As Opposition Leader Mia Mottley prepares to deliver her first State Of The Nation Address this weekend, national attention remains focused on her predecessor and former Prime Minister Owen Arthur and what will be his next move.
This after he delivered what one party stalwart describes as an “ill-merited blow” to Mottley earlier this week – which has been met with consternation from many sectors.
Arthur, who has been absent from internal meetings chaired by Mottley since last December, is on record as saying that he has lost all confidence in Mottley and will not subject himself to her leadership of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP).
Given the strength of Arthur’s comments, political scientist Dr Tennyson Joseph says the next sitting of Parliament could be quite interesting. “If he says categorically that he cannot work under her leadership, that he will not sit in a Parliament with her as leader, either he does not appear in Parliament at all, that is a first option; the second one is to resign from elective politics; the third one is to cross the floor; or the fourth one is to sit as an Independent.
“I think we have to wait and see what he does where that is concerned.” Asked which route he expected Arthur to go at this stage, Joseph said he would have to wait and see. However, he was adamant that the current fracture within the Opposition party could not be allowed to continue indefinitely.
In the meantime, the party, which narrowly lost the February 2013 general election under Arthur’s hand, by a two-seat margin, appears split down the middle over the issue of who should be in command. While unwilling to go on record for fear that the situation would worsen, sources sympathetic to Arthur say their current issues range from the general management of party finances, the seeming haste of Mottley to dispose of the Freundel Stuart Government in the first year of its five-year term and the involvement of personalities such as Avinash Persaud, former head of the Four Seasons Project, and other non-elected officials in the internal process.
“He [Persaud] has attended meetings of the parliamentary group and he has actually been allowed to speak. That is unheard of,” complained one insider, who suggested that it would be interesting to get the George Payne and Ronald Toppin take on the entire situation.
Efforts to reach them for comment were unsuccessful, while Arthur and Mottley have now gone mum, as Arthur continues to receive a tongue lashing both within and outside the party on account of his attack on his leader.
However, Joseph does not support those who say the St Peter MP should hang up his political boots over the issue. But he believes he owes the entire country a “loud and compelling” explanation for his recent actions.
“He is not convincing enough. I don’t want to judge him [but] the noise he made recently about his inability to work with Mia Mottley over her identifying him to sit on an Eminent Persons Group, this is not a fundamental and convincing reason.” In fact, Joseph said: “It sounds like an excuse rather than an explanation.”
A top party insider shared this view. The way he put though was that “Arthur’s reaction was out of proportion to the reason proffered”. He surmised that the entire situation was “very unfortunate” and he remains hopeful that Arthur will “fall in line” and that time will be a great healer of the BLP, which he said had suffered “great political damage” at a time when Government’s back was flat against the wall over the controversial issue of its impending layoffs.
Another party official, who was once very close to Arthur but is to now said to be on the Mottley side, said the development could not have come at a worse time, and he called on Arthur to behave more like a “statesman”.