Describing Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick’s discontent with Government’s economic policies as a ‘theatre of the absurd’, Owen Arthur is urging Barbados Labour Party members to ignore the minister and do the people’s business.
Appearing at a Christ Church Central West Central BLP branch meeting last night, Arthur told the group to forget hopes of an early election because the governing Democratic Labour Party will not vote itself out of office; to behave like a Government in waiting, and patiently use the time for reflection.
“I have come on a pilgrim’s progress to talk to you . . . At this moment of peril, the Barbados Labour Party must not allow itself to be distracted from having its focus on what should be foremost the people’s business,” Arthur said to some 100 party faithful of mostly rank and file members, with a noticeable absence of any party members of Parliament.
“I am asking the Barbados Labour Party to focus on this moment of history, 75 glorious years of heritage, especially in the management of the economy, and taking this country through all kinds of challenges . . . capture the spirit that must guide us on the way forward.”
Also present at the meeting were Arthur’s daughter and his grandchild, for whom he said the future could be in jeopardy, indicating it is the party’s job to prepare the way for coming generations.
“We’re going to have to focus and try to help create a country that gives them a chance to live in a better land than that with which I grew up.”
In making known his displeasure with what he sees as a distraction to the party with Estwick’s stated unhappiness at Government’s economic management, the former BLP leader pointed to a preoccupation with some party members.
“There is in this country a great distraction. It is as if there is a political pantomime being played out in the theatre of the absurd. And that pantomime is the behaviour of a Mr David Estwick,” he said, and added: “I’m asking the Barbados Labour Party to not allow its own political responses, nor its own political agenda or what it does in or outside of Parliament to be informed by the political pantomime.”
He then stressed a number of practices party members should discontinue: “. . . Stop being [dictated] by whether Estwick is going to come to Parliament to vote or not. . .; stop being concerned with whether Estwick is going to Cabinet or not . . . ; stop being concerned with whether Estwick is going to turn up to be a member sworn in as a member of Cabinet or not . . . ; stop, above all else, trying to create the public impression that by some political miracle Estwick is going to drop all of his devilishness and become a member of the Barbados Labour Party for the purpose of bringing down the Democratic Labour Party. It is foolishness”.
Drawing on phraseology of Barbadian elders, Arthur said, “If you see a fella fishing in a dry pond, leave him alone. He knows what he is doing,” and continued, “Estwick is fishing in a dry pond. Leave Estwick alone. Estwick knows what he is doing.”
Arthur, who led his party in Government for 14 years, lost two elections, and since announced he has no aspirations of returning to office, told the BLP members that they are not about to get into Government.
“Labour Party, do not encourage any cult of belief that you are going to bring down the government, or excite the expectation that things they are going to do are going to bring down the Government.”
He advised them not to look towards activity by the church, private sector, or the trade unions to bring down the Freundel Stuart administration, and recalled the futility of street protests 20 years ago.
“I want you to be reminded that in 1992-1993 Leroy Trotman and Ernie Smith took 13,000 people on a march, and all it did was to cause Mr Trotman to be referred in a calypso as the Grand Old Duke Of York. A march is not going to bring down a Government.”
Arthur pointed out that the fall of the government led by then Prime Minister [Sir Lloyd] Erskine Sandiford was caused by Democratic Labour Party MPs voting against the then Prime Minister.
“But those conditions do not right now exist in Barbados. And Labour Party, just [shed] yourself of false expectation, but prepare yourself for the fact that the next election will not be a week away, or a month today. Use this period for reflection, planning, getting your act together.”