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ON REFLECTION – In a hurry to go where?

Ricky Jordan

ON REFLECTION – In a hurry to go where?

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WHY COULDN’T his fellow Members of Parliament and Cabinet colleagues have simply gone to him and expressed their views about his now much maligned management style?
They had doubts about it long before, as they heard the views of their constituents on the ground about his silence – a characteristic that was even immortalized in two calypsos since June this year. But they themselves said nothing.
What, therefore, triggered the sudden rush to have an “urgent” audience with Prime Minister Freundel Stuart?
Was it the result of the St Lucia election, along with respected analyst Peter Wickham’s assessment of that resounding electoral defeat on November 28?
In Wickham’s view, the one-term government of the last administration in Castries was due in large part to a perceived lack of charisma in former Prime Minister Stephenson King, who came to power in circumstances very similar to those that faced our present Prime Minister.
However, history in Barbados would also have shown those rushing for an audience that former Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford, now Sir Lloyd, would have lost the Government in 1994 as a result of similar internal boiling discontent with his management style.
So, again, why a formal letter that surely would have come over as a formal threat? Did Stuart deny them a previous audience?
As stern as the Prime Minister may look to the observer, I am sure that he is far more approachable to colleagues with whom he interacts daily.
I am also sure that, even if his colleagues and subordinates had become scared as a result of St Lucia’s election result and pollster Wickham’s prediction, they could have either approached him one on one or liaised through an individual close to him in Cabinet.
But clearly, there was this hurry to have an audience with him before he travelled to Trinidad to deal with the fishing agreement. Couldn’t such an important meeting have waited two days, especially knowing that the Prime Minister does not decide hastily?
But these “men in a hurry”, as a former leader would have described them, had to write a letter which could easily have got into the wrong hands.
So where do we go from here, Barbados? Someone will pay for this imbroglio with his, her or their neck(s), says the Prime Minister. After a week of turmoil, cold feet and soul-searching, there will be consequences; if not, drift and inertia will continue.
For the party, those consequences could mean that political blood will be spilt. In fact, under another leader, someone would have been fired already. However, in this case such recrimination could either show Stuart in the light of a man who is willing to stand by principle and deal swiftly with any perceived disorder and lack of teamwork, or it could portray him as harsh, bordering on dictatorial.
Whatever happens, the way how this rift was played out in recent days will damage the party’s goodwill, sympathy and image. And its outcome will have a bearing on the general election due in 13 months.
For Stuart, though, the leaking of this letter has washed him in waves of sympathy from Barbadians here and abroad.
This lesson has also come in the nick of time for Stuart, who must now make firm decisions, not as a caretaker Prime Minister but as his own man, to put it simply: communicating with Barbadians as regularly as possible, and holding himself up fearlessly and unflinchingly to the merciless glare of the public’s toughest questions.
That is the kind of leader Barbadians voted and will vote for, and the kind whom his colleagues stood behind immediately after the death of David Thompson.
Stuart, from my observation, is not cut in the mould of the political animal but he has the intellectual capacity and goodwill to remain “harmless” and totally averse to treachery, while being “as cunning as a serpent”.
I therefore look forward to a new-look Cabinet next year – one that is far more united and resolved, led truly and finally by Prime Minister Stuart.
Any other option would lead to further inertia, discontent and, inevitably, a one-term Democratic Labour Party Government.