There was a line in a General Motors ad from back in the day that declared, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” It spoke to the many changes that the then-latest (1988) iteration of the vehicle had undergone, making it unrecognisable to Ransom Eli Olds, the founder for whom the famed car is named. In like manner, we here at NEWSCO suggest that the newly-elected candidate in the primary for the St. John’s Rural East constituency on the United Progressive Party (UPP) ticket, Sean Bird, a scion of the esteemed political family, does not recognise the party that his grandfather founded. We’re talking about the Antigua Labour Party (ALP) cum Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP). The ABLP is most certainly not his grandfather’s (Sir Vere Cornwall Bird’s) Labour Party. And everybody knows it! Never mind the pretense.
Not surprisingly, the current leader of the party, the Honourable Gaston Browne, is the first to remind anyone who will listen that the era of the Birds is over, and that the Birds need to understand that this is no longer their party, and that they need to come to grips with the new realities. He has spoken in unflattering terms of the Birds and, quite frankly, seeks to completely remake the party in his likeness and image.
The thing is: should the members of the venerable Bird family sear their consciences and support this incarnation of their grandfather’s party, come hell or high water, and no matter her perverse or how watered down the principles upon which it once stood? Should family members stay on the train wreck because of old fame and some misguided sense of loyalty? We think not. In fact, we suggest that that is part of the problem with the current ABLP, to wit that, too many people are hanging on to that party for dear life, based on its past (ALP) stellar exploits (old fame), never mind that it has strayed exceedingly far from the path of righteousness; it has “Removed the ancient landmarks, which the fathers have set.” [Proverbs 22:28] According to the theologians, “God was very strict about these boundaries and borders that were set up in ancient times. So much so that He pronounced a curse upon those who would move them in order to advantage themselves.” [letthebiblespeak]
Clearly, there is damnation on those who move away from the principles, ideals and core values of the fathers, and it would be downright wilful and wanton for a scion of an iconic family to see an abrogation of those values and stay put, without uttering a word of rebuke. What, go along to get along? Stay on the gravy train, trafficking in the father’s name because it succours his or her zone of comfort? See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil? Become deaf, dumb and mute? Heaven forbid! What Sean Bird did took guts – to defy those members of his family who counselled against his foray into politics, particularly on a UPP ticket. It took guts to seek to go head-to-head with his cousin, especially since that cousin is the spouse of the current leader of the party, who has made no secret of his disdain for er . . . well, . . . what he sees as the Bird dynasty and the Bird sense of entitlement. We salute Sean Bird, a profile in courage, and we suggest that his grandfather, Papa Sir V. C. Bird, would be equally proud of him. Forget the silly old talk that Papa Sir V.C. Bird would turn in his sainted grave at Sean’s move. Au contraire, he would sit up and applaud.
Consider, if you will, why Papa Bird would be so proud of his maverick grandson. The ALP was in the vanguard for workers. It fought for better wages and better working conditions. This ABLP, a ghost of the ALP, is notorious for allowing workers to toil under dreadful working conditions (see Agriculture Extension workers, Plant Protection Unit workers, General Post Office workers, CBH workers, ABS workers, police stations, health centres, etc). And what is more, this ABLP makes no secret of its desire to give workers the shaft in favour of big business. (See recent, now-shelved, plans to screw hotel workers over the issue of severance). Whereas the ALP stood up for the rights of workers to strike, this ABLP has told workers words to the effect that “If they think dey bad, go and strike ‘gainst this ABLP government!” Sigh!
And whereas Papa V.C. told big business (Moody Stuart, L.I. Henzel and the other sugar barons) words to the effect that ‘Arwe no want no more planters/foreign investors in Antigua; arwe will buy de land and the estates arweself!’ This ABLP is given to inviting all manner of foreign investors into Antigua, selling the very same land that we purchased at great cost, six million pounds, to whosoever will may come, at peppercorn prices. Papa Sir V.C. Bird is hardly pleased.
And there is more perfidy. Whereas Papa V.C. built the St. John’s Deepwater Harbour without giving away Rat Island and our patrimony for generations, this ABLP built a fifth berth and paid off a measly loan by giving away our patrimony and sovereignty to Global Port Holdings for (gasp) thirty long years. Good grief! Papa Bird and the Founding Fathers weep! And so it goes . . . a litany of the numerous and varied ways in which the ABLP is not Sean Bird’s (or Vere Bird III’s) grandfather’s ALP. Indeed, Vere Bird III, he of True Labour, is on record as a repudiating the ABLP as a miserable excuse for what his grandfather once stood for. He is of the same mind as his cousin, Sean, on that score. It is not difficult to imagine that there are other family members who are equally appalled at this imposter ABLP posing as the rightful heirs to the Papa V.C. legacy.
Bravo, Sean Bird. You are actually following in the great footsteps of your grandfather. You are fearless and manifestly willing to stand up on principle for that in which you believe. In your address to the people of St. John’s Rural East, you displayed great humility and a sense of purpose, speaking nobly of doing your very best for the people of the suffering constituency and Antigua and Barbuda. We believe that you will, and we’re wishing you godspeed. May the force be with you!
Of course, this piece would not be complete without saluting another great and worthy candidate for the Rural East constituency. We’re talking about Vere Cornelius, as fine a gentleman as ever breathe the air of true patriotism. On another day he could easily have been the chosen candidate, and we salute him for the most gracious manner in which he waged his campaign, and accepted the results of the vote. His concession speech was that of a remarkable statesman, and he brought many to near tears with the magnanimous way in which he thanked the constituents, congratulated Sean, and vowed to work assiduously for the betterment of Rural East and this blessed land of ours. May God bless you, sir!
On that note, and in keeping with the theme, we find it fitting to end with the words of one of the great hymns of all hymnody, FAITH OF OUR FATHERS. The following stanza is apropos: “Our Fathers, chained in prisons dark / Were still in heart and conscience free / How sweet would be their children’s fate / If they, like them, could die for thee! / Faith of our fathers’ holy faith / We will be true to thee ‘til death.” By breaking ranks with the ABLP, a poor apology for what the ALP once stood for, Sean Bird is keeping faith with his grandfather and the rest of the Founding Fathers.
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