Maria Agard turned a Barbados Labour Party branch meeting yesterday almost into a meet-and-greet session, declaring herself fit, healthy and ready to resume her once robust service to Christ Church West.
The Member of Parliament’s constituency branch meeting came against a backdrop of rumoured devastating ill health that made her unable to continue representing the people, and suggestions that a party colleague who lost elections in a neighbouring constituency might be eyeing her district for a takeover amid alleged unrest among the membership.
“Today I stand here in my best body for this time . . . . I am more than happy to put my challenges of last year behind me,” the dentist said to much applause from party branch members at the Arthur Smith Primary School.
She conceded there was illness, though not as bad as gossiped, that was now past.
“For those who expressed concern about my health, I am not dying, as people said . . . . Fear not about my health; I’m going to be here for a long time.”
No branch member raised the issue of alleged ambitions for her seat by any other party member, but in assuring constituents of her dedication, Agard said: “I am not one to play with what I fought for.”
Later telling media members of her firm grip on the electoral district, she said: “Winning by 500 votes is no
On her termination of the meeting after some 65 minutes of talking, to make good on a constituency church invitation, members flocked the MP for an outpouring of hugs and other greetings.
Fielding questions about anything and everything earlier during the meeting in an apparent tell-all effort, Agard
nonetheless set limits on personal affairs.
“I am sure that most of you would appreciate that your health issues are your own personal matters, and likewise my health issues are my personal matters.”
Having clarified that the sickness was now behind her, Agard related how the interruption had taken a toll on her work.
“Before I became ill, people knew Maria Agard as a worker, and therefore my limitations as a result of my health were stark. I went from being somebody who was always on the ground, always engaging the constituency, always in a church, always doing things, to someone that you hardly saw.”
She describe the effort to recover as a “battle” but, “I took the necessary time to heal the way that God allowed me to heal, and the way that my doctors facilitated me”.
Said Agard: “I am grateful to my constituents who gave me sufficient space and time to heal . . . . I have returned to the streets, and all that I hear is ‘Maria, we heard that you were not well, you looking better than ever, we’re happy to see you’.”
The MP said that though absent for a while, the support work for constituents never missed a beat, as her office remained active.
“I can assure you that the work of this constituency was done and was done every day.”
“By God’s grace I am going to be here for a very long time, having resumed my portfolio, and I am more than happy to continue serving the constituents of Christ Church West.”
That service, she said, extended even to people outside her geographical district, “who don’t even belong to Christ Church West, and that is the way we operate”.
Stating that her office was guided by a programme of advocacy and social empowerment, she said “all of our welfare cases we have addressed . . . ; there are people that I found disenfranchised, right here in St Matthias”.
She spoke of a homeless man who through her representation is now “comfortably” housed.
“He no longer has to sleep in a pasture. But he is not the only one,” she said and gave examples of fire victims.
“Everyone of them has been housed . . . from as far as St Michael South.”
Agard was dismissive of suggestions that as the BLP elected representative more should have been done in the district.
“Week after week, day after day, there are things happening in this constituency to which I am invited, to which I go. I might not be able to go to everything; I am not able to make everybody happy.
“The good that you do is usually whispered, and the deficiencies are usually shouted.”
The parliamentarian said talk of disagreements among her supporters was expected as normal.
“In any branch, this is politics . . . ; we are not always going to have a smooth ride. But this much I will say to you, I am 100 per cent committed to the interests of the residents of Christ Church West, to advancing the interests of the Barbados Labour Party, to national development and ensuring that Barbadians are empowered and strengthened.”
The first-timer to Parliament saw a bright side to the rumours surrounding her over the past weeks.
“The finest steel must endure the hottest fire. So I am more than happy to say that the hottest fire will bring forth the finest steel in me, and for all that might have been said and done over the past four weeks, I can honestly say that I’ve have had one of my best four weeks in politics.”