A stern warning to the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) from one of its own that it risks losing the Christ Church West seat if it fails to address the controversy surrounding the candidacy of sitting Member of Parliament Dr Maria Agard responsibly.
Member of Parliament for St James Central Kerrie Symmonds cautioned that the BLP must ensure that it does not lose credibility by creating added problems in the traditionally safe seat.
Dr Agard has been embroiled in a battle with the hierarchy of the constituency branch and has made it clear she would not work with the recently elected executive.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY at the Welches Primary School where he attended a presentation ceremony of tablets to Class 3 students by the Aron Christina Foundation, Symmonds called on his party to bring all sides together to settle the row.
“I feel that the best interest of the Barbados Labor Party is for us to have an audience with a cross section of views. We will not govern successfully if we fail to accept a cross section of views,” he advised.
The former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) member said the BLP must be mature in its handling of the dispute, warning it would be “a very dangerous thing” of it allowed the “fire of controversy” to spread through the constituency.
“We have to be very sensible and mature about how we proceed on this matter. Between St John and Christ Church West there are nine seats. We hold only one of those nine seats. It’s a very dangerous thing when fire of controversy catches in the only seat we have out of those nine and we stand by and watch it burn because it raises in people’s minds how wise we are in trying to capture the other eight. I don’t think it’s a successful route to capture the other eight if you put yourself in danger of losing the one that you have,” he said.
Following the suspension of the annual general meeting of the branch on September 20 due to confusion over the voters’ list, Dr Agard issued a statement challenging the reasons, describing the claims of discrepancies as misleading. She also threatened to boycott the rescheduled meeting which was set for September 27, a threat she would later carry out.
“As the elected Member of Parliament for Christ Church West I have the onerous duty of now trying to contain the damage and disapproval of the manner in which members of this Branch have been treated. They have signaled to me, that they repudiate the violation of their rights, by the suspension of the properly constituted meeting last Sunday, and will take no further part in what they consider to be a farcical exercise scheduled for September 27,” she said in the statement.
“I too, refuse to lend legitimacy to this meeting with my presence, and further I have determined that I shall not recognize any Executive appointed under these circumstances for the term 2015 to 2016.”
Symmonds said his party risks losing sight of what was important, such as the economic squeeze in which Barbadians are caught.
“We have a fiscal consolidation programme put in place by the Government of Barbados. They have in this year committed to the IMF [International Monetary Fund] to cut the transfers and subsidies to statutory corporations by $200 million. They either privatize – which the Government said they will not do; they can shut them down or they can merge two or three together to make one in every case.
“However you do it, the inescapable conclusion is that we will lose probably 2,000 or so jobs and that is a matter about which the BLP has to be at the forefront in keeping the Government on its toes demanding a full accountability and a national consensus as to how we are going to manage that process . . . Those are the things the party has to be careful it doesn’t become distracted and lose sight of,” the MP explained.
BLP leader Mia Mottley was widely expected to address the subject at last week’s nomination of Ralph Thorne as the party’s candidate for Christ Church South.
However, Mottley sidestepped the issue saying the nomination meeting was not the proper forum.
“Those who have come this evening expecting things that I do not consider to be appropriate tonight, I regret that you have come for that reason. And those who have come to understand what the BLP is about and where we are going, I am glad you have come for this reason,” she pointed out.
She then switched the conversation to the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP), saying it had failed to recognize the need for proper representation.