The controversy surrounding the current Freundel Stuart administration and one of its members, Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick, is just the beginning of a major situation that could dismantle the Government, says a noted political scientist.
And Peter Wickham is cautioning Prime Minister Stuart that he should not ignore it.
Estwick, who is also Minister of Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, is contending that Government’s economic policy is on the wrong track.
But yesterday his plan to get Stuart and the full team of Cabinet to consider his alternative plan for saving the Barbados economy failed to materialize.
In assessing the situation, Wickham told Barbados TODAY it was “an awfully bad reflection on the Prime Minister and the leadership he is providing not only to the Democratic Labour Party, but the leadership he is providing to Barbados in this time of economic uncertainty”.
“It says two things to me; it says, one, that the Prime Minister does not have full control of his Government and it also says the Prime Minister does not have any regard for Dr Estwick’s opinion and he does not see Dr Estwick as a threat,” said Wickham.
“I am not convinced that the Prime Minister understands the extent to which Dr Estwick is a threat. I cannot think of any Prime Minister who is politically prudent, who understands the vulnerable position he is in, that would leave Dr Estwick out there on a limb in this kind of environment,” he added.
Comparing the political climate last year to what has obtained since Government embarked on its retrenchment exercise since the start of the year, Wickham said it could worsen.
“They still have a thousand more people to lay off which is the hard part about it. We are at the tip of the iceberg of retrenchment and already this is the problem. [God] knows what will happen when there are more layoffs and more of the ministers start to get uncomfortable with what is going on. This is really what is making them uncomfortable.
Wickham warned that Estwick had the capacity to bring down the Government given its slender two-seat majority in the House of Assembly. He also believes Estwick enjoys the support of the public in any of his decisions, adding that the public was clearly “not thrilled” by the current administration.
“While I personally argued in the past that Dr Estwick’s bark is bigger than his bite, I also think at the same time a Prime Minister should understand the delicate majority he holds in Parliament. [He] should also understand that he is very vulnerable to a man like Dr Estwick. I don’t think that somebody who is hurting the way he is hurting should be allowed to be out there wondering the streets of Barbados’ politics without concern over what he could do next,” said Wickham.
“[I]f he decides tomorrow that he is crossing the floor and running with the Opposition, the Government collapses, it is as simple as that. They cannot go back into Parliament or pass legislation. They cannot do anything,” he added.