Dr Maria Agard: Woman in the News
After 17 years Dr Maria Agard’s tenure with the Barbados Labour Party came to an end on Sunday night when the party took the decision to expel her following a meeting called to discipline her.
The move was not altogether unexpected, as there had been suggestions by political observers that the ongoing dispute between the Christ Church West MP and her constituency branch did not augur well for the party’s image and that party leader Mia Mottley may have had little choice but to remove her.
Dr Agard officially joined the BLP in 1998 and served in a number of capacities, including speaker and platform co-ordinator of the Christ Church West constituency during the 2003 and 2008 general election campaigns.
She also held the posts of president and vice president of constituency’s branch, as well as national council representative, coordinator of the Christ Church division of the southern zone, public relations officer and 2nd vice chairman of the party.
Before embarking on her medical and political careers, she was an educator, teaching at St Leonard’s Boys and St James Secondary Schools, as well as the Barbados Community College and the Faculty of Medical Science at the University of the West Indies St Augustine campus.
A dentist by profession, Dr Agard was the branch chairman of former Christ Church West MP William Duguid before being nominated to contest the seat in the 2013 general elections after Duguid withdrew from active politics.
However two years into her tenure as MP, she has fallen out of favour with BLP.
The strain between Dr Agard and members of her branch executive, according to Mottley, has evident for the past four years, but it actually spilled over into the public in September when she became embroiled in a public spat with the constituency executive.
A former senior member of the BLP had earlier accused Dr Agard of having “a high level of disconnect” with her constituents, and also described her as being “her own worst enemy”.
The member, who spoke with Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity following the branch’s annual general meeting, said at the time that the branch’s executive and other members of the party were ready to support any BLP candidate other than the incumbent.
But even as her leadership was being called into question, Dr Agard’s constituents were standing firmly behind her.
When a team from Barbados TODAY visited the area days after the dispute was made public, several of her constituents said they were satisfied with her performance and would oppose any move to replace her as their representative. Others, however, complained they did not see enough of Dr Agard, but said they had no problems with her.
Dr Agard was a no-show at a follow up meeting of the constituency branch in September, and when a new 11-member executive was elected to run the affairs of the BLP’s constituency, she publicly stated she would not work with them.
Attempts by the party to resolve the matter proved futile and the rift prompted calls from political observers, as well as current and former party members for the matter to be settled as soon as possible.
And at a meeting on Sunday night the party’s National Council decided to put the matter to rest once and for all and booted Dr Agard out of the party she had served for nearly two decades.
In a statement issued afterwards, Mottley outlined a number of “fundamental” charges against Dr Agard, including her failure to be a team player “and to play her part by attendance at the [BLP’s] annual conference and a series of nominations in the very parish where she is the only sitting Member of Parliament for the Party”.
Dr Agard and her legal team now seem headed to court to request a reversal of her expulsion.
It remains to be seen what’s next for Dr Agard and her political career.