FOR THE RECORD: A decision for the PM
It is amazing how small this world really is and how large the human mind can be. Today I am eager to write about President Obama, the office of Attorney General in these parts and also about education . . . but time and space may curtail such ambitious ideas.
Anyway, follow me for a moment, if you will! High marks to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart for his successful intervention in the Alexandra matter. It ought never to have been necessary for prime ministerial intervention.
Education has been a major concern in this country over the past fortnight and both party leaders have spoken on aspects of the topic but education has also occupied attention in Britain and in the United States.
In the case of our Prime Minister, when he spoke to the Press about stepping in and getting the teachers back to the classroom, his actual words were accompanied by some “upsetting” body language.
If the face is the mirror of the mind and mood, then Mr Stuart must have been really annoyed at the confusion which landed the potato on his plate. Notice I did not say hot potato, because, quite frankly, the issue is one which could normally have been settled without the agitation of a single hair on a Prime Minister’s head.
To put it bluntly, the issue arose because it now seems attention was not paid to the King Report which highlighted serious tensions at the school. But the King Report must have been commissioned because at the time there must have been problems so serious that an independent expert had to be called in to discover the facts . . . .
So how could this report have been gathering dust and not have been referred to Cabinet for so many months?
Now let me be brutally frank . . . . The minister may not have been personally responsible for the dropped baton . . . but at the political level, unfortunately, he has to carry the can, as the British would say.
In constitutional language, he is politically responsible and answerable to the people through Parliament and the Prime Minister for foul-ups, bleeps and blunders of his ministry.
So questions have to be answered.
The thing is that until now I was giving Minister Jones high marks for his apparent handling of his ministry. He was all over the place, inspecting, opening this or that school and generally appearing to be on top of his ministry, but this matter is politically serious, especially since on January 12 the Barbados Workers’ Union threw its considerable weight behind the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union!
Then a week later in the run-up to the celebration of the birth date of National Hero Errol Barrow, the Minister of Education was reported as saying, when asked when the Alexandra impasse was going to end, that if he was able to tell the reporter that, “I will be able to tell you when Christ is coming back”.
This blew the lustre off the birthday celebrations and I noticed that the lecture by Prime Minister Stuart originally listed for an earlier date was rescheduled to this past weekend.
Let’s face it. What has been averted was a possible escalation of the dispute into a national strike, a circumstance which if it had come about would have severely dented the chances of the Democratic Labour Party in the next elections.
So that at the conclusion of the other phases of this matter or perhaps before that time, I would not be surprised if we have a new minister of education.
The Alexandra issue has spawned sufficient grounds for the dismissal of Mr Jones from Cabinet or reassignment to another ministry, but these are delicate matters of political judgement uniquely fit for prime ministerial consideration and decision.