BLP COLUMN: Country insulted
Without even considering “content”, on the question of “format” alone the recorded presentation by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart aired on CBC-TV on Wednesday night must go down in history as one of the biggest insults ever inflicted on the intelligence of the Barbadian public, patient and long-suffering as they have traditionally been.
For as one who in the Press of December 5, 2010 said “I prepared myself painstakingly and thoroughly for political service”, Stuart should have known that a recorded interview, especially one done by a functionary not known at all for a probing and highly analytical style of questioning, was definitely not what the public had been justifiably demanding after six months of what they considered as visionless, unfocused and remote leadership on his part.
As a result of long-established traditional practice by previous political leaders, the public was expecting the Prime Minister to have subjected himself to a live session of questioning from a cross-section of the daily, practising and independent media, who are closely in touch with the burning issues of the day and therefore better placed to seek out important information on behalf of the community at large.
Instead, Barbadians were subjected to the farce of Ms Rosemary Alleyne, an employee of a state corporation over which Stuart has ultimate authority, responsiblilty, control and influence as minister responsible for broadcasting, being given the exclusive opportunity to question the Prime Minister on a unique occasion of historic interest and importance to the country.
And that the inappropriateness of this format would at least have been agreed to by Stuart himself has nothing to do with it being well known that in the past Ms Alleyne had herself exhibited interest in seeking nomination on behalf of the Democratic Labour Party for the constituency of St Andrew.
On the grounds of perception alone, the arrangement looked and smelled professionally wrong, and we are left to wonder what the Barbados Association of Journalists and others in the profession must think of, and most importantly, will have to say and do about this unsatisfactory occurrence.
So what we ended up with was not a Prime Ministerial “address” or a “Press conference”, or even an address followed by a Press conference as we have come to know them over the years.
Thus the public has been frustratingly left to wonder if Stuart is seriously expecting to get away with this approach to informing them, and most of all if he expects them to accept something that triggers memories of the infamous heartless declaration by Queen Marie Antoinette to “let them eat cake (faeces)” when the starving French masses were demanding bread.
But then again, could it be that the mere possession of the surname Stuart (Stewart) by the Prime Minister, a self-declared ardent student of history, could by some strange process automatically and implicitly carry with it traits of the royal family that in ancient times periodically ruled Scotland and Britain, and who would have been disciples of the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings (leaders) under which they could do no wrong and were not subject to the will of the people?
Fortunately, such a notion was buried in Barbados in 1950 with the winning by Grantley Adams of the right to vote (universal adult suffrage) by all Barbadians at the age of 21, and the Barbados Labour Party will not allow the turning back of the hands of the clock.