Two recents statements by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart this past weekend are worthy of public record. The first was in reaction to Owen Arthur’s sudden resignation from the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), and the next to the BLP Leader Mia Mottley’s “white march” last Thursday.
For Mr Stuart, Mr Arthur’s resignation from the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) after 43 years came as no surprise. Neither too, we must add, was Mr Stuart’s equally sudden recovery from the apathy that seems to beset him at times, keeping him mum on important national issues.
In an almost immediate response to Friday’s move by Mr Arthur, Mr Stuart, who has been noticeably absent from the recent debate on the Municipal Solid Waste Tax, as well as that to do with Moody’s latest negative report on Barbados’ economic performance, sought to make use of the bitter Arthur-Mottley split for all its worth politically.
In the full glare of the public, Mr Arthur called it quits last Friday, telling whoever would listen that his departure was not on account of old age, as some would have preferred him to say, but due the fact that, in his eyes, his beloved party, with which he had spent 43 years, had lost its way.
It was a big slap in face to Mottley and the BLP.
On this occasion, Mr Stuart didn’t even stop to clear his throat. Though still not fast enough to beat his media savvy Minister of Commerce to the microphone, Mr Stuart would follow closely behind in extending a hand of support to one of his greatest political foes –– Owen Arthur –– who though obviously pained and conflicted, would have seen the offer for what it was, and therefore has said enough this past weekend to indicate to Mr Stuart and indeed the entire DLP, thanks but no thanks, as he prepares to make his own “Independent” bed, so to speak.
But even if Mr Arthur was contemplating crossing the floor to join forces with the ruling DLP –– as incredible as that all seems –– we believe he would have been left with more than a second thought after hearing for himself the presentation of Mr Stuart’s offer, coloured as it was in his usual cunning and guile.
Citing a historical example of a sitting BLP Member of Parliament –– at the time representing what is now Mr Arthur’s constituency of St Peter –– resigning to cross the floor and join the then governing DLP led by Errol Barrow, a visible tickled Stuart suggested Mr Arthur was now free to follow the example of history.
“Sooner or later, Members of Parliament get to realize that the Barbados Labour Party is not the place to be . . . . If Mr Arthur has now got to the stage of this realization, I am glad for him . . . . I’m glad that he has seen the light; the light was there ever since,” the Prime Minister quipped.
In much the same way, Mr Stuart was dismissive of Ms Mottley’s march, pointing out that the Opposition Leader had managed to secure more votes in the last election that she was able to muster in terms of participation for last week’s demonstration.
But that thousands of Barbadians –– whether it be 3,000 or 5,000, as the Opposition and its publicists are claiming –– saw it fit to march in solidarity against the Government’s onerous tax, should be of concern to our dear Prime Minister.
Indeed, the total number of marchers cannot and should not be confused with the sum of concerns levelled over the controversial tax.
Instead of going the politically expedient route of pouring cold water on a demonstration that was meant to give public voice to those disadvantaged by the tax, we believe a more caring response was in order from our leader, who while he is at it, might even do Ms Mottley the courtesy of breaking with protocol on this occasion and walking over to his permanent secretary’s office for a read of her correspondence on the Solid Waste Tax.
It certainly does no one any good for the Prime Minister to persist with his public boast that he hasn’t even seen her letter as yet, while acknowledging that the letter from the Leader of the Opposition is in his reach.
With the country so delicately poised politically, Mr Stuart needs only to cast his mind back a little to recent problems in his own camp.
As they say a day in politics is a long time. Today Ms Mottley’s back may be against the wall, but tomorrow his may well be. Mr Stuart also knows only too well that today’s governing politicians will be tomorrow’s Opposition.