I begin this response to Mr. Neville Clarke’s submission that appeared in the Thursday, 17th November 2011 edition of Barbados Today under the caption ‘Division Hurting Hive’, by admittedly and deliberately referencing a snippet of history. I make mention to a distinguished Barbadian and parliamentarian who was a native of St. James. There is detail in the brief history I present, and the contrasting scenario being staged by the journalistic and almost jingoistic pen of Neville Clarke.
On Tuesday 14th January 1975, contributions of sympathy and tribute were made in the House of Assembly reflecting the life of Mr. Elliston Lauriston Carmichael. It was clear that Carmichael was a man of intellect and more notable, that he was possessed with what C.E. Thalma called ‘sterling abilities’ and ‘fine qualities’. There was another fine man who spoke of Mr. Carmichael that day and I think it is fitting and appropriate that I share those sentiments with readers before delving into the apparent mischief that is likely to come about, if one should accept Mr. Clarke’s submission as being crafted carte blanche.
Mr. J.M.G.M ‘Tom’ Adams made comments then that should enlighten us today. Adams quipped:
At no time that I can recall did anyone ever accuse Mr. Carmichael of unnecessary conflict or being unnecessarily or offensively contentious in a political context. Indeed, without wishing to re-open wounds, I think I can safely say that it was from the members of his own party in the House of Assembly that he perhaps suffered the greatest rebuffs of spirit in his time as Deputy Speaker.
The next insightful statement made by ‘Tom’ Adams was that relating the man Carmichael to the society in which certain values were used to measure the worth of an individual. Adams said: “I have always seen Mr. Carmichael decently, and honestly and sincerely try to plead with people to extend the hand of mercy and charity towards each other.”
It is upon these two signature statements that I now engage Mr. Neville Clarke for whom I have respect; Clarke is a man that I remember to be normally above superficiality in his writings. However, after reading and re-reading for several times his article to which I am responding, it is sad that Clarke appears to have surfaced without remembering to bring with him the crux of the issues. To be very fair to Neville Clarke, he has rightly stated that “politics has become a hotbed of intrigue.” I concur, even if I point him to history by suggesting that politics always has been intriguing as it is equally interesting.
Instead of Mr. Clarke casting aspersions towards politicians, using as his base the Marxist critique of capitalism, he may well have remembered another one of Karl Marx’s pronouncements that “the writer must earn money in order to be able to live and to write, but he must by no means live and write for the purpose of making money.”
It is extremely sad and journalistically imprudent of Mr. Clarke to attack the leadership of the Barbados Labour Party though a sordid use of invectives and innuendoes. For example, Clarke writes: “Having had their appetite for financial gains whetted by the spoils of office during three terms in office, some members and supporters now seem to be overly anxious to regain control of the levers of power.” Without calling names, Clarke is pointing fingers; should he be remotely accurate at least some factual content ought to be offered to readers. Hence I am as dismissive to his claim as I am to the idea that most of us are neutral players in a game that appears divided by partisan politics.
For reasons best known to Neville Clarke, he decidedly rushes ahead to defend a mutual friend in Rawle Eastmond, but chooses to bring the party that we both say we are members and supporters of into disrepute. This is notwithstanding that the current political leader has rightly stated that the BLP must go forward as a united party in order to rescue, rebuild, and restore Barbados to the hallmark days when unemployment dipped below 7 % for the first time in the history of Barbados.
Clarke’s choice to squabble about the presence of ‘power broker’ and the positioning of “their candidates to win” is suggestive that he does not understand the rationale or operations of political parties. Is it not true that political parties are made up of differing individuals, sometimes with competing interests, although grounded in a basic philosophy, and for which the party strives to contest and win elections? Surely Clarke must have forgotten some of his tutoring in Political Science?
Perhaps, the peril in Clarke’s writing became clear when he made the discovery that “machinations are now being played out in the St. James North constituency.” Clarke makes what is a decision by the constituted actors within the BLP sound as a reduction by his calculation; I submit, that should Mr. Eastmond continue to indicate his desire to contest the seat for the BLP, he will have to defeat other internal and interested parties – that is the nature of politics and precedents are never far away.
Putting these things into a discernible perspective, I would rather choose to remember Mr. Rawle Eastmond in a similar way that ‘Tom Adams’ spoke in relation to E.L. Carmichael who was also of the legal profession and whose benevolence far exceeded the merits to personal riches. Clarke may be right in saying that to challenge Ralwe Eastmond for the nomination to become the BLP candidate in the next general election “is unheard of in local party politics.” Less Mr. Clarke chooses to bypass that perception is often cited as being constitutive of politics; it would be then a death knell for him to encourage Mr. Eastmond to overlook issues of health and personal matters.
It is emotive and dangerously reckless that Mr. Clarke sees a challenge to Mr. Eastmond, even if backed by the hierarchy of the party for strategic reasons which prioritise party over personality, to be “unconscionable … if he [Eastmond] has expressed a desire to run again.” I would only ask Mr. Clarke to be consistent because his next statement actually is discordant and contradictory; “any action taken against Eastmond should be seen as an attempt to undermine the democratic process” within the constituency and party. That idea of undermining a process, Mr. Clarke, is a ludicrous connection; it weakens your argument if as you have said, the democratic process is being reopened for the first time in the history of party politics in Barbados.
May I remind or inform you Mr. Clarke that Carmichael left the BLP and joined the DLP; he became Deputy Speaker in the House of Assembly, but his praises were still sung by all and sundry. Rawle Eastmond too has been a good servant of the people of St. James North. I am sure that when he reflects on his success in 2008 at a time in his life when he was plagued by illness, he would reach the realisation that it was his willingness to press forward “decently, and honestly and sincerely try to plead with people to extend the hand of mercy and charity towards each other,” that brought him home when the party endured defeat.
I cannot and will not tell Rawle Eastmond what to do under the current circumstances. But if I am a friend then I too shall be honest with him. I will say to Rawle Eastmond: ‘you have done your time, you have gone above and beyond to serve; you are admired and respected by a majority of your constituents. The time has now come, when someone should be positioned to serve Rawle Eastmond and the other residents of St. James North. My only proviso, is that I would also say to Rawle, do not encourage persons who speak or write on your behalf to do so with impunity or malice because it will surely be perceived that you are the ‘power broker’ behind that person.