cabinet’s agenda last week, and is expected to get final ratification at this week’s meeting of that body.

It is expected that the trained agricultural administrator, who held the positions of Minister of Agriculture and Ministry of Commerce and Trade during the previous term of the DLP Government will be appointed effective September 1, to replace party stalwart, Dr. Leroy McClean, who returned to Barbados just ahead of the February election to take up the top post at the Barbados Industrial and Development Corporation.

Benn, who headed the Barbados Agricultural Society for almost two decades, was a Government senator prior to the polls, but was overlooked by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart for a ministerial or Senate pick after he lost to his cousin, former Prime Minister Owen Arthur in the last election in St. Peter.

In in scathing attack on his party and its lack of support during the campaign as well as what he described as its failure to keep campaign promises, Benn told a constituency branch meeting in March he was hearing rumours his party was looking for an alternative candidate. He warned party bosses against trying to impose someone else on the constituency, stressing he intended to run again whenever elections are called.

“The party must therefore be informed, as soon as we have our business meeting, … that Haynesley Benn intends to be the candidate next time, whether there’s a by-election or a general election. And don’t try to entertain the thought of doing what you did in St. James North or what you did in St. Peter in 1991.”

Stating he had received “not a Guyanese dollar; not even a Zimbabwe penny” from the party’s central office to assist with his election campaign, Benn added:

“So whatever resources I used up came from my own funds, plus some of the money that was given through contributions from some of you [constituents].”

Benn said too while he was disappointed at not being offered a place in the new Cabinet, he was not surprised and warned that no one would stop him from speaking as his conscience dictated.

“The point I want to make is that I will speak out on issues and there were a lot of issues that needed attention. I will not go into details but I spoke out on many occasions. So don’t be upset that I have not been returned to the senate nor the cabinet.

“Share my joys with me. The work will continue. I was serving St. Peter before I was a senator or a minister. I will continue to serve St. Peter after the elections have gone. I am ready and prepared … for the next, whenever a by-election or general election is called and I expect that there will be a by-election before the general.

“I am also told that there are some calls coming through to St. Peter asking if … they will think about somebody to replace me, in the event that something comes up. No! No! Calls can come but I say this to you: they can try to take me out of St. Peter but they can’t take St. Peter out of me.”

Three months ago, the current St. Peter representative and veteran Member of Parliament, Owen Arthur, stated that after giving 40 years of his life to the BLP he would not be contesting another general election.

“The time comes in a person’s life when they have to go on,” he told the Christ Church West branch. “I have already told the leadership of the party, as I have already told the members of the branch in St. Peter, that I would not be contesting another election as a candidate. I really will not.”

He said, however, he would remain loyal to the party and would continue to serve it.

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