Strange about-turn by Arthur
After much prompting, I decided to address the controversy that erupted when former Prime Minister Owen Arthur declared that he was unwilling to subject himself to Mia Mottley’s leadership.
But before I do, I would like to suggest to Minister Donville Inniss that he should put a little thought into what he has to say before he delivers pronouncements.
Recently, he expressed opposition to a pay cut for Cabinet members because he had children to support and bills to pay. He came over as having an insensitive and cruel disregard for the public workers who have already been displaced, and for those who are scheduled to be laid off at the end of this month. Surely, he must know that they also have children to support and bills to pay.
From his remarks, I gather that he is opposed to a small symbolic reduction of his salary while at the same time he is seemingly showing no empathy for the thousands that his Government is prepared to sacrifice, ostensibly for the greater good. The Government workers who are being laid off are not responsible for the bad decisions that have placed Barbados in the precarious position that the country now finds itself, and they should not be the ones to bear the brunt of the austerity measures. Enough said for now.
At a time when this country is looking for someone or something to rescue us from the readily apparent incompetence of the Government, our hopes have been dashed by the internecine strife that was simmering in the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), which has now morphed into a full-blown crisis.
On January 13 under the headline Not Me And Mia on the Front Page of the Nation, Tim Slinger wrote: “A controversy is brewing within the political ranks of the opposition Barbados Labour Party.” That in itself is nothing new; there has always been disquiet in the ranks of the BLP but it remained in-house. However, the party that was once able to contain the differences among its officers and members has now abandoned all decorum and prefers to duke it out in full glare of the public.
I understand that Mr Arthur would have had grounds for complaint, but his outrage seemed to be an overreaction to the offence. He must have been aware that once he penned his missive that it was likely that its contents would have ended up in the public domain, if by no other method than falling off the proverbial truck.
Barring any evidence to the contrary, we must take the Right Honourable Gentleman at his word when he denied making his letter public. Be that as it may, he could have exercised a greater sense of security by attending the meeting to deliver his remarks and not reducing anything to writing.
Also, I find it strange that he would address his concerns about Mottley to anyone other than herself. After all, you do not complain about a general to one of his lieutenants. Having served as Prime Minister for 14 years, Arthur ought to be aware that the “Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Assembly” is a made up title, as no such post really exists. Therefore if he had a problem with his leader, he should have done the manly thing and confronted her face to face, in the presence of the parliamentary group.
This is not the first time that Arthur has given more than a subtle hint that Mottley is not suited to occupy the high office of Prime Minister. He cannot reasonably expect the electorate to derail her from her journey to the premiership by suggesting to us “Arthur knows best: trust me”.
If he genuinely feels that she is not PM material, he owes it to the country to tell us why or just shut up with his innuendo. He must also bear in mind that it was he who facilitated Miss Mottley’s career to the point where she is being seen by some as a future PM. His about-turn must come with some very cogent reasons before the country can accept his position.
Additionally, he must tell us when he became aware of the faults that should preclude her from sitting in the PM’s chair. Was it before he made her the Deputy Prime Minister? Or did he get this revelation on his way to Damascus?
I have come to expect that Mottley would jump on the suggestions coming from eminent persons and Arthur’s reaction was predictable. But my biggest disappointment in the whole affair came when Sir Louis Tull, whom Starcom Network News described as an elder statesman, descended from that lofty perch of statesmanship to enter the fray. A statesman would have intervened to achieve reconciliation, and not to offend the Arthur faction.
The infighting in the BLP is unseemly and counterproductive and will only serve to ensure a DLP victory at the next elections. If there are any other statesmen left in the BLP, I would suggest that they get together with a view to bringing some sanity back to that party. Who qualifies for this job?
The Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines statesman as an experienced and respected political leader. That significantly narrows the field. Somehow I prefer the definition given by Harry S Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, who said, “A statesman is a politician who’s been dead ten or fifteen years”.
• Caswell Franklyn is a trade unionist and social commentator. Email [email protected]