In public life, I have known defeat and I have known victory. Neither defines you as a person. Values and principles do.
Earlier today, I was informed that a letter was taken to His Excellency the Governor General to have my appointment as Leader of the Opposition revoked at the request of five of my Parliamentary colleagues.
I have never responded in the public on these issues neither last year nor this year but circumstances now demand that I break my silence.
This morning I telephoned the Secretary of the Parliamentary Party at five minutes to ten to formally indicate that I would not be attending the meeting to which I was summoned and for the reasons that follow. Further, I indicated to him that I remain committed to meaningful dialogue but not in this way.
For the past few days I have struggled and I have prayed as to whether I should attend the meeting to which I was summoned by five of my eight parliamentary colleagues. As always, I am going to be honest and sincere with you. This is the Mia that you know and this is the Mia that will always be.
Last Wednesday, I learnt of this meeting through Facebook and through the media. Let me say at the outset that it is the right of my parliamentary colleagues to request a meeting and it is their right to determine who should be leader. However, in my almost 22 years in the BLP, I do not know of anyone other than the Party Leader convening a meeting of the Parliamentary Party. If you want a meeting, just ask for it and it will be convened at a time convenient to ALL parties.
Further, to have written those letters to Cynthia Forde, Rawle Eastmond, William Duguid and myself while at the same time sending them to members of the media is not only discourteous but it does not reflect a genuine desire for meaningful dialogue and resolution. The BLP like all other political parties has known what it is to resolve conflict between its members.
It has its own way of dealing with these matters and I shall not deviate from this tradition of over 72 years. To have a letter already signed by 5 persons since one week ago and seen by persons on both sides of the political divide is to charge me, convict me and sentence me and then try to tell the public you are being fair and civil by inviting me to the trial.
Every Barbadian understands and many have expressed their shock and disapproval at the manner in which this matter has been handled. I therefore had to consider whether I could validate a process which was inherently unfair. I can defend myself – but ultimately it is not about me. I had to consider what message I would be sending to every worker who has ever been dismissed without a chance to defend themselves. I had to consider what message I would be sending to every Bajan who has ever been wronged or wrongfully accused and never had the chance to defend themselves before it was made public. It is not right. And our young people must never believe that this is the way to behave and to resolve issues.
I believe that principles come before party and party comes before personality even in the face of differences and dissent. Indeed, principles only mean something when it is inconvenient to stand by them. I am aware that there are some who feel that for the sake of the party I should have attended this meeting today and I respect their views. But right is right and wrong is wrong.
This party will only endure if we remain faithful to the principles of justice and fair play and transparency. There are some who may call me idealistic. But principles and ethics have been my compass all my life. They may lead to decisions that are not convenient or popular but I know no other way. I have always faced challenges head on, respected the rights of others and put Barbados first – mindful that my first and ultimate purpose is to faithfully serve the people of my constituency and the people of this country.
I hold firm to these beliefs: the ability to ground all Barbadians culturally and financially, the need to care for those whose voices cannot be heard and whose actions cannot be felt, the legitimacy of the fight against injustice and the consolidation of power and wealth and the right to advocate and fight for social justice and the freedom to allow our creativity and ingenuity to flourish
I hold them as dearly and strongly today as I did on the day that I first came into public life in July, 1989.
Barbados needs a NEW direction – and we all know that instinctively.
We need to build a Barbados where all have the opportunity to share in material prosperity irrespective of the circumstances of our birth. We are NOT there yet!
We need to build a more tolerant, considerate and loving Barbados, where each person is given an opportunity and where we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We are NOT there yet!
We need a new governance that would allow Bajans to truly determine their destiny and not just those few persons in institutions, many of which need reform to allow for greater transparency and accountability. We need to work TOGETHER to build HOPE among our young people. For without hope there is no REAL future for them.
We need to take care of this country, our environment as this is the only rock we have. We need to unleash our creativity and our initiative as a people in all aspects of our lives if we are truly to succeed.
I have forever believed that it is the politics of DEVELOPMENT and the politics of the PEOPLE that will SECURE this NEW Barbados. It will not be the politics of POLITICS and the pursuit of personal agenda! This country can ill-afford tribalism in our midst. I do not accept that politics has its own morality or that it must be a blood sport. We will exclude too many of our people who would otherwise be willing to serve and who have a contribution that this country needs. I pray that there are others across all classes, races, gender and political parties who share these beliefs.
I was raised to give always of my best and to approach every task with all of my being, knowing that you will not always please everyone. None of my colleagues have raised any fundamental issue regarding my stewardship as leader. And so I accepted the challenge in January 2008 to pick up the vestiges of our defeat at the polls and to lead my party in opposition.
My duty was a simple one; my sojourn as Opposition Leader and Political Leader would not be characterized by opposing just for the sake of opposing but by consistently offering alternative perspectives to the people of this country while encouraging the next generation to come to the fore so that this Party may remain relevant to the needs of Barbadians. I also recognised that if we were to be credible with the Barbadian public we must not only work towards democracy and greater transparency in our country but also towards democracy and greater transparency in our party.
It has been an honour to lead my party, the Barbados Labour Party.
I am comforted by the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis when Joseph said that it was meant for evil but the Lord meant it for good.
As I leave this office, I want to thank my constituents, my Parliamentary colleagues in Parliament especially those who continue to have confidence in me and all of those persons in and outside of the Party as well as those in and outside of Barbados who have assisted us over the last 33 months to be the voice of the people. As for tomorrow, I will continue to represent the interest of my constituents of St. Michael North East, and rest assured that of all Barbadians.
As always, TIME and GOD will determine the future.
God bless the Barbados Labour Party and God bless Barbados.