Ian 'Magic' Hughes
Thursday, 07 June 2012 02:30
By Ian Magic Hughes
There is a popular song: “Follow the Leader Leader Leader, Follow the Leader Leader …” but if the Antigua Labour Party gets its way, “Leader” will be replaced by “wheelchair”.
That’s if Bird and the ALP win the next general elections and his health continues to deteriorate.
Last week, Bird claimed he fell ill moments before he was scheduled to table the highly anticipated Motion of No-Confidence in Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.
With the country on edge, Bird “called in sick” and left for home abandoning many, including ALP Members of Parliament who were present in parliament but were unaware of their leader’s problems.
Since then some persons, including ALP supporters, have accused Bird of letting down the nation - and calls came from all corners for him “to ride off into the sunset”, as he was unfit to lead.
But on Tuesday during the ZDK Radio programme “Insight” Bird insisted: “Nothing is wrong with my mind… I can take on anybody!”
He added: “I resent the accusation that because my legs are a bit weak that I should go somewhere else or the other. I will not accept that… I have made my contribution to this country and this party and I find it offensive that some of the people in the Labour Party could use this one issue to indicate that Lester Bird is no longer capable to lead the opposition.”
Okay, I am not here to punish the sick, but that nothing is wrong with Bird’s mind is something that I question.
Bird is hoping to lead Antigua & Barbuda for a third time after being Prime Minister from 1994 to 2004.
There is no secret of his problems with diabetes, back and knee challenges.
I’m no doctor, but I know that diabetes is an illness that can be controlled - a fact that millions of people suffering from the disease prove every day.
While Bird continues to advance his illness as the reason for his inability to table the motion, I question what exactly was wrong with the former PM.
Since diabetes can be controlled, why was Bird ill-equipped to deal with this illness that has plagued him for years?
Even Bird recalled an incident in Jamaica where he fell ill because he did not eat properly and had to walk for a long while, and some Kool-Aid was his “antidote”.
On this very important issue Bird, from past experience, should have been ready - but clearly he wants the nation to believe he was caught off guard.
Maybe it was his knees, which he claims are weak. Well, Bird stood just for prayers and did not need to stand after that for the entire morning session.
Therefore weak knees can be thrown out the door.
This leaves Bird’s back, which has been operated on.
Bird did not contribute to the morning debates except to sit and interrupt members on the government side when they made their presentations.
Often times, Speaker of the House D. Gisele Isaac had to ask Bird to be quiet as he “did not want to speak” (make a presentation).
On such an important matter and knowing the time it would be tabled, why did Bird not leave the House to get some rest and be ready for “his” motion?
What - the ALP could not afford a room at Heritage Hotel for a day so that their leader could recuperate after the morning session and get ready to overthrow Baldwin Spencer and the UPP?
I thought the opposition party wanted to be the saviour of the people of Antigua & Barbuda, whose hardships they are so very concerned about. Well, only Bird can answer that.
Now to his state of mind, which Bird claims is functioning well and he “can take on anyone.”
Bird, a trained lawyer, would like reasonable people to believe that he did not know the rules of engagement for such an important motion.
I bet you that Baldwin Spencer researched all the rules governing this motion even before there was any such concern mentioned.
It’s just the rules of the game of politics at least to anyone who is serious about leadership.
Anyway, another time for Spencer: whose relief, I presume, came in the announcement that he did not “cut a deal” with Bird.
But back to Bird who, remarkably, is claiming ignorance.
Bird said that he did not know that he could allow someone else to table the motion in his absence.
“I always understood that if you move the motion, you will be responsible for putting it through. If I had known I would have insisted that one of the other members of the assembly would have gone forward.”
Even if that’s true, which I do not believe for one moment, why was that not discussed at the customary Monday meetings of the ALP elected seven?
So it’s not just Bird who was ignorant, but also Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, another trained attorney, and veterans Robin Yearwood and Molwyn Joseph.
Browne apparently did not know and Asot Michael is conspicuously quiet.
Who knows what the St. Peters MP knows? Besides, he must be happy that the debate did not carry since Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Corporation (IHI) would have been a main topic.
And as there was no deal, perhaps Michael has no reason to speak.
With all that, the ALP wants to lead Antigua & Barbuda again when all the elected members are clueless and ignorant of such an important issue.
How long have Bird, Joseph and Yearwood been in politics? All told, maybe 100 years - yet they know nothing.
In addition, Gaston Browne made it clear that only the leader should table this very important motion. So what is it: were the ALP parliamentarians unaware of the rules or did they agree that Bird wanted to do this personally?
This failed attempt is nothing short of a clear demonstration that the ALP is not ready to lead Antigua & Barbuda.
There seems to be a special relationship between Bird and Browne, the apparent heir to Bird’s chair.
The two continue to try and convince Antiguans and Barbudans that the failed no-confidence attempt was not deliberate.
The more they speak, though, the more unconvincing they are.