Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur reluctantly gave some political advice today to the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP), which is currently embroiled in controversy.
Amid a bitter public standoff between Christ Church West Member of Parliament Dr Maria Agard and the party hierarchy, Arthur, who last year resigned from the BLP which he led for more than 14 years and now sits as an independent MP, is telling the party to keep its internal business out of the public domain so that it does not become a subject of public discussion.
Labeling the standoff within the Christ Church West constituency branch a “political tragedy”, Arthur told reporters before going into the House of Assembly for today’s sitting that “there is both the appearance and the reality of a civil war in the Barbados Labour Party”.
Reluctant to comment on the issue which has resulted in MP Dr Maria Agard being summoned before the National Council on nine disciplinary charges, Arthur said now was the time for the BLP to demonstrate that it could manage its affairs and “offer the people of Barbados the reality and the appearance of a safe harbour and that is not what is happening.
“The responsibility of the leadership of the party at this time must be to take its affairs adversely out of the front pages as it is at present,” the former BLP leader said.
Arthur noted this was not the first time that the Opposition party had faced turbulence within its camp. He pointed out that on one occasion in his almost 14 years at the helm of a BLP Government, certain members had stormed out of a Cabinet meeting and the public was unaware.
“ . . . Because it was not the public’s business, it was the Labour Party’s business,” he emphasized. “And believe me what is happening now is child’s play as compared to many of the things that had happened.”
The former Prime Minister expressed the view that with the matter now out in the public domain, there was no graceful way to solve the problem. He also knocked political pundits commenting on the standoff.
“This bringing out of the so-called big guns to help fight the fight is merely to allow the public to know that because of the rattle of musketry, that a war is going on, that the bringing out of the Comissiongs and the Wickhams, the Hoytes and all the others is merely to say that there is a fight and some people have been asked to fight on a side. So, take the matter out of the public domain, settle it quietly,” he said.
“I am saying that all those so-called social pundits and so on, the Labour Party would do well if they would leave the Labour Party business alone because all they are doing is perpetuating the concept that there is a civil war and nobody has no doubt on who has been brought out on what side.
“I don’t want to be talking about it. I am hurting the Barbados Labour Party by talking about it and that’s why they have to reach the stage where the public is not talking about their internal affairs. That’s the only solution to this.”
Pressed to comment on suggestions that the upheaval in Christ Church West was a result of the party making way for his return to the fold, Arthur said: “I don’t get involved with political buffoonery and again that is part of the foolishness that is happening.
“I have left the Barbados Labour Party, it is well with my soul. I am not even running in the next election so how could I go back, to what? And this is the kind of foolishness that is now titillating this . . . Deal with the matter. They have to deal with it as comrades and colleagues, not as adversaries.”
He made it clear that the BLP needed to nip the situation quickly in order to prevent the public from discussing the matter and instead “talk about things that matter to the welfare of the country”.
“The Barbados democracy and the progress and the stability of the country require two strong vibrant institutions that project their own capabilities to manage their affairs and to manage the country’s affairs and that is what is not happening,” he said.