OUR CARIBBEAN: Harsh reality for Stuart and country
WITH THE St John by-election over and the expected overwhelming victory by Mara Thompson, there is now an apparent focus on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s leadership.
Stuart, who prides himself on his capacity not to be ruffled by the politics of opponents or the barbs from media commentators, has two full years before another parliamentary election to define his leadership qualities – both at party and state level – as successor to the late David Thompson.
This may not be easy to address in comparison with the current emotional politicking and media coverage about the “queen” designation that surrounded Thompson’s widow. St John is renowned for having the great Errol “Dipper” Barrow and the very promising Thompson; but neither was draped with the royal designation of “king”.
Once Mara Thompson and/or the Democratic Labour Party decides that there is no need to confuse an outpouring of deserved popular support for the newest Member of Parliament with any monarchical concept, then Thompson could be left to concentrate on her late husband’s legacy and his wishes for party and country, as she blossoms in the new world of party politics.
The way forward is not as politically safe and clear-cut for Stuart. The calls have been increasing for him to stamp his own image and likeness on the administration he heads, rather than appear reluctant to make changes to the Cabinet inherited from Thompson.
Once the mourning period for Thompson’s passing was over, Stuart lost little time in announcing his intention to move into Ilaro Court – the Prime Minister’s official residence. By that simple act he signalled there would be no rush to call a snap general election. The Dems would remain in charge until the due date for general elections.
The problem Stuart faces is when to reshuffle the Cabinet without provoking a political rupture in the leadership structure of the Dems.
On reflection, Stuart may have unintentionally created this problem when he magnanimously engaged in a bold and democratic initiative to first seek the endorsement of his fellow DLP parliamentarians before going to the Governor General to be sworn in as new Prime Minister. This is quite a contrast with the development that took place when Erskine Sandiford (now Sir Lloyd) was appointed Prime Minister following Barrow’s passing.
In seeking that endorsement, it appears that Stuart was not paying close attention to internal party manoeuvrings prior to Thompson’s death and even after the surprising Cabinet reshuffle made from his sick bed, which resulted in the rise of the charismatic Chris Sinckler as Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs.
What that endorsement, which Stuart comfortably secured, revealed was that at least six of the secret ballots cast went against him and for Sinckler as Prime Minister. Consequently, this is a vital political factor for Stuart to bear in mind before hastening to reshuffle the Cabinet he inherited.
The harsh political reality is that sharp divisions currently prevail in the camps of both the Dems and Bees. Do not expect any official confirmation about this from either Prime Minister Stuart or Opposition Leader Owen Arthur.