Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Kerrie Symmonds must publicly apologize to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart or forever hang his head in shame, retired educator Jeff Broomes today declared.
Delivering the weekly Astor B Watts lecture at the Democratic Labour Party’s Belleville headquarters under the theme, Don’t Hero Worship or Misrepresent Me – Respect my Values and my Vision, the former schoolmaster soundly chided the St James Central MP for controversial statements he made in relation to Stuart at a recent Barbados Labour Party (BLP) political meeting.
During that meeting Symmonds called on the Prime Minister to follow the lead of his Caribbean Community (CARICOM) counterpart in Grenada and announce the date for general elections.
“Prime minister Keith Mitchell of Grenada has called an election for the 13th of March and I want you to send a message to the ‘rat botsie’ fellow we got down here, heed the call.
“If it can happen in a timely manner in Grenada do not be loitering fumble Stuart, do not be loitering on the steps or the corridors of Parliament after closing time,” Symmonds said during an animated platform presentation at Checker Hall, St Lucy.
However, Broomes, who was not amused, insisted that the public characterization of the Prime Minister as “rat botsie” was “out of line and wrong”.
“I absolutely do not like what you did in your classless caricature of our sitting Prime Minister,” he said as if speaking directly to Symmonds.
“You do not have to like the individual, but you must, yes, must, as a political leader of this country, respect the office, not only his, but the one you hold, as well that you are now seeking,” the former principal added.
“I am calling on you, Kerrie Symmonds, to immediately make a public apology to Prime Minister the Hon Freundel Stuart or forever hang your head in shame.” Broomes said.
He also lamented that the island “reeks of polarization” and insisted it was not the Barbados of Errol Walton Barrow, which he said, “promoted the notion of family where we could disagree without being disagreeable”.
Broomes suggested that “selfishness, greed, and blind political pandering” were instead overtaking the island.
The educator’s demand has however fallen on deaf ears.
In response, Symmonds told Barbados TODAY he had nothing to apologize for. In fact, the only apology he was willing to make was for not finding a harsher rebuke for Stuart.
“The only apology I have for Freundel Stuart is to say that I can’t find anything more harsh to describe him as,” the St James Central BLP representative said, while adamant that the description was “not of the office, but of the occupant of the office”.
“I have no apology for saying what is the truth. Let us not be squeamish about it.”
The outspoken Opposition MP justified his position, arguing that the Prime Minister deserved a failing grade for his handling of key national issues, including the controversial Cahill waste-to-energy project, the introduction of tuition fees for Barbadians studying at the University of the West Indies, the retrenchment of public workers, and the restoration of the ten per cent pay cut for Members of Parliament.
“He was warned about the repeated failure to maintain the sewage system on the South Coast in an appropriate manner and he refused to take any action resulting in a situation where three of this country’s major source markets for tourism have issued health and travel advisories to their residents about coming to Barbados.
“He was warned about the collapse of the public transportation system. . . . Freundel Stuart has reduced this country’s image and reputation to dirt in the eyes of the international community and in the eyes of local community,” he added.
Symmonds also had harsh words for Broomes, saying his attempt to defend the Prime Minister was not surprising because, “Mr Broomes, much like Mr Stuart, is a highly contemptuous and incompetent individual. They share perhaps one thing in common, and that is an amazing capacity for mismanagement,” he charged.