Christ Church West MP Dr Maria Agard is to be tried in the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) court and faces possible expulsion if found wanting.
The embattled Opposition MP will have to appear before the party’s national council on November 22 to answer to a total of nine charges.
And while BLP MPs have been barred from speaking publicly on the matter until then, Barbados TODAY has been informed of details of the charge sheet, which seems to be emanating from her recent public utterances in the midst of a bitter internal tussle with party officials over the election of an executive for her branch.
Dr Agard has raised the ire of the Mia Mottley-led national council which has taken umbrage at the fact that she recently appeared to be critical of her party in certain sections of the media.
In fact, she has been accused of embarrassing the party and of making utterances that were “inimical” to the BLP.
Mottley and other top officials have also taken issue with “some nasty Facebook posts” as well as the fact that Dr Agard did not attend the October 23-25 annual conference of the BLP nor four recent nominations in Christ Church.
The Christ Church West MP, who was elected in 2013, is further accused of acting contrary to the BLP dating back to 2012.
Also of concern is her opposition to the fact that the Christ Church West annual general meeting was suspended on September 20 Party officials, in summoning her to the November 22 meeting, contend that Dr Agard “should well know” that a vote was taken at that meeting.
Dr Agard is yet to speak out publicly in her own defence. However, retired trade unionist Dennis Clarke and political scientist Tennyson Joseph have weighed in on the ongoing rift within the Opposition ranks.
It was in February that it first emerged that all was not well between Dr Agard and the BLP when at a meeting of the national council she raised strong exception to what she saw as undue interference in the inner workings of her constituency branch.
She was said to be particular peeved over a proposal by some branch executives to convene, without reference to her, a meeting to discuss the 2013 general election results in which she defeated the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) candidate Verla DePeiza by 500 votes in what has traditionally been a safe BLP seat.
Party sources told Barbados TODAY at the time that Dr Agard was being forced to look over her shoulder because BLP general secretary Dr Jerome Walcott was looking oust her. Dr Walcott has since announced he won’t run in Christ Church South, but has yet to rule out contesting another constituency.
The relationship between Dr Agard and the executives of both the branch and the party has become so corroded by mistrust and anger that she refused to attend the party’s recent annual conference. Several other meetings aimed at “healing” have failed to materialize due to the absence of either the MP or Mottley.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY this morning, Clarke did not mention Mottley by name, but blamed the deteriorating conditions on indecisive leadership.
“I thought it is something that should have been nipped in the bud. I don’t think it should have been allowed to reach where it has reached, where it has become now a public debate,” said the retired trade union boss.
“Years ago that would not have happened, especially with a man like [late Prime Minister] Tom Adams and it would have been settled and yuh hear ‘bout it and yuh move on.
“You see, Tom Adams had his style, [ former Prime Minister Errol] Barrow had his style . . . But the thing about it is, whether you like it or not, they dealt decisively with what the issue was and were prepared to bear the consequences, ‘cause they’re showing, ‘I’m the leader.’ That is what decision-making is,” contended the former NUPW boss.
However, political scientist Dr Tennyson Joseph told Barbados TODAY he was not buying the argument of indecisive leadership.
“The variable that nobody has control over is of the way [Dr] Agard chooses to respond. So when you are a political leader you have no control over how the person is going to respond,” he said.
Following the suspension of the branch meeting on September 20 over the voters’ list, Dr Agard issued a statement in which she contended that Mottley “commanded the abortion of the election” halfway through the process. She vowed at the time not to attend the rescheduled meeting on September 27, nor would she work with new executive.
Referring to Dr Agard as a relative political novice, Joseph stressed that “something has to give” in the ongoing dispute.
“What I find interesting in this whole situation is if you look at [Dr] Maria Agard in and of herself, she is relatively a first-time parliamentarian, relatively green, and she is acting in a way that suggests someone of tremendous political power. So obviously if I were to make a very blunt assessment I would say that she is politically naïve … in the way she’s approaching whatever the issue is,” Joseph said.
Joseph, who is the head of the department of government, sociology and social work at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, described Dr Agard’s position as “an open challenge to the leadership” of the BLP, stating that “somebody who is a very minor person in a party cannot expect to win a victory in an open challenge to a seasoned leader with a seasoned institution behind her.”
Nine charges –
1. Giving information to the Nation newspaper
2. Making utterances inimical to the Barbados Labour Party
3. Giving information to the Nation newspaper that embarrassed the Barbados Labour Party
4. Speaking to journalist David Ellis
5. Writing some nasty posts on Facebook
6. Not attending the BLP Annual Conference from October 23-25
7. Not attending four recent BLP nominations in Christ Church
8. Over a period of time, dating back to 2012, acting contrary to the BLP
9. Opposing the fact that the Christ Church West AGM was suspended when she should well know that a vote was taken.