(Barbados Nation) Prime Ministers Stephenson King of St Lucia and Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines have chided Opposition Leader Owen Arthur for attacks on Mara Thompson’s candidature in the January 20 St John by-election.
Thompson, a St Lucian-born Barbadian citizen, and widow of late Prime Minister David Thompson, has come under fire on the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) political platform, with her participation in next Thursday’s poll being questioned.
Last Sunday at College Bottom, St John, Arthur said there was no Barbadian woman who could be the wife of a St Lucian politician and run in St Lucia on the grounds that she was running to be the “queen”. He said if it couldn’t happen in St Lucia, it shouldn’t happen in Barbados. Since winning the nomination to contest the St John seat, parishioners have dubbed Thompson their queen.
But King expressed surprise at the by-election campaign slant and indicated Arthur’s comments were “unfortunate”.
“It is unfortunate that Owen Arthur, who was at the forefront of the regional integration movement and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy [CSME], would allow the campaign fever to influence his political rhetoric and bring into question the nationality of Mara Thompson,” King said, adding he hoped good sense would prevail.
He said through marriage, citizenship and her commitment to people, the St John community had elected Thompson as a candidate and he hoped the will of the people would be respected.
Gonsalves said that “in this day and age” Caribbean leaders should be careful saying “these kind of things”, alluding to Arthur’s comments, in the heat of political battle.
He said Thompson contesting the election was no phenomenon. He recalled that late Premier Paul Southwell of St Kitts was born in Dominica; that former Minister of Education and Attorney General Fitzroy Bryant of St Kitts was Antiguan; and that former Prime Minister Edward Seaga of Jamaica was born in the United States.
Gonsalves said Queen Elizabeth of Windsor was still Barbados’ monarch and that people dubbing Thompson as their queen was simple localised politics and political packaging. He added that despite Arthur’s comments his record as an integrationist would still stand.
But Arthur told the SUNDAY SUN yesterday: “I am standing my ground.”
He stressed his earlier criticisms had nothing to do with either Thompson’s nationality or gender.
“This has to do with the political class context within which an effort was made to project her suitability to be a candidate. It wasn’t about the content of her character or her capacities. There was an attempt to project her candidature in a class context as the daughter of a St Lucian aristocrat. Our political development has come too far for this,” Arthur said, adding Barbados’ political affairs must evolve on meritocracy and not dynastic relationships.
He challenged King to move the debate from the hypothetical, run a Barbadian woman in St Lucia’s general election and project her as his party’s queen and see how it would be received by St Lucians.
Ironically, Arthur noted, Gonsalves had recently held a referendum in his homeland to have Britain’s monarch removed as that island’s head of state. He explained people were confusing the parameters of CSME and stressed it was not about political integration, but economic integration and the building of a regional economy.
Arthur said he spent 14 years trying to help the region attain this objective and there were many critics, especially with respect to free movement of people.
He added it was passing strange that those same people would now try to contort this issue into what it was not. He explained the same people now talking about CSME had allowed it to languish over the past two years.