The political gloves are coming off!
Former Prime Minister and Barbados Labour Party (BLP) leader, Owen Arthur, today tore into his successor, Mia Mottley, over the weekend decision of the Mottley-led BLP National Council to expel Christ Church West MP Dr Maria Agard from the party.
Labelling the action as nothing short of “despotism”, a visibly upset and emotional Arthur broke his silence on the matter in an interview with reporters on the steps of Parliament, saying he had a voice in this country and he intended for it to be heard.
“I have children and grandchildren that have to live in this country and my voice will be heard and my voice will be raised,” said Arthur, who also described Mottley’s actions as menacing.
In fact, he issued a stern warning to those whom he said were convincing Mottley that “she can just ride roughshod over the Barbados Labour Party” that “that there are those of us in Barbados who are going to stand up and she cannot ride roughshod over us”.
The former BLP leader, who left the party more than a year ago to go independent, also sought to set the record straight on Mottley’s removal from the BLP helm back in 2010.
Arthur made it clear that it was nothing compared to what was done last weekend to Dr Agard, adding that the Constitution of Barbados was clear on the matter of leadership of the Opposition.
“You become and you remain Leader of the Opposition by being able to command the support of those who don’t support the Government,” the former Prime Minister explained, saying there were fundamental issues which had led to Mottley’s removal as leader.
“She refused to respect the wishes of the majority, that the members of the Opposition said we have no choice in this matter but to follow the exact dictates of the Constitution of Barbados and we did it then with a difficult heart,” said Arthur, who led the 2010 uprising against Mottley after handing over the leadership of the party to her in 2008.
“You will remember that on the first occasion, they [members of the BLP parliamentary group] tried to do it, I refused to turn up at the meeting, because it was an overwhelmingly difficult thing to do, but Mia Mottley believes, and the group around her [Mottley followers] believe in this nonsense of her divine entitlement,” said Arthur.
Taking further issue with Dr Agard’s expulsion, Arthur noted that one of the charges leveled against the Christ Church West MP was that she did not attend four recent BLP nominations in the parish of Christ Church.
However, Arthur revealed that Mottley did not attend any meetings of his parliamentary group between 2010 and 2013, saying there was never any “urge to expel her”. He also pointed out that Mottley was free to express herself under his leadership.
“She came to this Parliament to a Budget reply, hand in hand with [Minister of Finance] Chris Sinckler and nobody thought that was reason to expel her. [Therefore] when I hear people being expelled for putting things in the media, there has to be full disclosure now,” the St Peter MP said.
In rolling out his very detailed charge sheet, Arthur criticised Mottley saying that “without the approval of the party” she had previously sought to commit the BLP to distributing condoms in prison.
The former BLP leader also accused Mottley of taking both the Labour Party and St Michael North MP Ronald Toppin apart during debate on the Paradise Hotel project, while revealing that he had written to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart back then begging him to ‘Please take her off our hands’.
However, Arthur stopped short of taking his political gloves completely off, though taking a swipe at the BLP’s General Secretary Dr Jerome Walcott and pollster Peter Wickham.
He said “the nation must know that the General Secretary of the Barbados Labour Party, not as general secretary, but in his own name, is one of the people who keep putting things in Cou Cou and Flying Fish [gossip] columns . . . and how can we now sit aside and allow a person who is putting things in the public media to try somebody for putting things in the public media. Are we mad?”
He also charged that the Labour Party had failed at the last election because of the tale of two polls but refused to go into details at this stage, saying “we will get to that at some stage”.
However, he revealed that “Mia Mottley had recently told her National Council that the BLP was a tarnished brand and that the people of Barbados, based upon a Wickham poll, don’t want the party to be in Government but that they want her to be prime minister of Barbados.
“That is the most dangerous doctrine and people in the Barbados Labour Party should not just . . . fall in line just in case, but they should be strong enough to speak out against what I call that despotism.
“And I must tell you, that if the next step in this is to try to bring down others who are man enough to stand up against despotism, then this is the saddest day ever for democracy in this country.
‘I have a voice in this country, I believe I am not being immodest that my voice has been a voice that the people of Barbados have heard now in active politics for over 30 years. I believe that they know what I am made of and what I am worth and that I don’t have to be forming any institutions or other things to be speaking in a manner in which I feel I should speak in this country.
Arthur went on: “I am speaking to you now in the name of my children and my grandchild. That I want to live in a country in which there is freedom of expression …. where no despot should feel that they should hold the future of my children in their hands.
“.. Mia Mottley is a menace … she is a menace because she is a despot [and] she believes that she has a right to be a despot. She tried to be a despot with me and I want to end by saying this “my parents sent me to school so that I will not be a boy in the yard for any despot in this country and I will be true to them and I will be true to my children by fighting this despotism that is taking place in Barbados.”
Arthur restated his reasons for leaving the BLP, saying he was proud to be a member of the BLP.
“You must believe me when I tell you that it was with a great sense of agony I left an institution that I supported for 41 years,” he said, recalling “when I left the Cave Hill Campus, I was a polling agent for the Barbados Labour Party in 1971.”
“Having given my life to the Labour Party, I saw it being reduced. It had lost its way and I had a duty to say so,” Arthur went on.
“It has lost its soul and I said then that as far as I was concerned, the Labour Party had become the institutional plaything of a megalomaniac and today I go further because all that is happening has confirmed that point of view, but sadly the Barbados Labour Party is now allowing itself to become no more than a cushion to bear the imprint of the object that is sitting upon it, and I use the word object rather than the preferred three letter word that I would use on this occasion. This is a sadness that is happening to a great institution. Mia Mottley is a despot and she believes that she has a right, divine entitlement to these things.
“Mia Mottley does not have a divine right to be a despot over us,” he emphasized.