Owen Arthur, who led the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) for 17 years, has quit that 76-year-old institution. Arthur, who handed in his letter of resignation today to take immediate effect, said the BLP had not only lost its direction and its soul, but was in danger of becoming a “plaything”.
“And I do not want to be a part of an institution that is a plaything,” the former Prime Minister added. In tracing the events, which led him to “wash his hands” of the party but remain in Parliament as an Independent, the former Opposition Leader said the BLP seemed to be no longer operating in its own name or functioning under its own symbols.
“I am resigning because I believe that the Labour Party has not only lost its way, but has also lost its soul. The Barbados Labour Party must stand for something. It has always been able to operate in its own name, function in its own name, ask the public to support it in its own name, inspire the confidence of the public by functioning in its own name and to hold up symbols of its identity as a political institution to inspire its members, to mobilize its members and to attract the support of the public,” he stated.
The St Peter representative stressed that when a party reached the stage on a fundamental matter where it could no longer function in its own name, be confident in its “own skin”, hold up its symbols it had used for 76 years and to inspire its own members, then it had lost its soul.
In a further swipe at the party under the leadership of Mia Mottley, he said: “In addition to issues of policy, it would so appear that the Barbados Labour Party asked the public to support it in a march, not by saying, we will march, or we invite you to march, but I will walk.
“It tells me that this institution has, in addition to other strong evidence, this institution has now been made a plaything and is in danger of becoming a victim of what I can only call megalomaniac tendencies; and I do not want to be a part of an institution that is a plaything, and that allows itself to be become the victim of megalomaniac tendencies,” Arthur insisted.
He said, too, that for the past 76 years, the BLP had been able to hold up its own standard, which is “red”.
“We’ve always used ‘red’ as the rallying cry to bring people to our cause; it is something that I have always worn with pride. Today I wear a red shirt with pride. I have signed my letter of resignation from the Barbados Labour Party, with a red pen with pride; and the Barbados Labour Party, if it’s to have pride in its own identity as an institution, must have pride in its symbols that have defined it; differenciated it,” he said.
He suggested that when people could therefore be invited to a march behind symbols other than those of the party, it was no different from a people repudiating their Flag.
“I cannot be part of an institution which so vandalises and destroys its own heritage. So I have come to that point where frankly, if I felt that there could be any useful purpose for me to be functioning in this institution and to be of poitive benefit to the institution and to the country, I would not be doing what I am doing today,” stated the former prime minister.
However, he made it clear, the decision to resign was not an easy one.
“You must believe me when I tell you that this is a difficult decision, it is a painful decision; but it is a necessary decision, because I would not be true to my parents, the people who elected me, to my children, my grandchild and to myself, if I would continue just for a bankrupt reason, to serve an institution which I so deeply believed has lost its way and has lost its soul,” Arthur lamented.
The MP for St Peter noted that he had agonized over his decision to quit and did not take it lightly. In fact, the former Prime Minister told the country if he could have remained in the party and continued to serve it, he would have, “but I can’t”.
Arthur said he did not want to continue to be perceived as a strife-maker in the party, saying: “I’m too old fuh dat.”
“. . . So that I have really, for the betterment of this institution and myself, to say goodbye to it.”
Quoting from Psalm 137, he also said: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and there we wept, when we remembered Zion; but they took us away to captivity and required of us a song, but how can I sing the Lord’s song in strange land.
“And that is the message with which I leave the Barbados Labour Party for ever and for ever.”