EDITORIAL – Rallying around the PM
There are some issues in a country’s life that transcend the divide of partisan politics. When such issues arise the people of a country put aside the usual considerations of politics as they bend their minds and prayers in one direction towards the amelioration of that issue.It happens in times of war and other national crises, as well as in other circumstances in which domestic internal issues dominate. The ill health of our country’s Prime Minister David Thompson is one such internal issue, and we join all Barbadians in their outpouring of prayers and good wishes for the recovery of the Prime Minister from the ill health which has befallen him.In May when Mr Thompson first disclosed that he had been suffering severe pains since March of this year, and that he was seeking medical assistance overseas, one hoped that the issue might have been resolved in short order.Alas, that has not been the position and the Prime Minister has been back and forth between the United States and the island, receiving analysis and treatment on the one hand and continuing his official duties on the other hand, albeit as he says, at a reduced pace.But this state of affairs and dedication to duty, though admirable, could not last for any great length of time and wefully support his decision to seek leave for two months while he puts his health and medical treatment at the top of his agenda.No one in his or her right mind can disagree with that decision, for whatever politicians may be described as in the hustings, they are first and foremost human beings and thereby subject to all the frailties of human nature. And as one cleric once remarked, there, but for the grace of God, go I.Ill health is no respecter of persons, and there are too many of our citizens who do not appreciate and understand just how much stress a politician undergoes in carrying out his duties even when he is in the best of health, and it was brave of Mr Thompson to have carried on manfully in the circumstances.Fortunately, he has put in place what appears to be a seamless transfer of full prime ministerial responsibility into the hands of Deputy Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who has been acting as Prime Minister during Thompson’s absence from the island.In this connection, it is significant that Mr Thompson specifically declared that he was “devolving on Stuart the authority to take whatever decisions he deems necessary to keep the social and economic ship of state on even keel”.Given the usual preference of acting ministers to defer major decisions for the consideration of the substantive minister on his return to office, this statement is Thompson’s effort to ensure “that his absence from the country will have minimal effect on the efficiency and effectiveness of the Government institutions”.It is an important statement and an innovative and thoughtful way of marrying the constitutional position with the political realities, and was obviously very carefully thought through to ensure that Stuart would be free to exercise the full gamut of powers of the office of Prime Minister.We approve of this arrangement, given the special circumstances, and we wish Mr Thompson well as he gives priority to his personal health temporarily free from the inevitable distractions of office.As he returns to the United States, facing treatment which he told us may include a complex and serious surgical procedure, he and his family have been comforted, as he said, by the prayers, text messages, greetings, cards and other expressions of support from a Barbados which he has the “honour to lead, and which is still a loving and caring society despite our many and diverse differences and interests”.Long may we continue to put aside our diverse differences in the national interest, when it matters!