If you thought that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart was going to allow Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) St James Central representative Kerrie Symmonds to get away with publicly insulting him last week, you thought wrong.
Addressing suporters of his ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) during a political meeting at Queen’s College last night, the Prime Minister proved that he could play just as dirty as anyone in the political arena, as he dismissed Symmonds as an “incubus”, who the people of St James Central would soon see the back of.
Speaking at a BLP political meeting in Checker Hall, St Lucy a week ago, Symmonds had made reference to Grenada prime minister Dr Keith Mitchell’s announcement of a March 13 general election date, while complaining that “the ‘rat botsie’ fellow we got down here [Prime Minister Stuart was yet to] 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,” the St James Central Member of Parliament said during an animated platform presentation, which was met with strong rebuke from retired principal Jeff Broome, who accused the Opposition BLP spokesman of disrespecting the Office of Prime Minister.
Over the weekend, Government minister and Member of Parliament for St James South Donville Inniss also condemned Symmonds’ comments as he spoke to reporters on the sidelines of mass canvas for the DLP’s St James Central candidate George Connolly.
“I think that Barbadian politics in the 21st century does not need individuals who are going to spend their time cursing and attacking individuals on a personal level, finding all sorts of nasty names to call leaders,” Inniss said, while complaining that “there is too much discussion on things that are not relevant, a lot of entertainment and no meaningful and constructive dialogue on the way forward for Barbados”.
However, addressing party supporters last night, Stuart, instead of taking the political high road, decided to go down into the proverbial gutter with Symmonds, describing him as “a tortured young man whose ambitions have always raced ahead of his capabilities” and suggesting that he was one to be pitied, while calling him an “incubus”.
“Kerrie Symmonds is nobody to hate, he is somebody to feel sorry for. A tortured young man whose ambitions have always raced ahead of his capabilities,” the Prime Minister said, adding that “fortunately we would not have to put up with that incubus for too long. George Connolly has come to the rescue and after the next election, Kerrie Symmonds will be regulated to the limbo of forgotten things.”
In the same breath, Stuart, who is yet to reveal a date for the next election due here by June, maintained that the DLP would not engage in making the kind of defamatory comments that he said were part of the culture of the Opposition BLP.
“The Barbados Labour Party has already begun to introduce us to its new vocabulary of abuse. We have no time with that. There is a politics of explanation, justification and promise that must characterize the next campaign of the Democratic Labour Party,” the DLP Leader said.
Ironically, it was the BLP leader Mia Mottley, who attempted last night during a BLP rally the junction of Strathclyde and Bank Hall, St Michael to shift the discussion away from Symmonds and back on the Government, in particular its handling of the economy and the ongong sweage leaks along the island’s south coast.
While not condemning Symmonds’ remarks, Mottley told BLP supporters that “rat boxie” would not have been her choice of words in speaking about the Prime Minister, but she suggested that the whole issue was an orchestrated “distraction” by the DLP, that was bought into by the media.
“The propagandists of the Democratic Labour Party told you that they were more concerned about what Kerrie called a prime minister than the deeds of the prime minister,” Mottley said, while stressing that the DLP had used Symmonds’ description of Stuart to steer national attention away from“a unique thing” that happened to Barbados last week when the Central Bank Governor Cleviston Haynes, and the International Monetary Fund both warned of the dire state of Barbados’ economy.
“Both of them basically told you that we are running out of time and what is required is urgent action,” Mottley said.
“I might not have used the language of Kerrie. Everybody uses different language. But that cannot be more important than the substance of what Barbados is facing with the International Monetary Fund and the Central Bank Governor speaking to us this week with our reserves down in the bottom of the barrel where it is,” she stressed.
This was in reference to the Governor’s revelation last week that Barbados’ foreign reserves had reached a more than two-decade low of $410 million, the equivalent of 6.6 weeks of imports, well below the required 12 weeks cover.
Mottley pointed out that most of what was consumed on the island, from food to oil, was imported and paid for by foreign currency.
“So, when you hear that our reserves are down, you have a problem in this country,” she said.
“And what we expect is those who are our leaders [to] discuss that.”
In response to calls for an election code of conduct, Mottley said codes of conduct were also needed to safeguard access to water by people in this country and “about what should be allowed to flow on the streets of the south coast, because there is nothing more offensive that sewage flowing on the streets of our land”.
Amid calls by a number of society leaders, including clergymen, for the 2018 elections campaign to be kept clean, Mottley complained that no one had come to her rescue in the face of venomous attacks.
“I have been abused more in this country than any other public official. I didn’t hear anyone of them come to my defence.
“I have had to endure posters on lampposts but when the Barbados Labour Party – because we cannot get access to CBC – puts posters of our candidates on lampposts then I hear nonsense from people. But nobody says anything when for two years posters go on lampposts cursing and vilifying Mia Mottley,” she said.