Will Barbados’ DLP Go The Way Of The PNP?

Prime Minister David Thompson of Barbados has reshuffled his Cabinet in a manner that clearly indicates whom he thinks is the best person to succeed him.

This is the fourth Cabinet in just under three years and, in our view, signals that he is into succession planning.

Mr Thompson who is 48 years old, is very seriously ill with pancreatic cancer. He took sick leave to receive treatment in the United States and returned to office recently but is shedding the burdensome portfolio of the Ministry of Finance while retaining the posts of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence.

He will continue to undergo treatment which we hope will restore his health but for how long we cannot be sure. He is certain to be away from the exercise of day to day responsibilities including periods of leave during which someone will have to act as leader of the country.

By promoting Mr Chris Sinckler to the portfolio of Minister of Finance, Mr Thompson has effectively anointed him as his successor and given him a decided advantage in any leadership contest to succeed him as leader of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).

Mr Sinckler who is 43 years old, was the former Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment, Urban and Rural Development and previously Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. Before being elected as Member of Parliament for the first time in the last General Election, he was executive coordinator of the Caribbean Policy Development Centre, a coalition of Caribbean, non-governmental organisations that lobbied governments on international trade and development issues. He is a graduate of the University of the West Indies, at undergraduate and graduate levels.

Still, all is not settled and the leadership uncertainty could disturb the renowned stability of orderly Barbados until Mr Thompson recovers and resumes active leadership, or a new leader and prime minister is elected.

The risk of a leadership contest such as that which has immobilised our own People’s National Party (PNP) is a distinct possibility. The elevation of Mr Sinckler was accompanied by the demotion of Dr David Estwick who was transferred from Minister of Economic Affairs and Empowerment, Innovation, Trade, Industry and Commerce to Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Industry and Small Business Development.

Mr Estwick issued a lengthy press release pledging his continued service but that appears to us to be a campaign manifesto extolling all his achievements. He faces an uphill task, however, because a recently conducted opinion poll showed that Mr Sinckler was the man seen as the most popular Democratic Labour Party politician to lead the country after Thompson.

If a new leader has to be chosen by the ruling DLP, the opposition Barbados Labour Party will be sure to call for a general election stating that the new prime minister has no mandate.

Barbados can ill afford political uncertainty at a time when its economy is under stress because of a tourist industry severely affected by the global economic crisis.


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