Of promises, prostitutes and politicians
It would perhaps be unkind to state that politics, like prostitution, is one of the oldest professions known to man.
Of course, even if one does not instantly detect similarities in the two callings, they have both been around for as long as human beings have organized themselves into any semblance of ordered society.
It would perhaps be further unflattering to suggest that while prostitutes restrict themselves to the usage of specific areas to gain largesse, politicians are often willing to use more than their charms to gain favour and power.
During the 2013 general election campaign Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and his political cohorts preached on platforms throughout the island that there would be no lay-offs in the Public Service.
Indeed, Mr Stuart had been selling that commodity diurnally and nocturnally as far back as 2011 when he spoke at a cocktail gathering given by the Friends of Barbados (DLP) Association in the United States.
“At the heart of the policy as we have pursued it is the protection of the jobs of persons who were in the public sector. Now, I say persons who work in the public sector, persons who work in Government, because if Government had started to lay people off, you can well imagine how quickly people in the private sector would have been minded to follow that example and lay people off as well.
“‘After all, the Government is doing it, why can’t we?’ So, we took a position that there were going to be no lay-offs in the Government . . . . We had to take a decision in the interest of the society to ensure that people’s lives were not disrupted and families thrown into confusion by a carnival of lay-offs . . . ,” Mr Stuart said then.
Almost on cue, Barbadians –– ignoring the financial stresses of the economy –– actually believed Mr Stuart’s eloquent political blarney.
On the morning of January 17, 1999, speaking on a political platform at Speightstown, St Peter, then Prime Minister Owen Arthur urged Barbadians not to sell their land to foreign interests.
“Please do not sell it to people coming from abroad . . . . Work with me, use the special development concessions that I will give you to give yourself a stake in this country. Use the land to put in apartments, use it to put in commercial facilities, but for God’s sake, don’t sell it to people coming from abroad,” he said, warming the patriotic bosoms of gawking Barbadians.
Seven years later, Mr Arthur was singing a different tune as “people coming from abroad” with deep pockets were buying up Barbadian soil.
“Barbados must sell upmarket services, because in a small society you can only develop if you make the most productive use of your scarcest resource, which is your land,” Mr Arthur said on February 3, 2006, at the ground- breaking ceremony of the $1 billion plus Apes Hill Club project in St James, jointly undertaken by overseas and local investors.
At a recent Press conference to announce the agenda of the Barbados Labour Party’s 77th annual conference the BLP general secretary Dr Jerome Walcott bravely made it clear that though the Opposition wanted to take over the reins of Government –– as any good Opposition should –– that Barbados’ issues would not disappear overnight and rightfully admitted that his party had no magic wand to make them do so.
Then Mr Walcott’s colleague Wilfred Abrahams took the Press conference beyond the realms of political exuberance. He suggested the the irrelevance of manifestos and hinted at the introduction of something called a solemn oath.
“A manifesto carries no weight any more based on what we have dealt with recently; so going forward we are not going to be content in just putting things in a manifesto; we are going to bind ourselves with a solemn oath,” Mr Abrahams stated.
In a country where neither main political party has stuck slavishly to anything written in a manifesto, Mr Abrahams, perhaps appealing to religious gullibility, was suggesting that some ethereal “solemn oath” would make a difference to any promise or statement made by politicians. Balderdash!
Perhaps it is time Barbadians look inward for guidance and inspiration, and not to the politician. They speak with retention of power on their minds. And it is often difficult to decipher between the self-serving public servant and those who serve country before self.
At least, one is always certain with the lady of the night.