Say what you like about Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, but when his record in politics is written it would have to be said that he is anything but a coward.
When all others seemed to turn their backs on the financial pariah Leroy Parris, it was Stuart who stood up in Parliament well over a year ago during debate on a motion of no confidence in his Government, to publicly give his full backing to the former chief executive officer of the collapsed insurance company CLICO.
“Let me say this for the record tonight in the Parliament of Barbados. I prefer to have the former CEO of CLICO as my friend than the member for St Michael North East. I trust him more than I trust the member for St Michael North East,” Stuart said at the time in openly declaring his friendship with Parris and comparing it to his relationship with Opposition Leader Mia Mottley.
Back in July, as the country’s trade unions and the private sector came out with guns blazing against him, a defiant Stuart also famously said: “I heard that there was going to be this big march tomorrow which private sector employers are paying their workers to participate in . . . . Well you know, a few people got on to me, begging me to meet quickly to head it off. I do not want to head it off, I want it to happen. The people of Barbados have to see what is possible around here, and how far people will go in the pursuit of their perverse objectives.”
While suggesting that there was no real industrial dispute to speak of, he had also sought to make it clear at the time that no government in the world could be run on the basis of “undisguised blackmail”.
Equally defiant was he in the face of 21 economic downgrades by the international credit rating agencies since the Democratic Labour Party took office in 2008.
In fact, Mr Stuart has sought to make it clear to all and sundry that “rating agencies can only downgrade Barbados’ credit worthiness, its ability to borrow [but] they cannot downgrade Barbados itself”.
Furthermore, if Ms Mottley or anyone else in the Opposition Barbados Labour Party thinks they can twist his arm into calling an early general election, they had better think again.
After urging his supporters back in April to ignore the “huff and puff” of his political critics, Mr Stuart last week made it abundantly clear that he had every intention of taking the election down to the wire.
“I don’t need any law to tell me that there should be any fixed election date because my view is, if the people vote for you for five years, serve five years unless there is a no confidence motion that brings the Government down.
“You are given five years, serve your five years. Don’t throw back the time that the people gave you, in their face,” he said during the final sitting of Parliament for 2017.
“So I don’t need the sanctification of any law to tell me, ‘you should have a fixed election date’. I don’t need that,” he stressed while making it clear that “we [DLP] were given five years from February 21 until. So that is what we are going to do. And when Parliament is dissolved, the Constitution says you have to call an election within 90 days and all of that we know,” he added.
With all of this in mind, it certainly came as no surprise to us, the position which the Stuart administration recently took at the United Nations (UN) in support of a resolution on Jerusalem.
The resolution, which flew in the face of a move by the Trump administration in the United States to have Jerusalem recognized as the capital of Israel, said in part that “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the [UN] Security Council”.
And even with Mr Trump threatening to impose sanctions on any country that supported the resolution, Mr Stuart was immovable.
“If you look back to where we began as an independent sovereign state in 1966 our first Prime Minister [Errol Walton Barrow] made a statement that is often referred to in which he said Barbados is a ‘friend of all and a satellite of none,’” Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxine McClean said in explaining the principled stand Barbados took on the matter.
In this instance, we are inclined to stand with Mr Stuart in his defiance.
And so what if Donald Trump doesn’t like it? The true mark of friendship is knowing when to agree to disagree, and the ability to accept that the opinion of others matters, even when it is at odds with yours.
Despite our small size, the world also needs to understand that we have a voice and that it should be heard, even if the powerful among us would more readily dangle the sword of Damocles over our heads.
Today the issue is Jerusalem, tomorrow Mr Trump may well lay claim to the entire UN. So do we just roll over and play dead, or abstain, as others would have us do?
We think not, especially given the high price our forefathers would have paid for the achievement of our political independence and sovereignty and the investment that has been made in our education to transpose our minds and our dependence out of the bosom of the slave master.
Grenville Phillips 11 and other political aspirants take note.