. . . Facing up to seeming Estwickmania
In the book Three Nights In Havana, author Robert Wright documents late Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s historic three-day 1976 visit to Cuba, which notoriously culminated with his rallying cry of Viva, el primer ministro Fidel Castro!
But, just as he left Barbados last weekend, our Freundel Stuart returned home from Havana this week –– devoid of any fanfare or remotest evidence of Freundelmania –– and as yet without the issuing any type of report card.
In fact, the only mania around town these days seems to be Estwickmania.
However, we are not going to make the same mistake as others, suggesting that the goodly Minister of Agriculture has somehow lost it, or that he is simply throwing another tantrum.
As Dr Estwick rightly makes clear, such childish behaviour would be most unbecoming of a senior minister of the state. Equally so it would be for the senior minister to continue blowing hot and cold on weighty matters such as the Government’s handling of the domestic economy.
Such conduct would only do damage to his image as a no-nonsense official with sound economic and technical capabilibity, and could ultimately cost him the public trust and respect he has worked hard to achieve in the national sphere, mainly over the past decade.
We know only too well the danger that befalls anyone who runs into his very sharp tongue. Dr Estwick’s sporadic public outbursts have become somewhat of an unbelievable public spectacle for a trained medical doctor, who, outside the cut and thrust of political debate, is said to be something of a “pussycat”, with the gentlest bedside manner.
Ironically, his first major public outburst came very early in the life of this two-term Government. The late Prime Minister David Thompson was at the helm back then, and we recall vividly that it took quite a bit of cajoling to get Dr Estwick to eventually cool down and accept the fact that he would no longer be pulling the country’s economic strings as the Minister of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Empowerment, Trade, Industry and Commerce.
And settle down he eventually would into the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Industry and Small Business.
“I would like to assure Barbadians that I hold no animosity to anyone, and I would like to clear up any misconceptions which might be at this time in the public domain. Although it might seem that I have been given the bad end of the stick, it is my belief that I have been chosen by the Almighty, and my constituents of St Phillip West to work on behalf of this country.
“My mother always said: time longer than twine and that the race is not for the swift but is for he that endureth. I am resilient and will endure,” Dr Estwick said then.
Since then we have been treated to at least two other major episodes, including threats and unpolished claims, which have left us thinking that by now the good doctor must be aware of the saying: “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”
With that said, anyone who has caught sight of his seven-page letter to Mr Stuart, dated November 17, 2014, would hardly conjure up the thought that he is at present fooling around.
On the contrary, it would appear that he is not about to let sugar die –– at least, not under his watch.
Therefore, anyone standing in his way –– including the Minister of Finance –– had better watch out.
This is not to say that Dr Estwick is about to hop over to the Independent benches with Owen Arthur; or that he will cross the floor and pledge his allegiance to Mia Mottley’s team either.
However, stranger things have happened. And it would not be an exaggeration to say that somewhat like Mr Arthur, who recently parted company with the Barbados Labour Party, Dr Estwick is currently battling with some inner demons, publicly exemplified as a loss of confidence.
The great political test, however, comes in how Prime Minister Stuart responds to Dr Estwick’s latest demand that the Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler be “reprimanded” and “charged” for “misleading” the Cabinet on the sugar issue. We understand that to mean that Dr Estwick wants Chris’ head on the proverbial platter, even though the outspoken St Philip West MP has stopped just short of saying so.
However, as far as his warnings go, the Prime Minister needs to understand that Dr Estwick has written him twice on matters of this nature and he has no intention of doing so again.
“I have no intention to continue to serve in a Cabinet where its instructions to ministers and ministries are not carried out with fidelity,” the Minister of Agriculture further threatened in his letter.
To ignore a “depressed” Dr Estwick at this stage could push him over the edge once and for all, and to do as he asks could be equally devastating.
It therefore remains to be seen if any heads will roll at the hands of Mr Stuart.
In hindsight, our Prime Minister might be wishing right about now for another long and seemingly unending Havana night.