Friday, April 19, 2024

ALBERT BRANDFORD: DLP’s lame motion defence


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LAST WEEK’s no confidence motion did not bring down the Government, but it obviously elevated the leadership of Mia Mottley.

Sometimes, it takes a stand out performance on the big stage to get some much needed respect from within the ranks and the public.

The headline of 5-hour Flogging in the MIDWEEK NATION captured the performance of the Leader of the Opposition in her motion against Government Tuesday last.

It was the first time that the usually unflappable Prime Minister Freundel Stuart appeared uncomfortable under critical examination.  

Equally noteworthy was Mottley’s use of written material, especially at the beginning and ending of her presentation, and her attempt to use charts which was rejected by the Speaker of the House.

This approach accommodated the referencing of the considerable amount of evidence that was utilised in her speech. The evidence went beyond the respective ministries into the private sector domain.

Several critical issues were raised in her five-and-a-half hours’ prosecution of the Government. The Prime Minister was rebuked for his hands-off style of leadership and apparent ignorance of some matters, most startling of which was the Cahill affair that seemed to have had indefinite political legs, but was finally buried late in the night by Government.

In previous attempts to prosecute the controversial issues in the proposed project, Mottley used a document signed by four ministers as the major piece of evidence. This time around, Stuart’s direct involvement in the controversy was demonstrated with the aid of an earlier document signed by him. It was a serious blow to the chairman of Cabinet who previously did not admit of his involvement.

The issue of timing, which is so critical in politics, played its part. The Opposition was presented with the opportunity to grandstand on the untimely reinstatement of a voluntary ten per cent cut in salary for parliamentarians.

Timing is as important as content in politics and it was an error in judgment for Government to table legislation for reinstatement in Parliament at the time of the no confidence motion.

In the midst of all the sacrifice that Barbadians have been asked to carry and continue to bear, there is no way for the Government to justify ending its now hollow sacrifice.

There is certainly no visible evidence of an economic recovery. The spending power of Barbadians has not been restored. The talk of more taxation is being tested. By every indicator, there is no compelling justification for restoring ministers and other parliamentarians’ salaries and allowances, especially given the ongoing struggles among public sector workers.

Mottley’s real political capital might have come in her contrast of leadership styles. Stuart was chastised for not visiting water-starved rural residents as a sign of empathy.

She would have visited some rural residents and sent off a letter to the Minister responsible for water.

Mottley identified Stuart’s failure to get involved in the impasse between the two teachers’ unions and Minister of Education Ronald Jones. Indeed, she noted that Stuart appears to avoid being supportive of Jones having made some curious comments about social origins with respect to the same minister in a previous impasse.         

The avoidance of people’s issues is also very evident in the perceived decline of the health care sector that has not attracted major public commentary from the Prime Minister.

A popular refrain in Mottley’s speech was explicitly noted in the following comments: “Who is in charge? I’m not holding the minister of education responsible. Who then is to blame? I’m holding you [Stuart] responsible. Who can make the changes? You can!”  

The issue of timing arose again as Mottley was able to offer further contrast in leadership style by being able to quote from her party’s recently launched Covenant of Hope. In the midst of the five-hour flogging, the visible and visual document seemed to be suggesting that there is still hope for a better Barbados.   

As an apparent tactical defensive move, the Government side declined to send forward its MPs to speak early in the debate, preferring instead to let the Opposition members go first.

In another tactical move, Parliament was adjourned not until the following Wednesday morning but conveniently in the evening after the Cabinet met on Thursday. This suggested it was designed to meet the evening audience given that the no confidence motion was being televised.

However, the main speaker on the Government side started his speech after one o’clock Friday morning.

This proved ineffective, which was indicative of the lame defence of the motion. 

Albert Brandford is an independent political correspondent. Email:


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