Owen: Man with a plan
It is ironic that our new Leader of the Opposition has placed his stamp before our new Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has taken the opportunity to “personalise” his new government.
This comparative urgency is not lost on me and I am of the opinion that our Prime Minister has given too little priority to political matters.
Comparisons aside, Arthur’s new arrangements in the opposition camp demonstrate the type of activity that any new leader needs to exhibit and while one might have difficulties with the substance, one cannot contest the logic of his political actions recently.
Arthur’s political actions have given us a glimpse of his planned strategy and also reminded us that he is, like Jesus Christ . . . “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8).
It is for this reason that I was not surprised at the tone of his “tribute” to the late Prime Minister David Thompson. We might recall Arthur’s notorious budget “wrap up” speeches that savaged people like Clyde Mascoll, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, Sir Phillip Greaves and Hartley Henry. Moreover he not-infrequently verbally assaulted persons who he perceived as adversaries like Dr Don Marshall, Harold Hoyte and your humble servant.
Vicious and unrelenting
In all of this Arthur’s style is consistent in that he is vicious, unrelenting and moreover prefers to attack people in situations where they are unable to defend themselves.
His attack on Sandiford-Garner is a case in point since he alleged that Mascoll had acted improperly as a director of the credit union to facilitate her pursuit of medical treatment overseas and this would for many be considered a “delicate” matter.
His attack on the late Prime Minister during a time allocated for tributes is therefore not surprising especially as there no opportunity for a response. The fact that there is little use to attacking someone who is already dead seems to have been lost on Arthur who never misses an opportunity to score political points.
As much as I am disturbed by Arthur’s most recent performance, I am convinced that the vast majority of Barbadians are aware of the tremendous good that has been done by the late Prime Minister in 48 short years. Moreover, we fully appreciate now the extent to which a politician’s legacy can be damaged by a short stint of garden variety “political nastiness”.
Certainly, Arthur’s political life continues and as it does, we struggle to recall his most productive era between 1994 and 2003 as these years have been followed by an era that stands out for different reasons. Perhaps this is the evidence of his “tiredness” that Dr Tennyson Joseph is slow to understand.
Also worthy of comment was his appointment of new senators, which is his right. Instead the question is whether or not he needed to make these changes now especially as we appreciate the possibility of a general election.
The relevant precedent would be a similar situation that occurred three years ago when Thompson assumed the Leadership of the Opposition and while Thompson’s move was considered a “blood sport” it is noteworthy that the “sportsman” made no changes to the senators or appointments within the office of Opposition Leader.
Thompson retained both senators who were loyal to Mascoll and also Mascoll’s personal assistant in the interest of maintaining unity.
It is ironic that one of these senators is now the Prime Minister and we can recall that he was clearly more defensive of Mascoll as Opposition Leader than either of the former Barbados Labour Party senators were of Mottley.
One therefore presumes that there was less reason to dismiss either of them, especially as one was previously “roughed-up” by Arthur.
It could be argued that Senator [Santia] Bradshaw’s appointment was made in an attempt to maintain the bridge between the old and new candidates and the fact that she is a bright young woman helps support that logic, which is enhanced by her obvious links to the economic elite in Barbados.
The appointment that was somewhat confusing however was insertion of Kerrie Symmonds who previously resigned from the Senate for “personal reasons”. To date, neither Symmonds nor Mottley who accepted his resignation have spoken to the reasons for his resignation and his re-insertion by Arthur would imply that he has either forgiven himself, or that Arthur believed that Mottley acted improperly in “seeking” his resignation.
Presumably Arthur believed those grounds to either be insufficient or fabricated and both of these options present Mottley in a negative light. Although I continue to argue that Symmonds has the capacity to make an outstanding contribution to the politics of this nation, I believe that Arthur has done the BLP, himself and Symmonds a great disservice by re-inserting him into politics as this time, without reference to the reasons for his removal or explanation of the reasons for Holder’s removal.
Finally there is the matter of Mascoll, who is now the “lead economic spokesman” and many issues arise here not least of which is why should a self-proclaimed economic “messiah” need another economist to speak on his behalf in matters of this nature.
It is also curious that an Opposition that touts its desire to speak candidly to an alternative economic direction is being led in the Senate by two lawyers, while two economists occupy the Opposition office as unpaid volunteers with attractive titles.
In the final analysis it is clear that Arthur is consistent regarding his politics; however the shape of his opposition administration creates confusion and indeed contradictions.
Peter W. Wickham ([email protected]) is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).