Dr Maria Agard has broken her silence and the embattled Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) Member of Parliament for Christ Church West has made it clear there will be no retreat and no surrender to the forces seeking to drive her from the seat.
In fact, she has sounded a warning to anyone planning to extract her from the seat she won in the 2013 general election that she was prepared for battle.
“There is absolutely no possibility that I am going to abandon the constituents of Christ Church West who have vested their confidence in me. If anyone feels they can represent Christ Church West better than I can, let them come and face me and let the constituents decide,” a confident Dr Agard told Barbados TODAY in an exclusive interview this afternoon.
Just yesterday, a former senior member of the BLP’s Christ Church West branch told Barbados TODAYthat the branch’s executive and other members of the party were ready to support anyone but the doctor as the candidate for the next election.
However, while stating that she would not be drawn into any “guerrilla warfare”, Dr Agard insisted that she was prepared to defend herself and her constituents at any cost.
“I don’t believe that an opposition political party can be so arrogant as to think it has the luxury to cannibalize itself. I am going to have no part of any guerrilla warfare with any other members of the BLP. I am an elected official and I will diligently do the job that I have to do,” she emphasized.
“Barbados is still a democratic country and as long as it is a democratic country, where the will of the people is paramount, I will respect the will of the people. Those in Christ Church West spoke in the last election and they spoke resoundingly. They have asked me to serve them and that is exactly what I am going to do.
“And more than serve them, I intend to rise above the tribalism that once characterized politicians in the past,” Dr Agard maintained.
She revealed that having joined the BLP in 1999, she has served as president and vice-president of the branch, as well as assistant general secretary and second vice-president of the party.
A dentist by profession, she recalled going on a sabbatical from 2005 to 2007 to open her practice, and the BLP requesting that she return to the party and serve as president of the branch once again.
Responding to accusations that she collaborated with Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth Stephen Lashley to stage a football competition, Dr Agard admitted co-hosting the joint family fun day. But the MP explained that she saw nothing wrong with such a venture.
“Can you honestly believe that people would complain about that? In the first place we staged an Independence competition…at what better time should there be unity amongst all leaders than at Independence?” she contended.
“He is the Minister of Sports, Youth and Culture, and therefore it makes him the most likely person to who (sic) I would refer for sporting requests.
“But above that, the young adults and the community practitioners of Sargeants Village – and Stephen Lashley and I, we share borders in Sargeants Village – the young people came to us and they said that they were not happy about treating Sargeants Village as two independent constituencies
. . . and I was more than happy to agree to work with Stephen Lashley if that is what was going to make the young people in my constituency happy,” Dr Agard added.
She told Barbados TODAY that although she did not attend this evening’s meeting of the Executive Council, there was no rift between her and the BLP.
Dr Agard said she sent a letter to the party’s General Secretary Dr Jerome Walcott outlining the reasons for her absence.
At a meeting of the BLP’s National Executive Council (NEC) in February, Dr Maria Agard raised strong exception to what she saw as undue interference in the inner workings of her constituency branch.
She expressed particular unease over a proposal by some branch executives to convene, without reference to her, a meeting to discuss the 2013 general election results in her constituency.
Party sources said at the time that Dr Agard was forced to look over her shoulder with Dr Walcott, who lost consecutive elections in neighbouring Christ Church South, looking to replace her.
The issue has raised its head again since the BLP General Secretary’s recent announcement that he would no longer contest Christ Church South, but not stating explicitly whether he would consider running in another constituency.