by Kimberley Cummins
The motives of Prime Minister Mia Mottley in seeking to have the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus (UWI), named after late former Prime Minister Professor Owen Arthur are being questioned.
Former Minister of Education Ronald Jones told Barbados TODAY that while he supported naming a building at the university after the late regionalist, to seek to name the entire campus after Arthur was strange, coming especially from Prime Minister Mottley. Jones said Mottley was overreaching in her public eagerness to pay homage to Arthur in death.
“I think that the Prime Minister is trying too hard to memorialize the name of Owen Arthur and I wonder where this is coming from, particularly after they had a very tumultuous relationship both after he left the Barbados Labour Party and during the times they would have been colleagues in the Cabinet of Barbados,” Jones said.
Arthur quit the Barbados Labour Party in 2014, decrying the institution for having lost its way and its “soul”. A year later he also publicly criticized the leadership of the party following the expulsion of former Christ Church West MP Maria Agard. Arthur charged at the time from the precincts of Parliament that democracy was at risk in Barbados and warned against the spectre of despotic rule.
Jones recalled that Arthur had an office at the CARICOM Research Building, and had donated his entire Cabinet files and other documents to the university and had generally made a significant contribution to the University of the West Indies.
“As Minister of Education, I supported him having an office there. At that time Sir Hilary Beckles was still principal and pro-vice chancellor and I supported his [Arthur’s] presence at Cave Hill because I had recognised, we had recognised, that he made a significant contribution to Cave Hill in the form of provision of land and this kind of thing, to help in the build out of the university.
“Of course the person who led the infrastructural development was Sir Hilary himself. Arthur was a great supporter of the university both in and out of government. I think naming the campus after him, nevertheless, would be a bit of overreach because Cave Hill was the site identified by the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow.
“Remember that the first Liberal Arts was located at the harbour and Errol Barrow flew up in his small plane and identified that location for the University of the West Indies, which then became the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill. I think that even though Arthur’s contribution was significant, to just name the campus after Arthur would somewhat diminish the work and the contribution of Errol Barrow,” he said.
Jones added: I would suggest that what they call the CARICOM Building be called the Owen Arthur Building. . . Let the facility remain the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies. But I would have no problem whatsoever with the CARICOM building, which houses many important institutes of the University of the West Indies, to be named after him.”
Adding his voice to the situation, former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart told Barbados TODAY that after inheriting a mandate for regional integration and the push for a Caribbean Single Market from former Prime Minister Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, Arthur took it over and worked it.
Stuart said Arthur was a true advocate of the CSME and he had no issue with a building at Cave Hill being named in his honour. “But certainly, the entire university campus should not bear his or any other politician’s name,” Stuart said.
The former Democratic Labour Party leader added: “I see nothing wrong with renaming a building on campus after him. There is the Roy Marshall Teaching Complex, the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, the CLR James Cricket Research Centre, and the like.
“In circumstances where there is competitive party politics in a country, naming a whole university campus after a member of one party, it de-regionalises the focus of the university and basically begins to nationalise it, which is against the spirit of the university.
“Errol Barrow is the person who presided over the coming of the campus here in the first place and he wouldn’t have wanted it (renamed after him) because he believed in the regional character of the university.
“George Lamming once said that we must be careful to preserve the regional character of the university and not allow the university to become a string of regional polytechnics,” Stuart concluded.