Political scientist George Belle says last week’s Estimates Debate will go down as a missed opportunity by the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to halt the business of Government and effectively bring down the Freundel Stuart administration.
From all he had seen and heard, the outspoken Belle said it was clear to him that the BLP was not ready to take charge
of the country.
In this regard, he was especially critical of the former leader Owen Arthur, while charging that the Labour Party had failed to maximise its presence in the Parliament and to take advantage of the Government’s weaknesses.
“If you are going to have an Appropriations Bill, a vote on the Estimates, and there is a closeness in the Parliamentary numbers, I do not see why you would not maximise your presence in Parliament to take advantage of any weakness in Government,” Belle told Barbados TODAY in an interview.
“To say that he was not going to take advantage of that moment means that he does not want to do anything to bring down the Government at this time,” he added.
The University of the West Indies political scientist has therefore taken issue with Arthur’s explanation tendered at the weekend for his absence from the Chamber at the time the Estimates vote was taken.
Addressing a meeting of the BLP’s Christ Church West Central branch on Sunday, the St Peter MP revealed that some Opposition MPs had broken ranks on a decision which was made around lunchtime on Friday to support the passage of the Estimates and to circumvent the need for a divide.
At that meeting, Arthur pointed out that the Opposition stood to lose the vote in any case, since it was evident by then that Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick would be supporting the measure, giving the ruling Democratic Labour Party the upper hand in the vote, despite his public dissatisfaction with the Government’s economic programme.
However, Belle was adamant today that Arthur should have upheld the position of the party.
He interpreted the absence of the St Peter representative at the time of the vote to mean that “he is not prepared to bring down the Government at this moment”.
“I don’t know if the party agrees with that because they might be looking for any opportunity to bring down the Government,” Belle said.
He also pointed out that Estwick had said that he did not want to bring down the Government or cause any such thing because it would have implications for the funding of Government activity.
“It would bring the Government to a halt, so Mr Arthur could be of the same view that he does not want to halt the business of Government [so] let them pass the money and then you can address things further down the road,” stated Belle.
In further taking issue with Arthur’s comments, he suggested that the former Prime Minister had usurped the leadership position in the BLP by suggesting that the Minister of Agriculture should not set the pace or the timing of the BLP and that the party must act independently in its own judgement of the political situation.
“I think that that is an important distinction because otherwise it would mean that Dr Estwick could choose the time and the moment to involve the [BLP] in a particular outcome,” argued Belle.
He charged that Arthur still “had not resolved in himself if he wants to lead the party or not”.
“What he did was the action of a leader but he is not the leader [of the party] but the position that he took is a position that a leader would take . . . . Even if he says he does not want to lead it, he has not apparently resolved within himself that he is not the leader of the Barbados
In a separate comment on the matter, former BLP general secretary George Griffith said he found nothing unusual about Arthur’s comments at the weekend. He said Arthur freely spoke his mind at the meeting and it was well received.
“I don’t think we have to be worried about who don’t like it,” noting that the BLP has always operated as a democracy and no one person has a monopoly or should feel they have a right to dictate.