EDITORIAL: A foolish faith in authority

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The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) Emeritus Leader, Sir Lester Bird, has already received his resignation letter, so he obviously had little use for the autocratic “you must comply” dictate from the party’s General Secretary, Mary Claire Hurst. If it were a memo, we can imagine him shuffling over to his shredder and dispatching it into the whirling blades of destruction.
The living hero has clearly decided (for now) that he will not be the fiddle player while he notices deficiencies in how the country is being run. So, in his budget debate presentation, he decided to let everyone know how he felt. It reminded us of his criticism of the PM, back in 2016, when he told him. “Mr. PM, you have too many ground breakings.” He then schooled the prime minister on the consequences saying, “ … because when you have the ground-breakings and nothing happens, the people out there say, ‘oh all they do is chat, they don’t do anything’.”
Some have said that was the moment when he sealed his political fate. He stepped out of line and did not shower the prime minister with the praise that he desired. We certainly could not comment on whether or not that is true, but we do know that the living national hero was treated as something much less than that lofty title when he had to read about his own retirement in the newspaper. You can’t expect to make the PM look bad and not expect to be made to look bad somewhere along the line.
In his latest salvo against the current administration, the former prime minister let everyone know that tourism has stagnated. As a former tourism minister, Sir Lester does have experience in the sector and, as such, can speak with some authority on the matter. According to him, “the economic survival and prosperity of Antigua and Barbuda is inextricably intertwined with the use of the tourism sector as the dominant engine of growth.” He adds, “Attaining the heights of an economic
powerhouse cannot be achieved if the tourism sector is not a powerhouse in and of itself.”
He used the past decade of statistics to demonstrate his point and spoke with some frustration as to the lack of growth over an extended period of time. We could get into a debate on whether his critique is sound or whether the government needs to use its precious resources to build and own 1,000 hotel rooms, but that is for another time. What is important now is the fact that Sir Lester has decided not to be a cheerleader and prefers to be on a team where he is given the opportunity to call some plays – even if we are in the midst of his final game.
But that is not the way of the ABLP. There is only one quarterback and everyone else is a cheerleader. From the description of the ABLP ‘team’ structure, independent thought is not part of the organisation’s philosophy. Or in the general secretary’s words when referencing the ‘Teco’ Lake situation, “…that is not how our organisation works, and he will fall in line!”
Sir Lester better be careful how he treads. Comrade ‘Teco’ Lake has already been warned of what could happen when you step out of line. Past contributions to the party will not matter; it only matters what you have done lately. And, if you dare give an opinion that does not follow the playbook, then you may find yourself cast out on the street to fend for yourself.
In firing a shot across MP Lake’s bow, Mary Claire Hurst stated, “… the Honourable Gaston Browne indicated to Comrade ‘Teco’ Lake that I understand your situation, I understand how you feel, but we will take care of you. And, as long as the Antigua Labour Party administration is governing the country of Antigua and Barbuda you will work!” Then came the rub.  She said, “… if Comrade ‘Teco’ Lake campaigns against Comrade Daryl Matthew, or he does not endorse him, as he says, and Comrade Daryl Matthew loses the seat on that account, do you think that prime minister or the party would be able to assist ‘Teco’ in terms of being a senator, or in term of going back to any one of the ministries?” Wow! If there was ever a rhetorical question, that was it. By the way, how does one determine that the lack of an endorsement causes a candidate to lose an election?
Knowing the serious health challenges that MP ‘Teco’ Lake has, we have little doubt that he will do what is necessary for self-preservation. He cannot let his independent thoughts get between him and a guaranteed easy ride (as long as the ABLP occupies the majority seats in the Parliament). He will, most likely, comply.
The same applies for Sir Lester. As he moves into retirement, he may think that he can snub the dictates of the party and its leader and that he can be that rebel politician who thinks for himself. Then a calm will settle in, and he will think about himself, and he will realise that if he wants an easy ride in his retirement then his best option is to capitulate and comply.
Capitulate and comply?!?  Sounds like a plot to a cheap sci-fi movie about aliens conquering the earth and giving humans two choices: “capitulate and comply or face certain extinction.” Cue the creepy music!!!
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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