HISTORY IS FULL OF INSTANCES when rather than confronting and tackling national crises, leaders of countries instead chose to indulge in bizarre behaviours and utterances. While perhaps the most famous of these was that of Emperor Nero who opted to play the fiddle while ancient Rome burned, Barbados has also had its share of such strange actions.
Barbadians well recall the case of Prime Minister Errol Barrow, who in 1974 spent less time in tackling inflation and the other crippling effects of the first energy crisis, than in haranguing the church, the Civil Service, the Bar, the Press and other major institutions that opposed some of his proposed constitutional amendments.
Now more recently, another DLP Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, is ending a two-year plus term of office being remembered only for his disparaging remarks about Barbadians and a never-before-witnessed total absence of successful and inspiring leadership on any of the important issues with which the nation has had to grapple.
Who can forget his characterization of well-meaning citizens as having a “barbecued pig tail mentality” because they pressed for quick and decisive action on the Alexandra School fiasco? Or his conclusion that the public’s many demands on his administration would cause its “nipples” to get sore from the sucking on them? And his recent declaration that should our “most enlightened and intelligent people” fail to find “civilized solutions” to problems, then we “may as well shut down the schools, shut down the universities and go back into the canefields”?
On the one hand, people are understandably angry at the massive insult it is virtually impossible not to conclude has been attributed to the intellectual capacity of people working in the sugar canefields, even though it was this same class of persons who a few generations ago were bright enough to appreciate the importance of education and willing enough to make the sacrifices necessary for their sons and daughters to escape the harshness of that occupation. While canefields were specified, the same cruel and undeserved criticism can be said to have been directed at maids, labourers, cane factory workers and others seen as members of the lowest socio-economic levels of society.
On the other, the public is horrified that for a leader who, unlike Barrow, cannot point to a perceptible record of achievements, Stuart in the dying days of his Government could still be inclined and find time to indulge in activities that merely reinforce his grossly misplaced sense of what Barbadians have traditionally expected and largely gotten from its previous leaders.
Stuart seems incapable of grasping that arrogant verbal attacks on persons and groups, no matter the crassness or grandiloquence of the words in which they are clothed, are no substitute for his chronic and abject failure to even hint at, far less outline his vision for our country. Demonstrating then that without vision his leadership was bound to perish over the economy, Eager Eleven, mismanagement of governance in general and especially the Alexandra affair, which through his personal intervention was meant to crown his career, but will instead be most prominent in his leadership epitaph.
Hence the public clamour for Stuart to “ring the bell” so that Owen Arthur and the Barbados Labour Party can get back to making Barbados prosperous and progressive again.
• Beresford Leon Padmore is a pseudonym for the Barbados Labour Party.