Minister of International Business, Industry, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss is making it clear that no one, not even his boss, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, will shut him up.
In fact, Inniss told Barbados TODAY that as long as he was the Member of Parliament for St James South he would continue to speak out on issues that affect his constituents, even if his views conflicted with those of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration.
However, he dismissed any suggestion that his candidness was his way of seeking to displace, or replace, Stuart as DLP leader and Prime Minister.
“In any organization, as long as you are strong enough to express an opinion, sometimes which may conflict to other members of the organization, you are viewed as someone who wants to take over the leadership. I don’t subscribe to that view. Whether there is a vacancy for prime ministership or not, I intend to continue to speak my mind,” the unpredictable minister said without a hint of regret.
“I don’t think I am reckless. My thoughts as far as I am concerned are well informed. Some may say I am shooting from the hip, but whatever missile is shot from the hip, believe you me, it is guided by a brain that functions and a brain that has a level of independence.
“There are issues that Prime Minister Stuart takes a stance on and I am very much opposed to and I tell him. There is nothing that I have said in the public domain that can be construed as a divergent perspective from Mr Stuart that I have not discussed with Mr Stuart. So I am not disturbed by that,” Inniss said.
The two-term parliamentarian’s regular public criticism of the administration, particularly Stuart’s leadership style, has led many to believe he has been campaigning for replace the DLP leader.
Inniss was one of the so-called Eager 11 who, in 2011, were said to be moving to oust the DLP leader after expressing “grave concern” over Stuart’s leadership.
Back in July, while Stuart had been refusing to meet with the trade unions on the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy, Inniss appeared to send a direct message to the Prime Minister in an address at the 45th annual general meeting of the Barbados Institute of Management and Productivity by saying the trade unions should be engaged in a discussion on how to ensure ordinary Barbadians move “from being employees to being shareholders”.
Sounding at the time like a man with leadership ambitions putting forward his policy position, and in a speech that appeared to have been choreographed to demonstrate that he was different from his boss, Inniss had presented his vision of a “new Barbados” where high taxes were no longer, state agencies were fewer and workers were wealthier because they were also business owners.
Today, he defended his approach, insisting that as an elected parliamentarian he had the right to speak on behalf of his constituents, and he was not prepared to “run away from that responsibility”.
“The people in St James South elected me to do a job and I am going to do it to the best of my ability,” Inniss said.
And although he said he did not “sit and dream” about becoming DLP leader or Prime Minister, if the opportunity presented itself “my name would definitely be there on the ballot box”.
“I don’t bathe myself thinking if I was prime minister I would do this and do that. That is not my style,” he said.
However, he presented himself as a viable and competent leader-in-waiting, pointing to his experience as a parliamentarian.
“Having been in this position for the past nine-and-a-half years as an MP and minister, I would think that I have the ability to do the job if it becomes available. But I am not going to tear down any person in order to pull myself up.”
He said he was aware that some residents were eager to see him as the country’s leader, stressing that should this become a reality, while the economy would feature prominently on his agenda, he would make some important changes to the governance structure.
Chief among these, he said, would be to make Barbados a republic and replace the Governor General as head of state. He also pointed out that notwithstanding the 1974 constitutional amendments the selection and appointment of senior judicial officers would be removed from the executive arm of Government.
“Perhaps we need to have a little bit more independent body that decide who can serve as a judge in this country. I go a step further and say there must be greater accountability on the part of the judicial officers in this country. I am not 100 per cent satisfied with our judiciary . . . . That to my mind also need to be frontally addressed.
“I have been very focused and vocal in the perspective that we should get to the point where the Parliament determines the number of Cabinet posts that the country ought to have, the names of those posts and the departments that come under the posts,” he said, adding that the selection and role of senators should also be revisited.
Inniss said he has discussed these issues with Stuart and “in some instances we agree and in some we may disagree, but it is not a matter of Donville versus Freundel on matters like these”.