Upholding the Anti-Colonial Legacy
Two days ago, the electorate of Barbados renewed the mandate of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), by returning it to office in an election called more than a year before it was due. In the process, the BLP leader and Barbados’ first female Prime Minister, Hon. Mia Amor Mottley gained re-election to office and confirmation of the voters of Barbados for her programme of Barbadian nationalism and anti-colonial renewal.
It was the ninth election held in CARICOM states since the COVID-19 pandemic invaded the region. Naturally, adjustment to COVID-19-induced protocols became part of the landscape. There was even an election challenge by a candidate of the opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP), seeking an injunction by the High Court to postpone the elections. He claimed that the right of “thousands of Barbadians” to vote was being denied because there had been no provision for an estimated 5700 voters currently isolated under quarantine provisions to exercise their franchise. This however failed on the eve of the election, the judge ruling that the High Court had no jurisdiction on the matter which was essentially an election matter.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley is therefore left to continue her programme which has seen Barbados, once considered so conservative that it had earned the reputation of being a “little England” in the Caribbean, pursuing a path of unravelling its colonial past.
It is ironic that the BLP and its popular leader should be spearheading this progressive move. Originally the BLP had encompassed all the strains of anti-colonialism with its leader Sir Grantley Adams and his successor Hon. Errol Barrow both united within its folds.
But as Adams and the BLP became more accommodating to the ruling foreign and elites, Barrow split and formed the more radical and pro-nationalist DLP. It was he who then led the movement for Independence and who became Barbados’ first Prime Minister and “Father of the Nation” in 1966. But following his death in 1987, the DLP found itself unable to grapple with the economic problems confronting the independent nation and it was a resurgent BLP, first under Owen Arthur and now under PM Mottley which has again taken up the anti-colonial challenge.
Under her leadership, Barbados has embraced a more positive role within Caricom, become a staunch advocate of the demand for reparations, promoted the development and strengthening of political and economic links between Caricom and African states as well as being a leading protagonist for small-island states in the battle to combat climate change and preserve the environment.
Significantly, her administration has supported local efforts at decolonization, including removing images of the colonial past, such as the infamous Nelson statue which once dominated the landscape of Barbados’ capital city, Bridgetown. She has become one of the central leaders of the progressive movement within CARICOM as well as a staunch advocate of the rights of women in the region. PM Mottley’s government on accession to republican status last November, appointed an outstanding female, Dame Sandra Mason as its first President.
The re-election of PM Mottley can only give hope to Caribbean progressives for an intensification of the long process of anti-colonial struggle and for a more united and focused CARICOM.