ONLY HUMAN – How I truly feel about Stuart
I WAS FORCED to defend my work this weekend, and in doing so I reminded myself of the true meaning of my vocation, and why I love what I do.
I’m sharing this experience because I am sure that, like the friend I encountered recently, some of you have attributed motives to me based on your perception on what appears in this column.
Of course, I undertake this exercise knowing that some will dismiss it, but I recognized years ago that people often judge you based on their standards.
I saw an old schoolmate in the supermarket on Sunday, and after we exchanged pleasantries he asked me: “Why you always attacking Freundel Stuart?”
I was shocked by his perspective because he knew me at the Barbados Community College (1977-78) when I had strong views on most things and was not afraid to express them, whether they were popular sentiments or not.
But I was intrigued by how he personalized the entire matter. He presumed that any disagreement with Stuart must necessarily have arisen from a personal dislike of him.
It never fails to astonish me how people see a comment about a public figure’s actions regarding Government policy as either a personal attack or one of loyalty – depending on if it is an adverse or favourable one.
I made it clear that I like Freundel Stuart personally. He is an example of what I call the “Barbadian dream”, which I would like to see more young people recognize and buy into.
That is, through discipline, education and hard work he rose from humble origins to become a successful professional. And people like that are good examples of what is possible in Barbados.
Politically, Stuart has been a stalwart of the Democratic Labour Party, who supported them in good times and bad.
He was never one to grab headlines, but it is clear that he is a person who works steadfastly to achieve what he believes in. And I admire that too.
My comments about what I think he should or should not do are based on his role as Prime Minister of Barbados.
I thought he should have called a general election after the passing of David Thompson and I said so.
I recommended that he run for the St John seat in that poll to secure his political future, and I am still of that view. To be a political powerhouse, you need to have a solid seat, and that’s what St John represents, not St Michael South. Given the mood of the country and the split in the Opposition, he would have won his own five-year mandate.
I felt the Prime Minister should have reshuffled the Cabinet when he officially took over to put his stamp on the administration he headed, as well as to strengthen his public image, and I’m still convinced of that.
I said he needed to state clearly his vision for the country and how he envisaged getting us there and when.
Though my calls and those of others were dismissed, Stuart did do an edited pre-recorded interview that did not enhance his image because it came after the media blitz and strong performance by Chris Sinckler, in which he took on everyone on radio and on television – and me, too – in the SUNDAY SUN.
Now he is being quizzed on when he will do a reshuffle because he said Denis Kellman and Dennis Lowe would both be accommodated in the Cabinet, which means someone will have to lose something. And having put these wheels in motion he needs to address this now.
As such, it appears that though he is the de facto Prime Minister, his administration is still being guided by Thompson’s vision and people.
So, as I explained to my friend, I think the Prime Minister is a decent man and a hard worker with good intentions, but he is not as savvy as that office demands him to be in dealing with the public’s expectations and the media.
By seeking to dismiss commentators as detractors and operatives, the Prime Minister may satisfy his admirers, but he must still address the substantive issues raised.
And this is why I love journalism.
Despite the fact that all too frequently we practitioners are judged as having some personal axe to grind, we work in the public’s interest to ensure that what is done on their behalf, or relates to them, is best for them.
That’s what I seek to achieve. No personal agenda here.