Former First Lady; Opposition unhappy with Heroes Day tribute
“Strategically inappropriate and unacceptable”
That’s how one former first Lady today has described Government’s plans to honour only one of this island’s seven Prime Ministers during tomorrow’s tribute event in National Heroes Square.
In response to a letter from Maxine McClean, chairperson of the 50th Anniversary of Independence Celebration; Coordinating Committee, Stella Lady St John, widow of the late Bernard St John — the country’s third Prime Minister who served from March 11, 1985 until May 29, 1986 — accused Government of committing a grave error of omission in its preparations for the event, entitled: A tribute to the Prime Ministers of Barbados: Friends of all, Satellites of None.
“ . . . You end that letter by writing that, ‘you seek my input into what will be a stirring and fitting acknowledgement of Barbados’ seven Prime Ministers.
“[However] in your letter you failed to state that you intended to unveil a portrait of only one Prime Minister,” she told McClean, who is this country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
“Since that particular Prime Minister has already got a delegated holiday of his own – Errol Barrow Day, January 21st, I seriously suggest that portrait be unveiled on that day,” the former first lady said, while also suggesting that a more “fitting and stirring acknowledgement” of the island’s 50th anniversary of political independence would be the “unveiling of seven portraits of all seven Prime Ministers or none at all”.
Earlier, the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) had also accused the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration of seeking to politicize celebrations marking this year’s 50th anniversary.
Addressing a group of party supporters late last week, General Secretary Dr Jerome Walcott said he felt the intention behind tomorrow’s ceremony was to pay tribute to one prime minister in particular.
Dr Walcott did not identify the Prime Minister by name, but he told the gathering at the Central Bank’s Grand Salle the DLP administration had been slighting the Opposition in relation to the Independence anniversary activities.
Walcott, said he expected further discrimination on Heroes Day, April 28, when the Prime Ministers would be honoured. “[Tomorrow] the circus, or the charade, will continue where there will be a ceremony to honour the Prime Ministers of Barbados, and the intention is to honour one Prime Minister, primarily,” Walcott said at the time.
“We all will wait and see on that, in terms of how many Prime Ministers will be honoured,” he added.
His comments came against the backdrop of a lecture delivered by policy and planning specialist Kirk Humphrey. The subject was A Role for Adaptive Leadership in a Time of Crisis
Welcoming persons to Humphrey’s presentation Walcott said his suspicions were justified by past instances of discrimination against the BLP in the activities for the celebrations.
“When a committee could be established to develop a number of programmes and activities, and the Barbados Labour Party, which formed the Government for 24 of those 50 years, would not be even invited to send a representative, then I say something is wrong,” the former Minister of Health said.
“Furthermore, when the leader of our party could attend the first event in Independence Square without having received an invitation, then to be given an apology . . . later by a Permanent Secretary that it was some problem that occurred, this is just not right.”
Dr Walcott also accused the organizers of the recent dramatic presentation at Golden Grove Plantation, St Philip, tracing Barbados’ development from the 1816 Bussa slave rebellion through to Independence until today, of a “ bold attempt to re-write and re-interpret history and to try to denigrate the contribution of the Right Excellent Grantley Adams to this country, one of our National Heroes.
“It is not right,” he said. (GA)