Prime Minister Freundel Stuart brought the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) to victory in 2013. Victory came not because of his strength, but despite his weaknesses. Additionally, Mr. Stuart fought a weakened political leader attempting a come-back of sorts, and a political party that was cracked from top to bottom.
It is seldom a cherished thing to publicly unclothe a prime minister given the traditional respect that Barbadians have for these men, and hopefully by the end of the next general elections, a woman. Of course, one can go back to Stuart’s first budget response after the DLP returned to government in 2008.
There, you would realize that the
man who eventually became Barbados’ seventh prime minister, was clinical in telling a story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Perhaps, Stuart ought to be a storyteller, given that his political leadership appears skewed from the norms, and is patently weak.
The fact is, across Barbados and the diaspora, persons are crying out for effective national leadership so that the economy and society can overcome many
of the hurdles this small nation faces.
At this juncture, and among his Cabinet, there are individuals concluding that the stopgap of Stuart is not working, and has become dispensable.
This assessment is likely to be one of the main reasons that Donville Inniss is contesting for the presidency of the DLP, and Dr David Estwick’s intermittent divergences from the notion of collective responsibility go without serious censure. More rabid in the scheme of public administration, are the repeated failures of the Stuart-led Cabinet.
Barbados’ citizens and residents continue to be vociferous in their disgust and frustration. Undoubtedly, much of the consternation and growing resentment is directed specifically to Stuart’s long periods of hush and do nothing. When he does act, the very untimeliness reveals a man too flippant to pull together disparate sections of Barbadians or to offer durable hope to the nation’s youth, aged, businesses, and families.
Stuart’s anecdotes which are often laced with insults, also reveal a weakness for effective communication despite him holding the most important executive position in Barbados. For instance, in attempting to push back against the expedient alliance between labour unions and strong portions of the private sector, the Stuart-led administration became vitriolic in its rhetoric and the initial prompt to make the next Social Partnership meeting an unmerited spectacle.
One must wonder the extent that Stuart, as a student of history and politics, learned anything from Erskine (now Sir Lloyd) Sandiford in 1992. Sir Lloyd said then: “When tough, albeit painful decisions have to be taken, we must do so in a concerted and resolute manner with the knowledge that there is a purpose for doing so, and that is our survival and that of our children, as well as the maintenance of a standard of living to which we have become accustomed. The days of out-and-out political harangue, partisan politicking, political hypocrisy and hyperbole should be set aside for honest and constructive criticism and political maturity.”
Sadly, Stuart may be so entrenched in his style of doing things that he does not have the nimble flexibility to be decisive, nor does he project any of the charm effect that is associated with charismatic leaders. A critique of a prime minister’s leadership is by no means a step in the direction of disrespect, as some DLP supporters would want to contend.
Instructively, the great revolutionary Frantz Fanon, in Black Skin, White Masks, informs us that: “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
There must be some compassion for Stuart given that he probably bit off much more than he can chew. However, such empathy ought not to give him any hint of endorsement or victory at the polls ever again. The march held last Monday demonstrated a form of oppositional politics in which there was a public collective challenge against Stuart’s dismissiveness.
Labour and capital perceived their common interest relating to the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) and other tax measures which emerged out of Christopher Sinckler’s 2017 Budget. Perhaps, Stuart assumed that his silence or unwillingness to meet with the social partners would preserve the integrity of policy actions which are sure to bring even more hurt and a higher cost of living for Barbadians. Yet, all those who marched were conscious of maintaining the fight.
The resistance to Stuart and the DLP was phenomenal and was estimated to be 20,000 marching on a hot morning compounded by intermittent rain. The workers, businesses, consumers, and Barbadian families
marched to gain their freedom from a beleaguered regime. Barbadian workers, aided by capital interest, felt sufficiently pressed into survival mode with the unchanging character of the Prime Minister, and the rigid and harsh positions taken by the Cabinet.
Fanon incidentally warned that: “When we revolt, it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.” Barbadians would prefer a growing economy and a healing and productive society. Certainly, Barbadians have always had to struggle for the ‘right to life and social liberty’.
Therefore, at the dawn of another anniversary of our emancipation, it is important that Prime Minister Stuart realises the struggle of today remains one of rights and freedoms. For many Barbadians, their right to life and a good quality life is threatened by the policies of the current Minister of Finance.
Moreover, our social liberty remains under threat when such things as gun violence, and an astonishing murder rate so far for this year are forcing residents and communities to shudder with fear. Barbadians will no longer tolerate delay, indecisiveness and silence on the issues affecting them daily.
With an announcement for general elections drawing nearer, it is becoming clearer that Stuart’s leadership is growing feeble. He needs to do a little more listening to the voices of the masses; all that is expressed by the nation is not discordant or unreasonable.
I wish all Barbadians a safe, enjoyable and memorable Emancipation Day. Something must be said and done, Mr Stuart!