There is nothing wrong in change, if it is in the right direction. To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often – Sir Winston Churchhill, 23 June 1925.
It is a pity that it took Prime Minister Freundel Stuart six years to hold his first serious engagement with members of the press.
However, based on the substance and relative ease with which our leader manoeuvred Friday’s “press conference”, we are left to ponder how much that has gone wrong with our country could have been made right, had our leader spoken up much sooner.
For one, it seems to us that much of the needless Cahill rancour could have been avoided when one considers the months of controversy, rampant speculation and toing and froing, only to be assured at this 12th hour by our Prime Minister that there was never really anything to worry about, since neither he nor the country’s Solicitor General had given approval to any plasma gasification project.
It leaves us to wonder what else Dr David Estwick, Denis Kellman, Darcy Boyce, Chris Sinckler and not least of all Dr Denis Lowe have been blowing hot air about, since, as our Prime Minister assures, he is never going to commit Barbados to anything that he himself isn’t sure about.
Equally telling was the Prime Minister’s stance on the whole Mark Maloney versus Mark Cummins affair. For a while there, based on the utterances of Donville Inniss and the like, we were beginning to think that it was the town planner who was out of step with Government’s way of doing things. But alas! Stuart spoke to the press and suddenly it seems again that the tail is not wagging the dog, at least when it comes to the affairs of the office of the Chief Town Planner.
While we await final adjudication on the troublesome island and gas station at Coverley, Christ Church, as well as the Rock Hard Cement base at Spring Garden, St Michael, it does seem for the moment at least that our leader needs to speak more and some of his ministers a lot less, if they are to ultimately save face and avoid our Prime Minister’s stern rebuff. But do they care? We think not!
Still appreciation must always be given to the fact that under our system, the Prime Minister is primus inter pares.
And, if only in a symbolic way, during Friday’s press conference our leader took charge again, as he stood and competently fielded questions from members of the Fourth Estate on almost every hot button issue imaginable.
Never once did he recoil, but was both confident and competent, and most credible, as he faced every question fired at him at all angles from some of this island’s most menacing press men and women.
It was surprising to learn that fowl cocks now inhabit the official residence at Ilaro Court, even though it all seemed to blend in with the character of our Prime Minister who is not about ‘putting on airs’, but has a genuineness about him; is full of wit; and not for extravagance, except for his healthy helping of tomatoes and Bajan pepper sauce during lunch.
However, even after hearing his very detailed explanation of Government’s move to repay the ten per cent pay cut to Members of Parliament and other senior officials, we still feel that the timing of the restoration is a bit off, considering that workers at the National Conservation Commission, who were dealt the hardest blow of the 19-month Fiscal Consolidation Programme, are still out of work and out of pay.
For us therefore, it is not a matter of if the Prime Minister deserves over $20,000 per month having “endured” a pay cut since 2014, but the morality and ethics of such, given that so many of the 3,000 public officers who were recently laid off still can’t afford bread, much less break bread.
Equally hard to swallow is the situation facing residents in St Peter, St Joseph, St Thomas and especially those in White Hill, St Andrew, who are now in a state of “despair”.
With $17,000 per month in salary and allowances afforded by the State, either Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley or his colleague Lowe could choose, if they so desire, to enter into a new vehicle lease arrangement with Transtec for brand new Mercedes Benz, but it has to be asked, at whose expense?
We therefore feel that the restoration should be left until after some of these hot-button issues are settled.
It may give the Prime Minister the appetite he needs to consider elections. And as was the case with his press luncheon, result in a needed disarming of critics.
We certainly have walked away from Friday’s event feeling much more comfortable that our Prime Minister is indeed listening; that he is not tired and has not run out of answers, but may be a bit too preoccupied with process – nothing that a visit to White Hill to meet directly with residents, as well as other conscientious efforts to answer the call of his people, certainly could not cure.
In fact, they could well extend his political life beyond 2018 since a day in politics is an eternity and a little effort goes a very long way in these parts.