Last minute cancellation of public appearance sparks more health talk
Owen Arthur’s last minute cancellation of a weekend speaking engagement in Dominica has the rumour mill working overtime. The official reason for the cancellation as provided by the Dominica Labour Party is that Arthur “cancelled at the last minute for personal reasons.”
Some speculate that Arthur bowed out because Dominica’s Democratic Freedom Party put pressure on him, but many don’t buy that because it’s not like Arthur to misjudge the politics that badly – and it’s not like Arthur to let himself be pushed around and embarrassed. No Sir. The Owen Arthur we know would not be deterred by the DFP objection and would probably view it as a challenge to be met head-on. It’s not like Arthur to agree to a speaking engagement without considering the politics, and once committed it is not like Owen Arthur to then run from a public appearance because somebody objects.
Missing in action: the Owen Arthur spark!
For most observers, once you put aside a political causes for Arthur cancelling, the immediate thought is his health.
It is true that Arthur hasn’t been looking well at all in the last year. He seems dramatically smaller, slower and older – and this happened in a relatively short period of time. He stoops and sometime walks with a cane when only two years ago he would rocket up steps two at a time – drunk or sober. Now he shuffles about without the spark that defined his personality and physical appearances in public for three decades. You’ll have a difficult time finding a recent photo of the Opposition leader, because for some reason the local media prefers to use file photos from two years ago.
The physical also impacts one’s outlook on life and capacity for work: and Arthur has been missing in action more often than not at Parliament and party functions. His total failure to lead the BLP charge during the recent Employment Rights Bill is an indication that something is seriously wrong either with Owen Arthur’s political judgment or his health.
Once again, he’s just not the Owen Arthur that we know, or thought we knew. What happened? Could it be…
Hard Drinking taking its toll?
It’s no secret that former Prime Minister Arthur is no tea-totaller. His hard-drinking exploits and colourful speeches while imbibing are the stuff of legend. He jokes about it himself in the video above. As Prime Minister, Arthur could always count on the CBC, The Nation or the Barbados Advocate to purge the worst of his slurred interviews and speeches, but lately some of the Arthur comedy routines have been making it to YouTube. The internet can be a dangerous place for any politician who decides he’s okay to speak with half a bottle of ESAF rum in his belly.
Humour aside, two decades of hard drinking can take a toll on anybody with liver damage, kidney failure and heart trouble. As Cardiologist Dr. Alfred Sparman always cautions his patients “Alcohol goes right to the heart.”
Could the physical changes and lack of work capacity we see in Owen Arthur be a result of years of hard-drinking? Maybe, or maybe not. Only Arthur and his doctors know for sure, but the voters should be told.
The health of a Prime Minister or prospective Prime Minister is of vital public interest. Voters have a right to know whether the man or woman they elect to lead the country for the next five years has the physical strength and health to go the distance. May God bless our former PM David Thompson and his family – but you know that Barbados was without a Prime Minister for a year and a half while his health failed.
And after David passed on, we ended up with an accidental Prime Minister who, according to the recent poll, would be the last choice of average Bajans if an election was held today.
Would Bajans have voted for the DLP and Thompson had they known about his health issues? I don’t know how it would have impacted the vote, but I do know that there is some suspicion about Owen Arthur’s health, and that he and the BLP should be forthright with voters about this important issue.