Mother of all BLP battles coming, claims Pilgrim
A top official of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is warning of an unfolding leadership crisis within the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
DLP General Secretary George Pilgrim levelled the serious charge this evening, while telling reporters they can expect the matter to come to a head at this weekend’s BLP annual conference.
“That party is in crisis about who should lead it,” said Pilgrim, who further charged that the BLP’s leadership had not been resolved ever since former Prime Minister Owen Arthur gave way to Mia Mottley in the immediate aftermath of the 2013 general elections.
Arthur subsequently quit the party in 2014, saying he would no longer subject himself to Mottley’s leadership.
However, in keeping with the party’s constitution, Mottley cannot seek re-election as party chairman, having served out her three year term. And there have been reports that a George Payne-led faction of the party will be looking to take the reins of the BLP’s executive this time around.
This has also triggered speculation about Arthur making a comeback to the BLP, so too recently dismissed Member of Parliament for Christ Church West Dr Maria Agard, who fell out of favour with the Mottley-led National Council last November 22.
However, party insiders say Dr Agard continues to enjoy the support and respect of Payne and several other senior BLP members.
With rumours swirling all around, Pilgrim went as far Wednesday as to suggest that there would be a “coup” at the Lester Vaughan School on Sunday.
He also sought to tear to shreds the BLP’s internal nomination process, saying the party had consistently reflected chaos in the course of selecting representatives for the next elections.
However, to date none has been more acrimonious than the nomination of 37-year-old economist Marsha Caddle in St Michael South Central earlier this month.
Her election also spelt defeat for longstanding BLP candidate David Gill, who declared immediately following the nomination that though he remained committed to the party which he joined over 40 years ago, he wanted nothing more to do with Mottley or General Secretary Dr Jerome Walcott.
“There are many people who would like to speak like me, but they are afraid to come out and speak. I cannot work with the Chairman of the party because she did not want me. It is no longer the Barbados Labour Party, it is the Barbados Liberal Party,” Gill had charged.
The former BLP Member of Parliament, who represented the St Michael South Central constituency in the House of Assembly between 1999 and 2003 also suggested that he had been manipulated and that the entire process was rigged.
Wednesday night, the BLP is due to complete its final nomination in St Michael North West, where there have also been reports of serious infighting between representatives of two of the four political hopefuls in that constituency.
Barbados TODAY had previously reported that what started out as a verbal clash had ended up in threats which have been reported to police, following a heated row over voter eligibility.
“I guarantee that when October comes, the Barbados Labour Party, you’re going to have a trilogy of leaders, mark my words,” said Pilgrim today, adding, “in four days at Lester Vaughan, a ‘Red October’ will take place where you will see at least three leaders emerging for the Barbados Labour Party’s conference”.
Suggesting that there was no leadership fight in the ruling DLP, Pilgrim went on to criticize the BLP for airing its dirty laundry in public, while charging that its entire approach to internal nominations was unethical.
“One realizes that the process which the Barbados Labour Party uses is always shrouded in controversy. After every nomination count there is some question of whether or not somebody’s name was on the list and whose name should be on the list and this whole notion of voter padding that has seemed to be part of their DNA, in that regard,” the DLP General Secretary alleged.
Calling it “pure madness”, Pilgrim continued his critique of the BLP’s method of selecting representatives.
“We don’t say to them that you must join 500 people because your nomination is on Sunday and therefore you need to pretend that you are walking around the constituency meeting people, shaking hands for the sake of a particular meeting and then when the meeting is finished, you are hugged by leadership of the party,” Pilgrim said, adding “our people engage in a rigorous process in terms of working in the field morning, noon and night”.
However, when contacted this evening for a response to Pilgrim’s claimed, Walcott, who is currently in Jamaica, dismissed his DLP counterpart out of hand.
“Rubbish, utter rubbish! Why should I respond to rubbish?” the BLP general secretary told Barbados TODAY.
In defence of his party’s approach to nominations, Dr Walcott said there was a clear process which the party followed under its constitution.
However, he said the same could not be said for the DLP.
In fact, he suggested that Barbados TODAY should speak to Taan Abed, who he said had won a DLP nomination process “nine to one” back in 2011, but was replaced by Verla Depeiza.