Divide over who’s in charge

Are they in or are they out?

That question still remains as to the status of Democratic Labour Party (DLP) president Dr Ronnie Yearwood and general secretary Steve Blackett while the squabbling within the hierarchy of the 69-year-old party continues.

On Wednesday there was a lengthy statement from Pedro Shepherd, insisting that he was still acting general secretary, an apparent reaction to Blackett’s previous assertion that he was on the job at the party’s George Street, Belleville, St Michael headquarters.

Then there was a response from communications officer of the DLP, Stacia Browne, declaring the two remained in their “duly elected” positions.

There was also a statement issued by the Young Democrats in support of Blackett and Yearwood.

The two men have been at the centre of contention since April 21 when at a “members’ forum” Blackett told journalists he was moving a motion of no confidence against Opposition Leader Ralph Thorne – who joined the party in February and automatically became its political leader – and harshly criticised his presence in the party.

On May 9 it was announced that Blackett was suspended by the General Council and then on May 17 similar action followed in relation to Yearwood. However, subsequent meetings of the Executive Council led to it declaring that both men were reinstated. Since then there has been a series of one-upmanship in which both administrative arms are claiming their decisions were correct.

Both Blackett and Yearwood yesterday declined to comment on the matter, but Shepherd said based on the General Council’s interpretation of the constitution of the party, they were suspended until completion of investigations against them.

“There’s nothing else I can say to allay any fears that there is confusion or their perception,” he stated.

Shepherd said the two have been served with disciplinary charges and are scheduled to appear before the Disciplinary Committee on May 27 and 28.

The young Dems, the latest to enter the fray, said they were reposing their confidence in Yearwood and Blackett, and called for an end to the “disorderly conduct and arbitrary actions” which were not in keeping with the democratic principles of the institution.

“The Young Dems felt it necessary to publicly support its comrades and condemn the ill-discipline, lest its silence be perceived as condoning autocratic behaviour of a few misguided individuals, which culminated in the appalling actions which took place on the headquarters property last Thursday, May 16, 2024.

“We condemn any actions that seek to truncate the rights of individuals. We also are appalled at the acts of vandalism witnessed on a property that many of us have worked tirelessly to raise funds to maintain,” their statement read. 

The party’s youth arm said it looked on “with shock and horror at behaviour which we would ordinarily frown upon in the society at large taking place at our own headquarters”.

“Barbados is currently witnessing a decline in law and order and our job as custodians of one of the oldest and most respected political parties in the region is to set an example for our youth,” they said. 

The DLP must be beyond reproach in its own affairs to demonstrate to Barbadians that it can be trusted to govern a country, the statement read, adding the group did not expect such behaviour from people who wanted to lead the country.

“The sudden introduction of behaviours . . . of seeking to suspend, sanction and expel members without charges or hearings and in their absence, and the destruction of property cannot and will not be condoned.”

Shepherd cited the party’s constitution in relation to the General Council for an appeal or complaint against a decision of the Executive Council.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to restate the position of the party as made to conduct this process in a fair and orderly manner. We regret the utterances in the media and are making every effort to deal with this internal matter internally,” he stated.

Earlier, the statement from Browne said the party was clarifying misinformation regarding Yearwood and Blackett, adding the public could be assured that every effort was being made to conduct DLP business in an orderly manner. 

It said the party deeply regretted the “deplorable conduct” of some members and referenced the alleged break-in at headquarters.

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