How Will The Fruendel Stuart Government Manage Leroy Parris?

Former President of CLICO Holdings Barbados socializing with Minister of Finance on Gold Cup Day at the Garrison Savannah

A picture is said to be worth a thousand words. BU will not ascribe any meaning to the picture which appears on the back page of the Nation newspaper today (8 March 2011), other than to suggest it smacks of insensitivity on the part of Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler. No doubt Nation reporter Gercine Carter, credited with the picture, could not believed her luck for what can be surely be described as a ‘kodak moment’.

The CLICO issue has become a concern given its implication for local and regional economies, especially at a recessionary time. We should not forget British American which is owned by CLICO parent CL Financial. CLICO and its figurehead, until recently,  in the personage of Leroy Parris has become one of the most politically charged  discussion ‘pieces’ in recent months. We are where we are because of a lethargy which the Office of Insurance and the political directorate have exercised over CLICO which spans several years. Despite the foregoing the government of the day has the responsibility to manage the CLICO problem with minimum fallout to Barbadians. Who can envy the government at this time!

Of late the concern for BU has morphed to the issue of allowing Leroy Parris to remain as Chairman of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). BU respects Leroy Parris for what he has been able to achieve, big chip on his shoulder not withstanding. In many ways his ‘rags to riches’ story bears a parallel to that of Cyril Duprey, who was able to build  a financial empire which had Colonial Life Insurance at its foundation from a relatively humble beginning. The fact that Parris is still able to command an invitation to Sandy Lane’s Box on Gold Cup Day speaks to how he has position himself on the social ladder in Barbados.

Parris’ relationship with the late Prime Minister David Thompson was no secret. In the absence of campaign finance legislation – which both parties have avoided over the years – means we can only speculate at the level of campaign financing Parris in his capacity as President of CLICO Holdings Barbados would have directed at the Democratic Labour Party. If BU were to hazard a guess, the DLP has received a significant sum from Parris to fund their political campaigns. Is it unreasonable to question those who believe that Parris received the privilege to Chair the CBC because of his financial support rather than on the basis of competence? Hopefully the Attorney General will move the Second Reading of the Prevention of Corruption Bill, 2010 in parliament today. We hope!

Along with the expected Cabinet reshuffle, it will be interesting to observe how Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart treat with the issue of Leroy Parris at the CBC. Does the Prime Minister believe Parris is still able to mobilize significant financing which might explain allowing him to continue at the CBC? Now that he no longer ‘lords’ over the CLICO entity in Barbados will Stuart deem him dispensable and jettison what many believe is political baggage with a general election on the horizon? The report last week that Parris intends to sue CLICO makes for interesting theatre from here on. Perhaps Parris should be reminded of government’s role in  rescuing CLICO and British American. Do we see a conflict?

Maybe the ghost of late Prime Minister David Thompson under the direction from a re-emerging Hartley Henry remains a factor in the decisions by cabinet.

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