The things that might have been
Oh, the games people play now,
Every night and every day now;
Never meaning what they say now,
Never saying what they mean.
–– Don Williams (Games People Play)
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley swears she and her Barbados Labour Party MP colleagues did not boycott Parliament’s 375th anniversary reception in the Parliament Buildings Courtyard last Friday. A “boycott”, she said, it was never intended to be; that the word had imputations she was not prepared to bear.
Ms Mottley and her Opposition team simply refused to turn up: avoided the show; rejected the affair; snubbed the organizers; spurned Parliament itself; brushed off the Freundel Stuart administration –– not to mention held aloof from the representatives of Royalty, who are not participants in our partisan politics. As far as we are aware, refusing, rejecting, snubbing, spurning, brushing off; holding aloof from, for whatever reason –– and in spite of forewarning –– are all synonymous with boycotting.
Every respectable dictionary and thesaurus we checked say so.
The semantics apart, would it not be correct to say that this $100,000 Parliament 375th anniversary ceremony budget provided some income for Barbadian hospitality workers and entertainers? And if indeed $100,000 was extravagant, what would have been more appropriate to our current economic circumstances –– for Ms Mottley, that is, and in light of her admitted significance of the occasion of celebration?
Let it be said, though, that on the reported $645,000 to be spent on events that include a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association trip to the Republic of Cameroon at this time, and the hosting of a CPA conference here, there is merit in Ms Mottley’s argument that these might be trimmed. Financial prudence must be the watchword these days.
But it is stretching it a bit articulating that expenditure in one category might be foregone and applied in another. By extrapolation, the fired Drainage Unit workers would surely not be unhappy if the expenditure of salaries to members of the Opposition, who have other jobs, was instead applied to their work continuance and remuneration. This would be the quintessence of acknowledgement that “it is not business as usual” of which Ms Mottley speaks.
Not to be missed are the possible implications Friday’s absence of the Barbados Labour Party Opposition will throw up on account of its boycotting –– well, distancing itself from –– this toast to a proud record for an occasion and to the rededication to an enviable unbroken chain of parliamentary democracy.
Truly, we need to take care how we veer from protocol and break with convention.
Which brings us to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and his weekend pronouncement on the shenanigans and antics of Dr David Estwick. Apparently, the Prime Minister is impressed with some aspects of his mercurial minister’s recent economic recovery presentation to Cabinet –– which “valuable” ideas will be acted upon, for it would be a “very foolish” Government and Prime Minister that didn’t.
This after the said Dr Estwick publicly implied that his colleagues were not taking him on and clearly stated the Government was on the wrong path and responsible for the mess we were in.
It cannot be proper that a dissenting minister (no matter how “highly intelligent”), feeling so strongly as Dr Estwick did about his own Government’s economic policies, could issue veiled threats of resigning and make a case for his alternative strategies from without Cabinet, displaying no Westminster principle in leaving, nor inexplicably stirring the Cabinet chairman to send him.
Parlaying in the portfolios of finance and economics while distancing himself from the policies of the substantive Minister of Finance, and being snugly wrapped in a blanket from the shakers and movers of the United Arab Emirates, Dr Estwick let it be known he came into politics as a man, and he would go out as one.
And Mr Stuart seemingly would not let him leave as such, for he is too “invaluable [a] member of Cabinet”. To be blunt, ministers who indeed are men do not hold on to a portfolio while indulging in animadversion and quaking censure of their own Government from the inside. It breaks with Cabinet convention and parliamentary tradition. And if that isn’t waging war with other members of Cabinet, we don’t know what battle is.
And, sadly, too many of our parliamentary representatives do not see this contemptible conduct negatively influencing what little mores we have left in the society.
Royalty or republic, what difference does it make to a lack of refinement and simple good manners?
They just while away the hours
In their ivory towers
Till they’re covered up with flowers,
In the back of a black limousine.