Opposition parties here have criticised the decision by the Antigua and Barbuda government to rename the St. John’s Medical Center after former prime minister Sir Lester Bird.
A statement issued by the government following the weekly Cabinet meeting here noted that the center would be re-named The Sir Lester Bird Medical Center and that a date will be set for the renaming of the hospital and the ceremony that will take place.
The facility serves as the main public hospital in the country.
Speaking on Observer Radio here, she said the 80-year-old former prime minister is still a controversial figure and that his administration left office without completing the construction of the hospital.But the chairman of the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), D Giselle Isaac, said that Sir Lester Bird, who is now a Senior Advisor to the Cabinet with Ministerial rank, does not deserve to have the facility named after him.
“What this government is doing is turning national institutions into party institutions and rewarding partisan behaviour with national honours, and …my party condemns it,” she told radio listeners.
She said it is “ironic that this institution that the Lester Bird administration could not finish,(and) that the Baldwin Spencer administration had to struggle to finish during a world economic recession…what does Baldwin Spencer get for that”.
The UPP chairman said that Sir Lester was just recently honoured as a National Hero and is questioning Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s decision to also appoint Sir Lester as a senior advisor to his government.
“I strongly doubt that Sir Lester Bird will be giving them any advice they are going to heed. A Gentleman must know like a lady must know when to leave the stage and unfortunately it is one of the failings of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party that it does not know when to retire its members.
“I think you are supposed to allow people to miss you rather than ….saying of you, you have overstayed and the advice I would offer to ….Sir Lester Bird is known when to leave the stage,” she said.
The executive member of the small Democratic National Alliance (DNA), Anthony Stewart, also had a similar message for Sir Lester and the government.
He said there were people outside of politics who are more in need of recognition that Sir Lester and that the institution should either be renamed after them or the present name kept.
“So why do we have to go and politicise everything by re-naming St. John’s Medical Center after the honourable Lester Bird,” he said, noting the recent accolades given to the aging politician in recent times.
Stewart said he was also encouraging Sir Lester to turn down any position within the government and make way for younger people to serve Antigua and Barbuda.
“I would advise if he wishes to take my advise that to just go and relax, enjoy his retirement. What type of advice can you give at this time? The honourable Lester Bird would have done his time and it is time for him now to put up his boots…and make space for the younger generation,” Stewart added.